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Title: A critical re-evaluation of Taneyev's Oresteia
Author: Belina, Anastasia
ISNI:       0000 0004 2678 4595
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2009
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The musical trilogy Oresteia (1894, revised 1900), written by Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev (1856-1915) after the eponymous drama by Aeschylus, is a unique work, one of the masterpieces of Russian opera, which continues to stand alone in the Russian operatic repertoire of the nineteenth century, and even the entire Russian operatic output. No other composer in Russia completed an opera of this kind based on a Greek drama, and in Europe, only Berlioz's Les Troyens could be compared to Oresteia in scope. At a time when Russian composers based their operas predominantly on Russian sources-literary, folk, or historical-Taneyev's choice of an antique tragedy immediately placed him outside the 'nationalist' genre explored by his colleagues. Oresteia is an opera very rarely performed, and this thesis sheds light on the possible reasons why it did not becomes more successful on the stage. These include the classical subject, lack of local colour in the music, absence of love element, and unsympathetic first revival. But while in 1895 Oresteia was criticised for not bowing to nationalist demands, in 1917 such an approach was considered to be one of the opera's strongest points. This thesis is based on examination of primary and secondary sources such as letters, diaries, manuscripts, the score, and the 1976 recording of Oresteia by the Belorussian State Theatre of Opera and Ballet. A number of archival materials relating to Taneyev's opera are here published for the first time, such as the correspondence between Taneyev and his librettist Aleksey Venkstern, which has been neglected for over a century. The study of these materials addresses several issues pertaining to the opera's composition, production, stage history and reception that have not been investigated before, such as Taneyev's interest in Wagner, and Taneyev's collaboration with the Russian Imperial Theatres. Taneyev's diaries show that, although he has often been viewed as a staunch anti-Wagnerian, his interest in that composer was extensive and serious, as demonstrated by the presence of Wagnerian influences in Oresteia. The link between Taneyev and Wagner contributes to a greater understanding of Wagner's reception in nineteenth-century Russia. Finally, this thesis contributes to a deeper understanding of the workings of Russian Imperial Theatres and their treatment of Russian composers. It also offers new insights into the critical reception of operas that did not fit into the desirable and popular 'nationalistic' category. The history of the reception of Oresteia reveals the changing tastes of both public and critics from the end of the nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth centuries.
Supervisor: Lees, H. ; Anderson, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available