(Alexandra Guzeva’s article appeared in Russia Beyond, 8/16.)
Russian plays are no less famous in the theater and opera world than the novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in the literary. If you see any of the following authors on the bill, grab a ticket quick!
So you think Russian theater began with Anton Chekhov? Nyet. Pieces for the stage started appearing in Russia in the 18th century, largely composed under the influence of ancient dramatists and the French playwrights Moliere and Beaumarchais. One of the most famous (and funny) of that time is Denis Fonvizin’s The Minor, about a mummy’s boy fussed over so much that he is incapable of tying his own shoelaces.
Russian drama was in some ways revolutionized by diplomat Alexander Griboedov’s Woe from Wit (1822–24), which introduced political satire into the set-piece predicaments of older plays, and spoke to the audience in livelier, more colloquial language.
Unfortunately, Fonvizin and Griboedov were both one-hit wonders. However, the coming generations churned out masterpiece upon masterpiece, nearly all of which are still regularly staged to this day. Here are the must-sees.
- Alexander Pushkin
Ateneum, Tretyakov Gallery, Public domain