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E. Smagina

“Svetlana, or A hundred years in one day” by K. Kavos: Russian “ballad” version of French opera

This article is devoted to the consideration of unknown to musicologists opera by K. Kavos “Svetlana, or A hundred years in one day” (1822). Representing a Russian “remake” of the opera extravaganza by the famous French composer Ch.-S. Katel (1773–1830) “Zirfil and Myrtle Flower” (libretto by V. J.-E. de Jouy and N. Lefebvre, 1818), it received a different genre designation: a magical opera ballad. The opera by K. Kavos, written to a libretto by A. Veshnyakov, is interpreted by the author of the article as one of the non-classical, but very original experiment of the Russian opera theater of the first half of the 19th century in the sphere of fabulous and fantastic, along with the widely known operas by S. Davydov, M. Glinka, A. Verstovsky. Emphasizing the novelty of Kavos’s “Svetlana” from the point of view of the synthesized structure of the genre – opera with a ballad component, the author of the article indicates the inclusion in the text of the libretto of a number of stanzas from the ballad of the same name by V. Zhukovsky, which has become one of the emblems of Russian Romanticism.

In Kavos’s opera, various levels of transformation of the primary source are considered: the transfer of the plot to the world of Russian magic, ancient Kiev; the appearance of a special “Black Sea” atmosphere, the introduction of a new character – Uslada and six new numbers. In the artistic concept of the opera ballad we can find some parallels to the problems that had been under discussion among Russian people in the 1820s, particularly the “Varangian” and “Crimean” political issues. The musical style of the opera is analyzed on the example of the aria of Uslada and romance-duet of Alsim and Svetlana. The romanceduet is one of a number of operatic romances presented in the little-known works of Glinka’s predecessors, composers of the “second row”: the operas “The Magic Rose” by F. Scholz, “Genevieve of Brabant” by D. Shelekhov, “Tamerlane” by A. Sapienza Jr.

Key words

Ch.-S. Katel, the opera extravaganza “Zirfil and Myrtle Flower”, K. Kavos, opera ballad “Svetlana”, romance-duet.

For citation

Smagina E. “Svetlana, or A hundred years in one day” by K. Kavos: Russian “ballad” version of French opera // South-Russian Musical Anthology. 2022. No. 4. Pp. 63-69.