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

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leavens, but on the subject of the streltzi.1 May this be in memory of our new work, our bold work.


Stasov Proposes a New Opera

. . . It seemed to me that the fight between old and new Russia, the exit of the former and the entrance of the latter, would provide rich soil for drama and opera, and Musorgsky agreed with me. In the center of the plot I wanted to place the majestic figure of Dosifei, the leader of the dissenters [or Old Believers], a strong, energetic man of keen intellect and vast experience, who, as a controlling force, guided the acts of the two Princes--Khovansky, the representative of the ancient, gloomy, fanatical, dense Russia, and Golitzin, the representative of Europe, which was beginning to find favor even among the courtiers of the Tzarevna Sofia. Various characters and events in the German and streltzi quarters, the German pastor and his old sister, their young niece, two members of the sect of the Old Believers, one, Marfa, aflame with youth and passion (a Potiphar's wife), the other, the withered, yellowed, malicious, fanatical Susanna, both ever at strife, the ten-year-old Peter, with his personal guards, clever, energetic Sofia, with her savage streltzi, the monastic retreat of the dissenters, the sectarians burning themselves at the close of the opera, when Dosifei realizes that "old Russia" is passing away and a new age beginning--all that seemed to us a grateful task.--VLADIMIR STASOV



Five years ago you realized your blessed wish to gather together a Russian musical circle in your home. You have been a witness of heated doings, occasional struggles, aspirations, and again struggles, of the circle's members and your heart always responded in a lively way to these struggles, aspirations and heated doings. Much good has

The streltzi were a regiment of musketeers, almost independent of the rest of the Russian army, and used as a powerful political weapon by the struggling factions around the Russian throne in the seventeenth century. When Peter I threatened to assume full power, the streltzi were incited to rise against him. Peter put down the uprising and eliminated this political weapon forever. This is the period and pivotal event of Musorgsky's projected opera Khovanshchina, of which this is the first note in his letters. This title is the single word used contemptuously by Peter on receiving the news that the Princes Khovansky had or. ganized the rebellion of the streltzi in order to seize the throne for themselves.


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