Review: Boris Gasparov. «Five Operas and a Symphony: Words and Music in Russian Culture»
Boris Gasparov. Five Operas and a Symphony: Words and Music in Russian Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. xxii + 268 pp. ISBN 0-300-10650-5. Cloth.
Boris Gasparov’s long-awaited book on the Russian musical tradition is not, strictly speaking, a book about Pushkin. But its central portion—which for literary people will be its most productive payoff—directly addresses Pushkin’s foundational significance for Russian opera. These four chapters can be reviewed as a free-standing segment. Not only does Gasparov contribute richly to the ancient debate over “fidelity” in transposed works with a mass of local insights about each opera; he also improves on most theories of transposition by rigorously historicizing the process, even by suggesting that the incomparably precious original literary work can at times be better understood through its transposition. The importance of this idea for opera studies is enormous. Relations once seen as derivative or parasitic are shown to be symbiotic.