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Третьяковская галерея
Vivarte Online / Third part
at the State Tretyakov Gallery

One of the pearls of the Vrubel Hall, the painting "The Swan Princess" was created by the master in 1900, during his work on the decoration of musical performances by N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov. The eminent composer wrote the part of the princess especially for the artist's wife, opera singer N.I. Zabela-Vrubel.

“The work on the picture was completed before the premiere of the opera took place. When Vrubel wrote this work, it was almost immediately bought by the famous collector M. A. Morozov. The Swan Princess depicted on the canvas belongs entirely to the figurative world of its creator, this world is on the border between the real and the fantastic. Vrubel said that in order to create a fantasy image in a picture, an obligatory detail is required, painted realistically, from life. According to him, this detail, like a tuning fork for choral singing, should set the tone for the entire composition. Having a perfect command of academic drawing, he skillfully depicted in the picture the natural matter of a weightless fabric enveloping the figure of a fabulous maiden, the brilliance of sparkling precious stones framing her headdress. The attraction of this 

M. Vrubel, "The Swan Princess", 1900

the image is hidden in a special mystical look of the deep expressive eyes of the princess. Vrubel acquired the skill of depicting such a look, detached from worldly fuss, at the beginning of his career, working on the images of the saints of St. Cyril's Church in Kyiv. The final arioso of the Swan Princess, the creator of the opera, jokingly called "A Lecture on Aesthetics about Beauty." The mysterious and beautiful Princess of Mikhail Vrubel will forever remain for us the living embodiment of aesthetics and beauty. (Vera Bodunova (Tretyakov Gallery) about the painting by Mikhail Vrubel "The Swan Princess" (1900)


Program 3  parts:


Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Aria of the Swan Princess (“You, Tsarevich, My Savior”) from the opera “The Tale of Tsar Saltan”

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Martha's aria ("Ivan Sergeyevich, if you want, let's go to the garden ...") from the opera "The Tsar's Bride"

Sergei Rachmaninoff. "Dream" (verses by Fyodor Sologub), op. 38 No. 5

Anton Rubinstein. Tamara's Romance ("Heat Night") from the opera "The Demon"


Performed by:

Albina Shagimuratova  (soprano)

Yakov Katsnelson  (piano)

N.I. Zabela-Vrubel as the Swan Princess to the opera by N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov "The Tale of Tsar Saltan". 1901

By the will of Providence, Nadezhda Zabela's debut as Tamara in Rubinstein's opera The Demon took place in Tiflis, despite the fact that the opera takes place in Georgia. The entreprise of Victor Forcatti, formerly a great dramatic actor, then a talented impresario who worked in many provincial theaters in the Russian Empire, presented many spectacular performances on the Tiflis stage (including 

"Demon"), and in 1894-1895 Zabela also constantly performed there. The role of Tamara became symbolic for her and intertwined with her personal destiny. In 1895, she met, and a year later, married the artist Mikhail Vrubel, whose imagination from a young age was captured by the image of Lermontov's Demon.

According to the artist, the Demon personified "the eternal struggle of the restless human spirit, seeking reconciliation of the passions that overwhelm him, knowledge of life and not finding an answer to his doubts either on earth or in heaven." Over the years, Vrubel has repeatedly turned to the image of the Demon, who opened up to him a whole world of complex experiences. Moreover, Vrubel's vision of the image differed both from Lermontov's and from that created in the opera by Rubinstein, where the restless spirit became a lyrical hero and almost lost its "demonism". And if the artist somehow identified himself with the Demon (and painted his friends in the form of characters in the poem), then in his wife he naturally found the features of Tamara, quoting lines from the poem in her letters: “I will give you everything, everything earthly - love me ! Tamara's romance - one of the most famous fragments of the opera - sounds in the penultimate scene: not finding peace in the monastery walls, she cannot close her eyes and tremblingly awaits an unknown friend, calling into the unknown ...

S. V. Rachmaninov was also a longtime and devoted admirer of Zabela's talent. In 1902, he dedicated the romance "Twilight" to her. N. I. Zabela was the first to sing Rachmaninoff's romances "The Island", "It's Good Here" and "To the Death of a Chizhik". At the request of the composer, Nadezhda Ivanovna again sang his romance Lilac for the first time. This happened on January 19, 1903, accompanied by the author himself. Sergei Rachmaninoff

wrote a total of about 80 romances, most of them - on the verses of Russian poets. "Six Poems for Voice and


M. Vrubel's illustration for M. Yu. Lermontov's poem "The Demon".

piano” (as the author titled his opus 38) is the composer’s last vocal collection. Rachmaninov owed the selection of poems for him to the young poetess Marietta Shaginyan, who brought her friend to Essentuki, where he was treated and rested, along with Lermontov's poetry, 26 works by modern symbolist poets. New poetry, new imagery led to a new approach of the composer to the interpretation of the genre: the piano part in these miniatures, unlike the earlier ones, is much richer, the harmony is more complex and refined, and the “melody” of the verse is put at the forefront. The romance "Dream" stands apart in the cycle - outwardly it is a picture of a serene fairy-tale dream, behind the surreal images of which lie the philosophical and mystical motives of death - eternal comforting sleep, soothing oblivion.

You can hear the voice of Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel in an old recording in which she performs "Lullaby" from the opera "Sadko".

On December 30, 1897, the author himself, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, attended the performance of the opera Sadko at Savva Ivanovich Mamontov's Moscow Private Russian Opera. The composer listened with great interest to the performance of his work, and the performer of the role of Volkhova made the greatest impression on him: according to him, she "sang excellently and created a poetic image of the sea princess." Nadezhda Zabela, the owner of the purest high soprano, was recently accepted into the Mammoth Theater, and before that she shone in Kyiv, Tiflis, Kharkov. Before being invited to the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg (1904), she was an ornament of the Moscow troupe.


Photo. Zabela-Vrubel N.I. as the Sea Princess. "Sadko". Rimsky-Korsakov N.


N.I. Zabela-Vrubel in the costume of Martha according to the sketch of M.A. Vrubel. "The Tsar's Bride" by N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov-1899.

Rimsky-Korsakov's meeting with the singer was the beginning of a long-term friendship and the closest cooperation; her husband, artist Mikhail Vrubel, who more than once created scenery for opera productions, also entered the composer's circle of friends. With the indispensable participation of Zabela-Vrubel, Rimsky-Korsakov's operas The Maid of Pskov, May Night, The Snow Maiden, Mozart and Salieri, Boyar Vera Sheloga, Kashchei the Immortal were staged. It is no coincidence that she acquired the status of "Korsakov's singer" in musical circles. It was for her that the composer created the parts of Martha in The Tsar's Bride (a bright, gentle image of an innocent victim of circumstances), the magical Swan Princess in The Tale of Tsar Saltan, and the wise maiden Fevronia in The Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh (though the last Zabela she didn’t manage to realize it: due to the death of her little son and the serious illness of her husband, she refused the role and performed at the premiere only in a small part of the bird of paradise Sirin). The premieres of "The Tsar's Bride" and "The Tale of Tsar Saltan" were successfully held in 1899 and 1900 with the scenery of Vrubel and with his inimitable wife on stage. Rimsky-Korsakov, who visited their home every time he was in Moscow, also dedicated two romances for voice and orchestra, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Nymph, to the friendly Vrubel couple.

at the State Tretyakov Gallery

A fragment of the text about musical works was prepared by musicologist Tatyana Davydova.

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