AltSU art critics return forgotten masterpieces based on Biblical plots to Russian musicology

22 November 2022 Institute of Humanities

For the first time in the history of Russian musicology, scientists from the Institute of Humanities of Altai State University conducted a cultural study of a unique musical edition of the late 19th century of one of the forgotten operas by the outstanding Russian composer Anton Rubinstein "Moses".

The research work was organized under the grant support of the Russian Science Foundation "Biblical Historicism in Western European and Russian Opera of the 19th Century", thanks to which art historians of the Institute of Humanities got the opportunity to study opera works by the largest composers of the Italian, French and Russian opera schools of the 19th century, based on biblical stories.

“This is a unique project, since for the first time in the history of musicology and art history of Altai Krai, scientists from the Institute of Humanities explore the historical heritage of world opera based on biblical stories. A number of works are still little studied, and some are even forgotten. But thanks to the support of the Russian Science Foundation, the veil of secrecy will now be lifted over the classic works of the 19th century, and this will become another significant contribution of Russian scientists to the world's scientific capital,” emphasized the scientific supervisor of the project, Director of the IH of Altai State University, Doctor of Art Critisism Larisa Nekhvyadovich.

In the course of their work, art historians of Altai State University managed to expand the material of the study, supplementing it with rare musical publications stored in the collections of the Russian State Library. Among them was a unique copy of the rarest opera "Moses" by "the most forgotten famous composer of the 19th century" A. G. Rubinstein.

“Anton Rubinstein wrote opera compositions on biblical subjects throughout his entire career. He called them "spiritual operas" and dreamed of building a separate, "spiritual theater" for their performance. It so happened that these works from the very moment of their appearance somehow undeservedly, unfairly were deprived of attention. None of these compositions (and he has 6 of them) was staged during the composer's lifetime, at present they are performed very rarely and are practically not studied,’ says the project developer, an associate professor of the Deaprtment of Arts of the IH of AltSU, Candidate of Art Criticism Olesya Mikhailova. “The opera “Moses” remains absolutely unexplored, which Rubinstein himself called “a real type of “spiritual opera”, which he dreamed of for many years. This is the composer's last work on an Old Testament plot, and I see its study as very important for Russian musicology. Firstly, it will allow us to see the evolution of the composer's style in the spiritual opera genre, and secondly, to identify the uniqueness of the Russian opera interpretation of the famous history of the Holy Scriptures, and, most importantly, to open a new page in the world history of the "biblical opera" genre. The opera "Moses" was published abroad in German, and one of those most valuable copies of the late 19th century is kept in the Russian State Library. It has not yet been digitized and, accordingly, is available for study only within the walls of the library. There are no other publications in Russia.”

The scientists of IH of AltSU emphasize that thanks to their research analysis, the forgotten work of Anton Rubinstein again returns to Russian musicology and will be introduced into scientific circulation.

The results of the study will be published in early 2023.

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