French text (original)
2011 by Luis Sundkvist
|Russie, Gouvernement de Moscou
27 Avril/9 Mai 1888
||Russia, Moscow province,
27 April/9 May 1888
|Mon cher ami !
||My dear friend!
Je reçois à l'instant ta lettre adre[s]sée à Tiflis, mais je ne reçois pas la carcasse de
Détroyat ? Dès que je l'aurai reçu, je la lirai et en dirai franchement mon opinion à
Mr Détroyat. Il en a déjà été question il y a deux ans au diner [= dîner] de Marmontel, et je crois que ce poème-la [= poème-là] ne peut pas me convenir, vu que
Mr Détroyat a eu la malencontreuse idée de transplanter un roman de
Chateaubriand en Russie, même à Tiflis. Du moment que le sujet se passe en Russie il faut qu'il ne s'y trouve pas des choses complètement impossibles, dans le genre de celles qu'il y a dans
Pierre [= Michel] Strogoff ; et je n'ai que trop la complète persuasion que
Mr Détroyat connaît la Russie comme moi la Chine. Qu'un compositeur français soit capable de mettre un pareil sujet en musique, – je le conçois, – mais moi, étant russe, et en cette qualité très soucieux de la vérité locale et historique, – je ne pourrai jamais me résoudre à me mettre au travail quelque scénique et rempli d'effet soit le poème de
Détroyat, si des
non sens historiques y abondent. Enfin nous verrons. Je n'ai rien reçu des Photographes si ce n'est une demi douzaine de celles de Reutlinger. C'est trop peu. Cher ami, fais moi faire plusieurs douzaines de mes
nouvelles photographies chez Reutlinger (pour cent francs environ), paye-les, et envois les moi. J'en ai bien besoin. Si le photographe d'en face a bien fait mes portraits, je voudrais en avoir aussi de chez lui. Si tu te donnais la peine d'aller le voir et de lui en parler. Qu'il m'envoie du moins quelques-unes !
I have just now received the letter which you addressed to me in Tiflis, but I haven't received
Détroyat's skeleton libretto—why is that? As soon as I have received it, I shall read through it and state my opinion frankly to
Mr Détroyat . This is an idea that was raised two years ago at the supper given by
Marmontel , and I think that the libretto in question cannot be suitable for me, given that
Mr Detroyat has had the ill-advised idea of transposing a novel by
Chateaubriand to Russia—to Tiflis
even . As soon as the plot is set in Russia it is necessary that it should contain no utterly impossible things—of the likes of those one finds in
Pierre [= Michel] Strogoff ; and I am, alas,
quite convinced that Mr Détroyat's
knowledge of Russia is as good as my knowledge of China. That a French composer might be able to set to music a subject of this kind, that I can conceive, but as for me, being a Russian and accordingly setting great store by local and historical truth, I could never bring myself to start work, no matter how effective on the stage
Détroyat's libretto may be, if it is teeming with historical
nonsense. Anyway, we shall see
. I have received nothing from the photographers, except for half a dozen prints of the ones taken by Reutlinger. That is too little. Dear friend, could you please order for me several dozens of the
new photographs I had taken at Reutlinger's (to the
value of some 100 francs), pay for them, and send them to me? I really do need them. If the portraits by the photographer in the atelier opposite [Reutlinger's ?] turned out well, I would like to have some prints of those too. Could you take the trouble to go and see him and discuss it with him? I would like him to send me at least a few prints!
|Je vais demain à Petersbourg [= Pétersbourg] pour me présenter à l'Empereur et le remercier pour ce qu'il a fait pour moi. Je resterai environ une semaine. Puis je reviens ici dans ma nouvelle demeure (aussi près de
Kline, donc l'adresse est la même excepté
Frolowskoye, au lieu de
Maïdanowo), qui est tout à fait charmante et j'y prends racine jusqu'à l'automne très avancée. Je veux travailler beaucoup et bien. Je suis bien fatigué de mes voyages. Songe donc quelles distances énormes j'ai parcourues !
