The main feature of Bogatyri is a parody reflection of arias and ensembles from Italian and others foreign operas, well known in Russia in the 1860s, as well as a new genre of operetta, that was especially popular at that time.
It is noteworthy that Borodin was creating Bogatyri in secret, unbeknownst to his friends, because he did not want this light-minded composition to discredit the high-minded goals of his group.
The fairy-tale plot of Bogatyri is based on the same story as the opera Ruslan and Lyudmila by Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka: kidnapping of the bride, a search and release campaign by Russian knights.
In order to feel the sense of parody, we shall briefly review the plot of Bogatyri.
Specificity of Bogatyri is that the composer used a lot of pieces of music (absolutely different from each other both in terms of genre and style) as object of parody in his operetta.
Rossini's melodies from Il barbiere di Siviglia which constitute the musical basis of chorus of girls in Bogatyri, give a hint of further events: Borodin used the terzetto of Figaro, Count and Rosina from the second act ("Zitti, zitti, piano, piano, non facciamo confusione") and final chorus "Di si felice innesto serbiam memoria eterna".
In Bogatyri this orchestral fragment becomes a background for a nonsense spell pronounced by the priest: "the Malicious Ocean rustles-roars, the thunder-storm will come, the thunder-storm will pass".
Bogatyri does not treat it seriously beyond the very first phrases: "Let him die
The solemnity and significance of the situation is completely reinterpreted in a comic way in Bogatyri.
43) In later scenes the three bogatyri
(medieval knights) celebrated in Russian byliny (folk epics) and art appear, Il'yaMuromets, DobryniaNikitich, and Alesha Popovich.
In 1936 Bedny composed a new libretto for the comic opera Bogatyri
("Heroes") by Aleksandr Borodin; his verse text, in the spirit of the original music, satirized Russian history and its epic heroes.
His crude propaganda poetry earned him a prominent place in Soviet letters until 1936, when his opera libretto, Bogatyri
(Epic Heroes), displeased the authorities because it spoofed the Russian epic tradition of folk poetry and the introduction of Christianity to Russia.