“Slavonic culture” or “foreign Barbarism”? : Glinka’s A life for the Tsar in Milan (1874)

Ottomano, Vincenzina (16 December 2016). “Slavonic culture” or “foreign Barbarism”? : Glinka’s A life for the Tsar in Milan (1874) (Unpublished). In: Russia and the Musical World: Nineteenth-Century Networks of Exchange. Goldsmiths, University of London. 26 December 2016.

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The performance of A Life for the Tsar at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan (20th May 1874) coincided with another very important event in the history of music: the first performance of the Messa da Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi on 22nd May 1874 in the Church of San Marco in Milan. The clamour about the two Milanese events was huge and the critics did not miss the chance to either support or reject Verdi’s and Glinka’s compositions. According to the German reviewer and composer, Hans von Bülow, the Italian public paid very little attention to the extraordinary performance of Glinka’s opera, a real example of “culture”, instead of that they preferred the Latin “barbarity” of Verdi’s Requiem. However, it is clear that Bülow’s debate and his predilection for Glinka’s opera are biased and aim to justify the “anxiety” of certain German critics felt about Verdi’s personality. Furthermore it is interesting to note that Russian opera is accepted as an aesthetic and ideological canon, and is thus viewed as an alternative to the Western culture and in particular to Wagnerian Musikdrama. The aim of this paper is to explore key aspects of the first Italian performance of Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar, in particular the role of the Baroness Aleksandra Aleksandrovna Gorchakova, who sponsored the stage production and the libretto’s translation, the impact of this opera on the Italian public and the historical and political background in combination with the problems in post-unification Italy.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Musicology

UniBE Contributor:

Ottomano, Vincenzina


700 Arts > 780 Music




Vincenzina Ottomano

Date Deposited:

13 Jun 2017 16:29

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:04



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