Personalities | Alexander Dargomïzhsky | High Romantic | Opera
Alexander Dargomïzhsky belonged to an aristocratic family in St Petersburg. He entered government service, but resigned his post in 1843. The musical training he received in his youth enabled him to build a reputation as a pianist and his acquaintance with during the winter of 1833–34 with Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (1804–57) involved him in the movement to establish national opera based on the Russian folksong tradition. Dargomïzhsky’s first foray into opera was Lucrèce Borgia, based on a play by the French writer Victor Hugo (1802–85). However, he abandoned this and turned instead to another Hugo novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), for his second opera, Esmeralda (1840), which was staged in Moscow in 1847. By this time Dargomïzhsky had become a well-known singing teacher and had embarked on writing songs that were keyed in to Russian speech patterns. Here he found his own niche, with lyrical as well as dramatic and declamatory melodies. His opera Rusalka, produced in St Petersburg in 1856, was in a similar genre, with its colourful folk setting. Sadly Dargomïzhsky died before completing his last opera, The Stone Guest (1866–69). The opera was completed by Cui and Rimsky-Korsakov in 1870, and premiered in St Petersburg in 1872.
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