Decentralising via Russia: Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar in Nice, 1890

Alexander, Tamsin. 2015. Decentralising via Russia: Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar in Nice, 1890. Cambridge Opera Journal, 27(1), pp. 35-62. ISSN 0954-5867 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

On 30 January 1890, the audience at the Théâtre Municipal in Nice witnessed something extraordinary. Midway through the first public performance of a Russian opera in France, Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar, the chorus and orchestra broke into a rendition of the Russian national anthem, followed by the ‘Marseillaise’. Both anthems were then repeated, with the audience calling out ‘Vive la Russie!’, ‘Vive la France!’ With France and Russia on the verge of an historic alliance, the evening was proclaimed a political and an artistic triumph. The success of this unusual event, I suggest, can be explained further by considering the context of operatic decentralisation in France, in conjunction with the arrival of the new director at the Théâtre, Raoul Gunsbourg. As a result of local and personal imperatives, the performance came to resonate nationally, with A Life serving as an unlikely emblem of modernity, while also bringing one peripheral French region strongly into Paris’s purview.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Centre for Russian Music


1 March 2015Published

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Date Deposited:

21 Dec 2015 21:27

Last Modified:

08 Mar 2021 16:05

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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