Russian Music Examples

Below are some examples of the development of the Russian opera form:

Cavatina from Life for the Tsar, composed by Mikhail Glinka, performed by Anna Netrebko (start at 3:00 mark)

La Donna E Mobile from Rigoletto, composed by Giuseppe Verdi, performed by Andrea Bocelli

The Swan Princess Aria from Act IV from Tale of Tsar Saltan, composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, performed by Anna Netrebko

As you’ll notice, the first and third arias are from Russian operas, while the second is from an Italian opera. Mikhail Glinka is considered the first major Russia composer, with his opera, Life for the Tsar, the first successful Russian opera. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was a member of the Mighty Five, a Russian nationalist music group, who advanced the Russian form to a level independent from western Europe. In listening to the two examples, the evolution of the Russian form is evident in the lush and melodic tone of Rimsky-Korsakov’s aria. Interestingly, if you compare the Glinka and Verdi examples, it is evident of Glinka’s quoting of the Italian opera form in their similarities of instrumentation, lightness, and simplicity. The link is important to establish the history of Russian composers using foreign source material in order to break into new art forms.

Similarly, here is an example of early Russian rock music:

Ivan Bodhidharma performed by Aquarium

London Calling performed by The Clash

The plagiarism is quite evident in the second example. It can be argued that in order for these new forms to take hold in Russia, early composers and song writers had to copy ideas from foreign sources as they established the Russian version of that form. In the Soviet rock music’s example, criticism of the plagiarism occurred and several of the early Soviet rock groups were not successful as a result of similar plagiarism cases.

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