The Image of “Positively Beautiful Man” in the Libretto of “The Idiot” by M. Weinberg and A. Medvedev


In the Russian 2016–2017 opera season two productions of “The Idiot” by Mieczysław Weinberg and Aleksandr Medvedev were presented at once: in the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, and in Mariinsky II (Second stage), St. Petersburg. “The Idiot”, composed in 1986, had been waiting for a proper staging in Russia for 30 years, so it became a significant event.

The authors’ turning to the most “mysterious” novel by Dostoyevsky seems to be logical. It is determined with M. S. Weinberg’s and F. M. Dostoevsky’s common life outlook. Both of them preserved their faith in man and fair ideals in spite of sufferings. An implicit motivation to compose the opera could be also Weinberg’s association with N. Ya. Myaskovsky, who had been working over “The Idiot” but had not completed it. The libretto and dramaturgy analysis makes it possible to claim that the authors tended to represent Prince Myshkin as a “positively beautiful man” to the full, as well as to form the image of the main character close to the first version of Dostoevsky’s novel. Following the general plot logic, Medvedev freely compiles fragments, phrases and separate words of the literary source emphasizing the “supernal” and high‑minded character of Prince Myshkin.

The hero’s monologues are based on the texts where he speculates about the nature and the alpha of existence, where he foresees the ideal projection of other characters. Besides that, the first monologue of Prince Myshkin (scene 3) includes the widely known quotation from Dostoevsky’s letter to his brother Mikhail. The libretto also comprises the poetic lines by N. M. Yazykov and Ya. P. Polonsky presented as a romance — a genre popular in the 19th century. Engaging these texts not only creates the atmosphere of the “Name Day” scene but also vividly contrasts against the scenes with Myshkin. The antithesis principle is also used in other scenes to emphasize the sharp dynamic character of unravelling the action which ends tragically.


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