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

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

V
Entr'acte

1873-1874

Boris Advances toward the Footlights

. . . having for long had the idea of getting Boris produced, I decided on an extreme step. In the summer of 1873, when the director of theaters, Gedeonov, was in Paris, my contract came up for renewal, and I wrote him my conditions, the first of which was: I demand Boris Godunov for my bénéfice--otherwise I'll not sign the contract and I'll leave. There was no reply from him, but I knew very well that I should get my way, as the Directorate could not do without me. In the middle of August Gedeonov returned, and his first words to N. A. Lukashevich (officially the head of the costume and set department, but actually the Director's factotum, then a good friend of mine and of Musorgsky's), were:--"Platonova demands Boris for her bénéfice, what can I do now? She knows I have no right to stage this opera, as it has been rejected. What can we do? There's this: we'll call the committee again, let them examine the opera (in its new form), just for formality's, sake; perhaps they'll, agree to pass Boris now."--No sooner said than done. The committee, summoned at the Director's orders, meet for the second time, reject the opera. On receipt of this unwelcome answer, Gedeonov sends for Ferrero ( former double-bass player), the president of the committee. Ferrero appears. Gedeonov meets him in the anteroom, pale with rage.

"Why have you rejected the opera?"

"Have mercy, Your Excellency, the opera is not at all good."

"Why not? I've heard good reports of it!"

"Have mercy, Your Excellency, his friend, Cui, is always abusing us in Peterburgski Vedomosti.--Why, only the day before yesterday . . ."--at which he pulls a newspaper out of his pocket.

"In that case, I don't want to know anything about your committee, you hear! I'll stage the opera without your approval!"--shouts Gedeonov, beside himself.

And the opera was authorized for production by Gedeonov himself:--the first instance in which the Director had exceeded his authority in this respect. The next day Gedeonov sent for me. Angry and excited, he came up to me and shouted:

"Well, milady, see what you've got me into! I run the risk of being removed from my post on account of you and your Boris. And what

-253-

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