The Enigma of the Golden Cockerel: Catch It if You Can

Inna Naroditskaya


Pushkin’s fable was a creative remake of a tale by Washington Irving, which he wrote during his travel to Granada (the Alhambra) with Pushkin’s pal, Russian diplomat pal, Count Dmitry Dolgorukov. This legend about an Arabic Astrologer (from Tales of Alhambra, 1832), undergoing metamorphosis was relocated from Spain to Russia and Shamakha. Current research delves into the connection between the two texts, tracing the transformation of the main characters in the context of the central plotlines. I explore how and why Irving’s gothic princess turned into Pushkin’s Tsarina of Shamakha and how the plotline relates to Russia’s historical annexation of Azerbaijan. The core of my research is the musical language Rimsky-Korsakov employs to create the fairytale and Eastern characters. Is there any positive Russian imagery in the opera? Why is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Golden Cockerel considered an anti-opera? To what extent can Stravinsky’s first ballets, Firebird and Petrushka, be viewed as the continuation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s stream of fairytales?

Extending author’s work on Russian operas and Rimsky-Korsakov in particular, this research originated at the invitation to write program notes for the Santa Fe Opera production of The Golden Cockerel in 2017.

Keywords: Golden Cockerel, Washington Irving, Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

For citation: Naroditskaya I. The Enigma of the Golden Cockerel: Catch It if You Can [Electronic source]. In: Sovremennye problemy muzykoznaniya / Contemporary Musicology, 2023, no. 3, pp. 107–125. DOI: 10.56620/2587-9731-2023-3-107-125

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