The Musorgsky Reader: A Life of Modeste Petrovich Musorgsky in Letters and Documents

By Jay Leyda; Sergei Bertensson et al. | Go to book overview

and next morning wrote out the entire libretto (six whole pages), us for a plot which I trust will play a rather important role in Rusand Musorgsky is to give me, today or tomorrow, his definite answer, whether or not he accepts this thing, and if it's yes, then in what shape it's to be. So, dear Lady Paulina, the Russian stage will be obliged to sian music. You've probably long since guessed what the piece was: Hans and Grete by Spielhagen. We're calling the opera Bobyl. But I've made tremendous changes and inserts, so actually only one of the original motifs, with the gun in the forest, has been kept; it is self-understood that the Landgraf and Landgrafina (at the end) have been transformed into [Russian] landowners in some distant province . . .

August 20, 1870

. . . I've lots of news . . . Musorgsky has already begun the divination scene of his new opera: it's simply a miracle . . .40


67. To VLADIMIR STASOV

18 August, 1870

Being extremely fearful (as you know) of the little musical sins of my cookery, it may be that I should never have decided to print, within my lifetime, the damned "Seminarist" and I acknowledge you, my dear, together with Ludmila Ivanovna, as the cause of its appearance in public, as you (and one other good man A. P. Op[ochinin]) were able to electrify me with warm words.

I deem it useful to describe for you the procession of the above- mentioned "Seminarist" through the fires of Gehenna. This prodigal

____________________
40
Later, in writing of Khovanshchina, Stasov said: "Much more complex and profound is the figure of the old-time landowner, portrayed by Musorgsky in his Prince Ivan Khovansky . . . This old man, sometimes kind and placid, sometimes fierce and evil and merciless; proud of his ancestry and of his unlimited power, raising storms over trifles in his own harem, irascible to the point of rage, with limited brains, looking on everything around him as born into slavish servitude. It was this very figure of a landowner that Musorgsky planned to use in his opera Babyl--the scenario of which [by Stasov] has been preserved in his papers and about which we both had many discussions soon after Boris Godunov. A few things were already composed for this. The scene of Marfa's divination for Prince Golitzin in Khovanshchina was taken directly from the divination scene for the old landowner in Bobyl. There was also to be in this opera a trial by the landowner in his house, acting as justice of the peace, of the poacher-bobyl."

-151-

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