Aleksei Verstovskii

Verstovskii, Aleksei Nikolaevich

 

Born Feb. 18 (Mar. 1), 1799, on the estate of Seliverstovo, Tambov Province; died Nov. 5 (17), 1862, in Moscow. Russian composer and theater figure.

Beginning at age nine, Verstovskii appeared in concerts in Ufa. In 1816 he went to St. Petersburg, where he studied under J. Field and D. Steibelt (piano) and F. Böhm and L. Maurer (violin); he also took lessons in singing and composition. In 1823, Verstovskii settled in Moscow, and during the following 35 years he was a leader in the theater there. From 1825 he was an inspector of music and from 1830, an inspector of the repertoire of the imperial theaters in Moscow. From 1848 to 1860 he was head of the office of the Directorate of Imperial Theaters in Moscow. Verstovskii helped raise the artistic level of productions and enrich the repertoire; he also devoted a great deal of attention to the selection and training of actors and orchestra musicians.

Verstovskii’s most important works were written for the musical stage. He was one of the founders of the genre of Russian vaudeville opera, and he wrote more than 30 such works, including Granny’s Parrots (text by N. I. Khmel’nitskii, 1819), Which Is the Brother and Which the Sister, or Deceit Followed by Deceit (text by A. S. Griboedov and P. A. Viazemskii, 1824), and Two Notes, or Guilty Without Guilt (composed with A. A. Aliab’ev; text by A. I. Pisarev, 1827). Verstovskii’s work on vaudevilles prepared the way for his operatic works. In the six operas written by Verstovskii, including Pan Tvardovskii (1828), Vadim, or the Awakening of Twelve Sleeping Maidens (1832), and Thunder (1854; produced in 1857) the Russian wellspring is combined with romanticized theatrical fantasy. Verstovskii’s best opera, Askold’s Tomb (1835), which is characterized by the vivid quality of its musical stage images and the clarity of its music and is constructed on material drawn from common art songs and songs, was very popular. This opera was an important phenomenon in Russian music of the first half of the 19th century. In Verstovskii’s work the Russian vocal ballad became highly developed. The best of his ballads—“The Black Shawl” (words by A. S. Pushkin), “The Poor Singer” and “Night Inspection” (words by V. A. Zhukovskii), and others—are distinguished by their vivid theatricality. (They were performed on the stage as theatrical presentations with orchestral accompaniment.)

Verstovskii wrote the article “Excerpts From the History of Dramatic Music,” which was published in the Dramatic Album for Theater and Music Lovers (1826; published by Verstovskii and A. I. Pisarev). Verstovskii also published two Musical Albums (1827 and 1828).

REFERENCES

Serov, A. N. “A. N. Verstovskii i ego znachenie dlia russkogo iskusstva.” In Kriticheskie stat’i, vol. 3. St. Petersburg, 1895.
Findeizen, N. “A. N. Verstovskii.” Ezhegodnik imperatorskikh teatrov, 1896-1897 season, appendix 2, 1898. (Reprint.)
Asaf’ev, B. “Kompozitor iz pleiady slaviano-rossiiskikh bardov: Aleksei Nikolaevich Verstovskii.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1946, nos. 8-9.
Levasheva, O. “A. N. Verstovskii (K 150-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia). Sovetskaia muzyka, 1949, no. 6.
Dobrokhotov, B. A. N. Verstovskii: Zhizn’, teatral’naia deiatel’nost’, opernoe tvorchestvo. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
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