Alexey Nikolayevich Verstovsky

The only success of this Russian composer's career was his opera "Askold's Grave." It had nearly four hundred performances in the nineteenth century alone including two hundred in Moscow. It was the first Russian opera to play in the United States. His operas were often set for horrific texts in which the heroine was soft, demur and in need of rescuing and the hero was in the conflict of having sold his soul to the devil. The problem with Verstovsky's music is that it did not hold up to the intrigue of the over-played librettos. He could not capture the gothic and malevolent themes which were inherent in these scenarios. Unfortunately, too, was the fact that he rarely employed the Russian thematic flavors in his operatic composers. When he did accomplish this, particularly in his shorter, lighter works, he succeed not only with the public but in the foreshadowing of Tchaikovsky's songs as well. From 1825, until his retirement Verstovsky was the inspector of the Moscow theaters and he played an important part in their management, maintenance and continued contemporization. The music enjoyed most by the Russian public from the pen of Verstovsky were the scenes with the peasants and fisherman and music which elevated Russian vaudeville above the mundane. ~ Keith Johnson

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