||Tomorrow I am leaving for Petersburg in order to appear before the Emperor
[Alexander III] and to thank him for what he has done for
me . I shall stay there for about a week. Then I will return
here to my new abode (it is also near Klin, so the address is the same except
that it is now Frolovskoye instead of
Maydanovo), which is quite delightful, and
settle down until very late in the autumn. I want to do a lot of work, and good work too. I am very tired after all my travels. Just think of the tremendous distances I have covered!
|Je t'envoie quelques photographies du Caucase.
||I am sending you some photographs from the Caucasus.
|Milles choses à Mme Mackar ; salue-la bien, je l'aime beaucoup ; salutations à tous les amis. La moitié des photographies du Caucase sont pour Condemine. Malheureusement le choix est mauvais, – ce n'est pas ma faute.
||A thousand kind regards for Mme Mackar
. Do give her my greetings; I am very fond of her. Greetings to all my friends. Half of the photographs from the Caucasus are for
Condemine . Unfortunately, the selection isn't very good—it's not my fault, though.
|Au revoir, cher Félix !
||So long, dear Félix!
- Mackar had
begun his letter to Tchaikovsky from
Paris on 7/19 April 1888 as follows: "Messrs. Détroyat
(who have great influence both in the press and at the Opéra) have
asked me to send you an outline libretto entitled La Géorgienne
[or La Circassiene ?] together with the request that you read
it through and then reply to Mr
Détroyat in Paris (No. 6, Rue d'Isley)
to tell him whether you accept it or not. This libretto might be
suitable for the opening of the season at the Opéra-Comique or the
future Théâtre Lyrique, which is now being discussed a lot, and
you, by virtue of your qualities as a person and artist, have been
chosen to write one of the first works which will be staged at this
theatre (or theatres). Everything should now be impelling you to create
an opera, or a comic opera, for Paris.
Everything is in your favour. An artist must know how to make use of
such a favourable moment in order to consolidate his standing in a
foreign country. If this libretto doesn't suit you, don't be afraid to
say so and to explain everything that you would like to have, that would
tally best with your individuality. These gentlemen are entirely at your
disposal, which is very important, since Mr
Gallet knows what it means to be successful and is very influential.
They want to create a new operatic success together with you at all
costs, and this is something that I too wish for with all my heart".
Mackar's letter has been
published (in an abridged Russian translation) in:
Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p.
- The outline libretto did finally reach
Tchaikovsky. See letter 3563b to Détroyat
of 10/22 May 1888 [back]
- Tchaikovsky had met Détroyat,
together with various other Parisian men of letters and artists, at a
reception on Friday, 5/17 June 1886 in the house of Antoine-François Marmontel (1816–1898), the highly influential
professor of piano at the Paris
Conservatory whom Mackar
had managed to interest in Tchaikovsky's music. In his diary at the end
of that day Tchaikovsky described the new acquaintances he had made,
the librettist, a stout jolly fellow offering me a libretto". It
seems that he had agreed to meet Détroyat
again that Sunday at the Conservatory, where he had been invited by
Marmontel to attend a concert of his students, after which Détroyat
was to show him his libretto. This may be conjectured from the diary
entry for Saturday, 6/18 June, in which Tchaikovsky describes the dinner
he had had with Lucien Guitry,
and a few other friends at a Parisian restaurant: "Guitry
(what a smart and wonderful man) advised me not to go tomorrow to
Marmontels class and even drafted a letter for me. After separating,
went with Brandukov
to the Café de la Paix and copied the letter there with some changes.
We sent it off [...] How glad I am that I got rid of M. Détroyat,
but at the same time it looks exactly as though I'd done an ugly
thing". Diary entries quoted from
Wladimir Lakond (transl.),
The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1973), p. 85, 86 [back]
- In fact Détroyat
had based his outline libretto on
a short story entitled Les amours du Cosaque et de la Géorgienne
(by an unidentified author) which appeared in the Revue Britannique
in 1828, though he did adopt some of the stylized language of
Chateaubriand's epic poem Les Natchez (1826) about the North
American Indians (believing that it would be just as suitable for the
Georgians!), as he would himself explain to Tchaikovsky in a letter from Paris
on 22 May/3 June 1888.
