Vasily Kalafati’s opera Tsygany (“The Gypsies”) after Alexander Pushkin

Stanimira S. Dermendzhieva


The object of the present article is the reappraisal and rediscovery of the life and works of the Russian composer of Greek origin VasilyPavlovich Kalafati (1869–1942). The subject of this study is the summarized presentation of historical documents and a short analysis of his unique operaTsygany(“The Gypsies”) after Alexander Pushkin (1899, revised 1937). The opera’s full and vocal scores (1899) survived the Siege of Leningrad. These manuscripts, the opera’s vocal score and some orchestrated fragments (1937) are preserved in the Hellenic Music Research Library, itself a part of the Music Department of the Ionian University of Corfu, Greece.

All Kalafati’s compositions were written between 1889 and 1941 and over 160 of them are preserved. His unique stage workthe one-act opera Gypsieswas written in 1899 while composer was studying at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. It became the basis of his cantata Gypsies after Pushkin, mentioned by the Russian press and presented as a graduation exam in 1899/ This work secured his future as a prominent composer.

In the second version (1937), Kalafati undertook a number of changes, giving the opera more stage expressiveness and compositional completeness(libretto by S. Levik, 1883–1967).Gypsies was written for a large symphony orchestra, soloists, chorus and narrator and followed the specific characteristics of composer’s colorful orchestration. We could study both versions of his opera from a historical viewpoint today.

The Gypsies sheds light on the unknown pages of Russian music and V. Kalafati’s work, researching the way how the traditions of the St. Petersburg composition school were reflected in his works. It also contributes to the coverage of the activities of the Hellenic diaspora in Russia.

Keywords: Vasily Kalafati, Alexander Pushkin, Opera, Tsygany, The Gypsies, Hellenic diaspora in Russia


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