8

SECOND SEASON: 1899-1900

The second season began with Aleksey Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan the Terrible, the first play of the trilogy in which Tsar Fedor Ioannovich forms the second, and Tsar Boris the third part. 1 There were opportunities here to capitalise on the huge success of the Art Theatre’s première production. Once again, Stanislavsky carefully prepared a director’s score stressing the opposition between social levels which were mirror images one of the other. On the ‘lower’ level was a cowed people; on the ‘higher’, a sycophantic, hypo-critical, self-seeking group of aristocratic boyars, in thrall to the living corpse of a senile and semi-demented ruler. The opportunities for naturalistic over-indulgence which this situation provided were grasped with both hands.

The plot of the historical tragedy concerns the decline of the half-crazed Ivan the Terrible, racked by remorse for the murder of his own son and terrified at the rise to power of Boris Godunov. A boyar faction plots to turn the people against Boris but the latter hoists the plotters with their own petard, assuming tacit power as Prince Regent to the new child ruler, Tsar Fedor. Stanislavsky acted Ivan the Terrible before falling ill and being replaced by Meyerhold.

The production plan was actually prepared by Sanin, based on notes made by Stanislavsky who supervised only thirty-three of the eighty-four rehearsals. My Life in Art contains a vivid description of the opening scene in the Council of Boyars and those which follow in the tsar’s bedchamber (Stanislavskiy 1988:276-7). The contrasts between the religious asceticism of the tsar and his sumptuous surroundings were stressed, as was the ironic discrepancy between the enfeebled old man and his tyrannical power. Stanislavsky’s interpretation derived, in part, from the style of the Italian actor Ernesto Rossi, who had appeared in St Petersburg in the 1890s, but

-112-

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The Moscow Art Theatre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • A Note on Transliteration and Names x
  • Part I - The Establishment of the Moscow Art Theatre 1
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Historical Background 13
  • 2 - The Society of Art and Literature 24
  • 3 - The Creation of a New Theatre 32
  • 4 - The Hermitage Theatre on Carriage Row 49
  • 5 - Actors, Salaries, Conditions of Service 58
  • 6 - Savva Morozov and the Lianozov Theatre 68
  • Part II - The Moscow Art Theatre Repertoire 1898-1917 83
  • 7 - First Season: 1898-1899 85
  • 8 - Second Season: 1899-1900 112
  • 9 - Third Season: 1900-1901 121
  • 10 - Fourth Season: 1901-1902 128
  • 11 - Fifth Season: 1902-1903 132
  • 12 - Sixth Season: 1903-1904 152
  • 13 - Season Seven to Season Ten: 1904-1908 165
  • 14 - Seasons Eleven and Twelve: 1908-1909 178
  • 15 - Season Twelve to Season Twenty: 1909-1917 199
  • 16 - Conclusion 204
  • Notes 209
  • Bibliography 226
  • Index 232
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