Чайковский и зарубежные музыканты (1970), p.
- Michael Strogoff: The Courier of the Czar, the popular 1876 novel by Jules Verne
- In his letter to Détroyat
on 10/22 May 1888 Tchaikovsky would tactfully but firmly reject the
proposed libretto of La Géorgienne, significantly
repeating the above conviction that as a Russian artist he had to pay
great heed to "local and historical truth" (see letter 3563b).
This was Tchaikovsky's first letter to the tenacious librettist,
opening a correspondence that eventually led to the composer
committing himself to collaborate with Détroyat
and Gallet on a
French-language opera to be entitled La courtisane (Sadia).
This project was never to be realized, but it did cost Tchaikovsky a
good deal of trouble because from then on Détroyat
would bombard him with letters enquiring about his progress on the
music for the opera [back]
- During the last two days of his stay in Paris
earlier that year (before going on to London,
the final stop of his concert tour) Tchaikovsky had had his picture
taken by various photographers, including at the prestigious
Reutlinger's atelier. Thus, on 5/17 March 1888 he noted in his diary:
"Portraits"; and on 6/18 March: "At Reutlinger's;
pictures taken with Tolya
[Brandukov]". The photograph showing Tchaikovsky together with
the cellist Anatoly
Brandukov is listed as no. ?? in the Catalogue of Photographs
in: Alexander Poznansky and Brett Langston,
The Tchaikovsky Handbook (2002), vol.1, p. ???. Mackar
had singled it out in his letter to the composer of 7/19 April 1888:
"The photographers say they will themselves send you your
photographs; the photograph of you and Brandukov
which hangs in my shop-window is attracting a lot of attention".
The other portraits taken at Reutlinger's on that occasion are listed as nos. ??-?? in the Catalogue of Photographs
in The Tchaikovsky Handbook (2002), vol.1, p. ???
- These photographs were taken by ??? and appear as nos. ??-?? in the Catalogue of Photographs
The Tchaikovsky Handbook (2002), vol.1, p. ??? [back]
- Tchaikovsky wanted to thank Tsar
Alexander III in person for the lifetime annuity of 3,000 rubles
which he had granted to the composer at the start of the year (the
tsar had acted upon a suggestion by Ivan
Vsevolozhsky). The audience took place at the Winter Palace in Saint
Petersburg on 2/14 May 1888. See letter 3563
Shpazhinskaya of 9/21 May 1888 [back]
- Mackar's wife, Valérie.
During his stay in Paris earlier
that year Tchaikovsky had presented her with one of the prints of the
portrait photograph taken of him at E. Bieber's atelier in Hamburg. He wrote on it the following inscription:
"Madame Valérie Mackar souvenir affectueux" and sketched
three bars from the Andante cantabile of his String
Quartet No. 1. See Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p.
94. The portrait in question appears as no. 60 in the Catalogue of Photographs
in: Alexander Poznansky and Brett Langston,
The Tchaikovsky Handbook (2002), vol.1, p. 497 [back]
- The pianist Henri Condemine whom Tchaikovsky had
met at Mackar's house in
the summer of 1886, and whom he had seen again during his stay in Paris
earlier that year [back]
- This is the first letter in which Tchaikovsky
addresses his French publisher as "thou" and by his first
name. Mackar had begun to
do the same, addressing the composer as "dear Pierre" in his
letter of 7/19 April 1888. As Vladimir Fédorov notes, Tchaikovsky's
long stay in Paris earlier that
year, the various concerts and his frequent meetings with Mackar
had established a certain camaraderie between the two men. They would
henceforth always use "thou" in their letters to one
another. See See Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p.
69, n. 4 [back]
This page was last updated on
16 February 2013