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.
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?
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
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". "RussianDVD.com" 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.
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
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?
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!