Bewitching Russian Opera: The Tsarina from State to Stage

Inna Naroditskaya*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBook

6 Scopus citations


Woven into history and opera, the story of Russia's "women's kingdom" and a nationalist male narrative dialogued across two centuries. Russian eighteenth century female tsars endorsed opera; Catherine II penned half a dozen libretti and oversaw their production. Sharing an arena of performativity with imperial genres-coronations, princely weddings, parades, masquerades-eighteenth-century Russian opera reveals striking reciprocity between state and stage. Operatic choruses praised the empresses as Olympic gods, heroes, or idyllic heroines; Eastern armies on the stage submitted to Russia's rule, weddings signified the blessed union between the folk and a tsarina. Folk songs, weddings, heroic ventures, and monumental choral "Slavas" became major elements of Russian nationalist opera. Appropriating and significantly expanding existing conventions, yet discrediting the preceding "female" age, the Russian nineteenth century engaged in the rapid, zealous, militant restoration of patriarchy in the name of nationalism. As real female monarchs disappeared from Russia's political stage, a number of magical tsarinas materialized in Russian operatic tales. In their enchanting gardens (Pushkin and Glinka's Ruslan and Liudmila), in their aquatic kingdoms (Pushkin and Dargomyzhsky's Rusalka, Rimsky-Korsakov's Sadko and Mlada), in splendorous imperial balls (Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades, The Slippers, Rimsky-Korsakov's Christmas Eve), entrancing female monarchs or princesses tried to allure or trap Russian heroes. Champions' victories over magical female forces were celebrated as a triumph of the nation; their defeats led to the destruction of the folk or at least their disappearance from the operatic stage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages416
ISBN (Electronic)9780199918218
ISBN (Print)9780195340587
StatePublished - Jan 19 2012


  • Nationalism
  • Patriarchy
  • Performativity
  • Russian opera
  • Slava
  • Tsarina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Bewitching Russian Opera: The Tsarina from State to Stage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this