“Francesca da Rimini” by Sergei Rachmaninoff in its Connections with the Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Opera Works

Antonina L. Makarova, Lyubov A. Serebryakova


“Francesca da Rimini” by Rachmaninoff is an opera which still undeservedly remains at the
periphery of scholarly attention and producers’ interest, not least due to its existing reputation as
an unsuccessful musical composition. The article poses the question of the role of intertextuality
in the dramaturgy and conception of “Francesca” through the demonstration of the literary and
musical parallels with Tchaikovsky’s operas, which creates a new context for the comprehension
and interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s opera. Its genre-related and compositional resemblance to
“Iolanta,” the plotline and literary interconnections with “The Queen of Spades,” the musical
references to “Mazepa,” “The Maid of Orleans” and “Iolanta” make it possible to perceive
“Francesca” as a new stage in the comprehension of the theme of the human being and fate, the
issues of making decisions and their tragic consequences, the correlation of human actions with the
value system of the religious worldview.
The allusions placed into the context of the musical language of the 20th century (the chromatic
pitch system, expanded tonality, microthematicism) function in the opera’s intonational dramaturgy
as symbols which define its semantic density and make it possible to concretize its conception.
They create a semantical implication, impressing not as much the storyline, as much the profound
philosophical connection between the artistic world of “Francesca” with the conceptual constants
of Tchaikovsky’s operas, which in themselves are close to Rachmaninoff’s world perception.

Keywords: Sergei Rachmaninoff, “Francesca da Rimini,” Pyotr Tchaikovsky, “Iolanta,”
“Mazepa,” “The Maid of Orleans,” intertextuality.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17674/1997-0854.2019.4.017-026


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