Personalities | Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka | Early Romantic | Opera

1804–57, Russian

As the composer of A Life for the Tsar (1836), Glinka became the founder of Russian historical opera. A Life for the Tsar told the story of Ivan Susanin, a popular Russian hero who, in 1612, saved the life of the future tsar and founder of the Romanov dynasty, Michael Romanov. Although French and Italian influences were present, Glinka’s music was unmistakably Russian in its use of folk songs, balalaika music and recitative that conformed to the inflections of the Russian language.

The opera made Glinka an overnight success and Russia’s leading composer at its first performance in St Petersburg on 9 December 1836. He was already planning his next work, Ruslan i Lyudmila (‘Ruslan and Ludmilla’, 1842), but suffered problems with the text after Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837), who had written the poem on which the opera was based, was killed in a duel. Glinka had to make do with a less than satisfactory libretto, written by several people. His music, however, transcended this problem with its original rhythms, strong harmonies, oriental content and dazzling orchestration. Like A Life for the Tsar, Ruslan was a seminal work, this time founding the genre of Russian magic opera.

Introduction | Early Romantic | Opera
Major Operas | A Life for the Tsar by Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka | Early Romantic
Major Operas | Ruslan i Lyudmila by Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka | Early Romantic
Personalities | Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | Early Romantic | Opera


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