Libretto by Boris Kochno after Pushkin's story `The Little House in Kolomna' (R,E,F,G,I,S)
3(III=picc).2.corA.2.Ebcl.2-22.214.171.124-timp-strings(2vln.1vla.full complement of vlc and db)
Version arranged for chamber ensemble by Paul Phillips:
fl(=picc).Ebcl(=Bbcl & Acl).Acl(=bcl)-pft-vln.db
Version arranged for chamber ensemble by Winfried Radeke:
This intimate opera buffa for Diaghilev takes place in a middle class home situated in a small Russian town, ca. 1840. Parasha, in love with Basil, contrives to have Basil engaged as the family cook. He flees through a window when discovered shaving his beard. Stravinsky conceived Mavra as an homage to Pushkin, Glinka, and Tchaikovsky, all of whom elegantly "united the most characteristically Russian elements with the spiritual riches of the West." Including two arias, a duet, and a quartet, the score invokes Russo-Italian operatic conventions. This affectionate impulse does not, however, preclude a mordant satire on bourgeois manners. The love duet, with its fervent endearments and symphonic ejaculations, is a hilarious parody of the Romeo-and-Juliet genre.
Repertoire note by Joseph Horowitz
The première in Paris in 1922 of Mavra was Stravinsky’s first great flop. Even today Mavra remains among the less frequently played works of Stravinsky, which is a shame, because not only is it his first genuinely neoclassical work, but it is also a gem of witty story-telling. This short opera buffa, to a libretto by Boris Kochno after a narrative poem of Pushkin, is dedicated to the memory of Pushkin, Glinka and Tchaikovsky. Stravinsky joyfully evokes the spirit of Tchaikovsky, in his directness and spontaneity, as well as his melodic fluency. The story of the opera is frivolous but is in essence a satire of petit-bourgeois manners. A handsome hussar Vasili disguises himself as a female cook in order to have an assignation with his young lover Parasha, but he is caught out when Parasha’s mother finds ‘her’ shaving. Stravinsky’s music for Mavra is an extraordinary mix of styles, including loving parodies of Glinka and Tchaikovsky, alongside a popular polka and waltz and echoes of jazz. Mavra would form an attractive double-bill with another one-act comic opera , such as Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi or Ravel’s L’Heure espagnole, or even a short comic opera by Offenbach.
Repertoire note by Jonathan Cross