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The Voevoda

Not long ago, the Aquarius label released a rare 1979 recording of Tchaikovsky's first opera, The Voevoda, featuring Vladimir Matorin in the title role, Galina Kuznetzova as Mariya and the USSR State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Kozhukhar. I have been fortunate enough to find this CD through eBay, and I am delighted by the quality of the recording. Featuring dedicated contributions by the singers, a beautifully balanced orchestra and very good sound, this is a persuasive performance of a sadly neglected opera.

The libretto was adapted by Alexander Ostrovsky from his own play, A Dream on the Volga. Although the events are not as gripping, nor the characters as psychologically complex, as in Tchaikovsky's Pushkin-inspired works, much of the music in this opera has a freshness and appealing lyricism which transcends the limitations of its subject. This is not the work of a novice with no operatic aptitude; it is an intriguing piece by a gifted composer in the early stages of learning the craft of a musical dramatist. Taken as a whole, The Voevoda is no weaker than Wagner's Die Feen and Das Liebesverbot, or Strauss' Guntram and Feuersnot.

The score of The Voevoda makes use of passages recycled from some of Tchaikovsky's earlier works, including The Storm and Overture in C minor. Furthermore, after he destroyed the score Tchaikovsky salvaged some of the better numbers from this opera for use in subsequent works, including The Oprichnik. In particular, I couldn't help smiling with recognition when I heard some of the lovely melodies which would later find a haven in Swan Lake and the 1812 Overture.

To those of you who have a fondness for Tchaikovsky's other lesser-known operas (Oprichnik, Maid of Orleans, Cherevichki, Enchantress), I strongly recommend that you explore this lively, polished performance of The Voevoda, by maestro Koshukhar.

Nicolas Krusek
Vancouver, Canada

I have found a score of this opera in the music library of my university. This is the first volume of the 1960s edition of the Complete Works of Tchaikovsky, published in Moscow. However, only the piano score is featured, rather than the full orchestra part. Does anyone know where might it be possible to obtain the full orchestra score of this opera?

Shenda Gu
Berkeley, California

The orchestral score and vocal scores of The Voevoda were both published in 1953 in volume 1 the Soviet edition of Tchaikovsky's complete works [Полное собрание сочинений]. The first three parts of this volume comprised one act each of the full score, and the fourth part (i.e. the one Shenda found in the unversity library) was the vocal score of the whole opera. Since Tchaikovsky destroyed the original manuscript, this score is 20th-century reconstruction from sketches and performing materials by Pavel Lamm and others.

In the 1970s Edwin Kalmus of New York reprinted all the volumes in the Soviet complete edition, but without the editorial prefaces and most of the notes. In this series (now out of print, but still found in many libraries), the three volumes of the full score of The Voevoda have the edition No. 542.

Brett Langston

Mr. Langston was indeed right regarding the first volume of Tchaikovsky's complete works [Полное собрание сочинений]. There are multiple parts to it and unfortunately the library only owns the fourth part, the supplement [дополнительный], which is the piano transcription and vocal score of The Voevoda.

Since the only extant score of The Voevoda is the 20th century reconstructed version, then this means that the recording made in 1979 now on the Aquarius label must also have been performed from these materials. However, how faithful is this reconstruction to the original score? The original manuscript was destroyed but was this also the fate of the printed score used to stage public performances?

By the way, the recording on Aquarius seems to be in limited availability. I have recently ordered a copy from Ebay and it had to be shipped from Russia. There are currently no other places selling this CD set except for the seller "Rare Russian Records". "" used to sell this set but they are now out of stock. I have contacted them and they have reordered the item but has no clue as to when it will be available.

Shenda Gu

The Voevoda's fifreen productions (1868/69 season) were conducted from the manuscript full score, before the opera was withdrawn from the repertoire, and the autograph returned to the composer. The full scores of just two numbers—the Overture, and Entr'acte and Dances of the Chambermaids from Act II—were published during Tchaikovsky's lifetime.

In the 1920s, Sergei Popov found a vocal score and most of the manuscript parts used at the first production in the library of the Bol'shoi Theatre in Moscow, and these form the basis for the later reconstruction by Pavel Lamm, as published in the Complete Works series. They seem to have been almost complete, with a few gaps in the score being supplied by Vissarion Shebalin. I seem to remember that the Complete Works marked all the passages that had been interpolated, and there weren't many at all.

Am I alone in finding it encouraging that for the Aquarius recording has sold out so quickly?

Brett Langston

During the past week I have been comparing the Aquarius recording of The Voevoda with the Kalmus full score, which I found in my local university library. (Fortunately for me, the University of British Columbia music library has the complete orchestral scores for all of Tchaikovsky's operas—even including the surviving fragments from Undine!) I have noticed that there are a few discrepancies in the vocal parts between the recording and the score, namely, in Act 1 No. 7 (the Voevoda's first encounter with Nastasya) and Act 2 No. 8 (duet of Nastasya and Olyona).

I have heard that a few passages from the vocal parts of this opera have been lost, and this may explain the discrepancies in question. On the other hand, it is possible that the performers on this recording were attempting to improve on some of the composer's more awkward vocal writing.

I hope that more of you will take the opportunity to explore this fascinating opera, as it is filled with lovely moments and represents a significant milestone in Tchaikovsky's development. Perhaps, in time, Aquarius will realize that there is a growing demand for recordings such as this one!

Nicolas Krusek

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This page was last updated on 05 November 2013