Mamontov's Private Opera

Mamontov's Private Opera

The Search for Modernism in Russian Theater
Olga Haldey
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 06/16/2010
ISBN: 978-0-253-00434-5
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The Moscow Private Opera, founded, sponsored, and directed by Savva Mamontov (1841–1918), was one of Russia’s most important theatrical institutions at the dawn of the age of modernism. It presented the Moscow premieres of Lohengrin, La Bohème, and Khovanshchina, among others; launched the career of Feodor Chaliapin; gave Sergei Rachmaninov his first conducting job; employed Vasily Polenov, Victor Vasnetsov, Valentin Serov, Konstantin Korovin, and Mikhail Vrubel as set designers; and served as a model for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Part commercial enterprise, part experimental studio, Mamontov’s company revolutionized opera directing and design, and trained a generation of opera singers. Drawing on a wealth of unpublished primary sources and evidence from art and theater history, Olga Haldey paints a fascinating portrait of a railway tycoon turned artiste and his pioneering opera company.

Author Bio

Olga Haldey is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of Maryland, College Park.


“The Moscow Private Opera was one of Russia’s most important theatrical institutions at the dawn of the age of modernism, hosting monumental operas and launching the careers of legends. Drawing on a wealth of unpublished primary sources and history, this text paints a fascinating portrait of Mamontov's pioneering opera company.”

“Interdisciplinary in the most thorough-going way.”
 — David Haas, Univeristy of Georgia

“[Haldey's] research will be appreciated not only by historians of Russian music and theater, but also by readers interested in Russian culture of the Silver Age.”
 — Malcolm Hamrick Brown, Indiana University

“This is a valuable and long overdue work that enriches an ignored but greatly influential artistic enterprise drawn from the era's greatest artistic figures, and sponsored and set together in dynamic collaborations by the ingenuity and tastes of Savva Mamontov.”
 — Sineris

“This is a bracing account of a time when faith in dramatic art was contagious—and worked wonders. ”
 — Slavic Review

“Mamontov’s Private Opera is a fascinating and detailed presentation—using existing primary source materials—of the power and influence that one man had on both Russian music history and international music history at the turn of the twentieth century.”
 — Music Reference Services Quarterly

“Haldey gives an evocative and detailed portrait of the era, drawing on letters, memoirs, contemporary criticism and reviews, and synthesizing important secondary literature in a variety of related fields . . . [This] should be required reading for all historians of Russian theatre. ”
 — Slavonic and East European Review

“Haldey's fresh account of Mamontov's vital role in the creation of the modern Russian theater is striking for its originality, the depth of its research and analysis, and the detail it provides. ”
 — Slavic and East European Journal

“Hadley's research provides an effective reclaiming of the important . . . role played by Savva Mamontov and the MPO in the history of modernist theater in Russia. It should attract the interest of musicologists, visual art and theater historians, as well as social and cultural historians interested in the development of artistic modernism in late imperial Russia. ”
 — H-Russia

“This fine, rigorously researched book should please anyone interested in the development of the arts in Russia. Opera NewsMarch 1, 2011”
 — Opera News

“With extensive notes and 40 halftone photographs, this is an important work for Russian and turn-of-the-century cultural studies. Highly recommended.March 2011”
 — Choice

“Haldey, a musicologist at the University of Maryland, provides a close-up of what, remarkably, [Mamontov] accomplished and how and why. . . . [S]he manages to evoke successfully a larger than life man and his era. August 22, 2010”
 — The Reporter-Times

“Haldey has performed a crucial service to scholarship and to everyone interested in this fascinating period.V.70.3 July 2011”
 — The Russian Review

“[Haldey's] book will change our understanding of Russian opera in the 'Silver Age.' It is the necessary—and overdue—complement to Braun's 1999 study, whose focus is on the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. . . .67.4 June 2011”
 — Notes

“Haldey deserves great credit for re-creating this lost world of art for its own sake and restoring it to its proper place in the pages of Russian history. ”
 — Revolutionary Russia

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Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration and Translation

1. The Silver Age and the Legacy of the 1860s
2. Serving the Beautiful
3. Echoes of Abramtsevo
4. Visual Impressions
5. Opera as Drama
6. From Meiningen to Meyerhold
7. Politics, Repertory, and the Market
8. Faces of the Enterprise

Appendix A. Brief Chronology of Savva Mamontov's Life and Career
Appendix B. Selected Premieres and Revivals at the Moscow Private Opera
Works Cited