“Dimitrij” Original Overture to the Opera
(geb. Mühlhausen, 8. September 1841 – gest. Prag, 1. Mai 1904)
Antonín Dvorák komponierte Dimitrij, die sechste seiner zehn Opern, zwischen März 1881 und dem 16. August 1882. Das Libretto von Marie Cervinka-Rieger (1854-95) ist die direkte Fortsetzung der Geschichte von Modest Mussorgskijs Boris Godunov und endet mit Dimitrijs Tod. Die hier vorgelegte Partitur präsentiert die ursprüngliche, in sich abgeschlossene Ouvertüre zur Oper, die zwischen dem 5. und dem 23. September 1882 teils in Sychrov bei Turnau, teils in Prag komponiert wurde und bei den acht ersten Aufführungen der Oper im Prager Neuen Tschechischen Theater gespielt wurde. Die Uraufführung fand am 8. Oktober 1882 unter der Leitung von Moric Angr statt.
Als Dvorák 1883 die Oper Dimitrij teilweise überarbeitete, strich er den gesamten Allegro-Abschnitt und leitete die Oper einzig mit der Largo-Introduktion ein (Takte 1-36), die nunmehr in friedlichem Es-Dur schloß. Seither wird die Oper stets mit dem kurzen Vorspiel gegeben. Die große Original-Ouvertüre legte der Komponist beiseite, und sie wurde erst 1941 anläßlich der Feiern zu Dvoráks 100. Geburtstag wiederentdeckt. Sie eignet sich vortrefflich als Konzert-Ouvertüre.
Aus der Musik der Oper zitiert die Ouvertüre Folgendes: das Thema des mythischen russischen Heldentums (T. 1), das Thema der Ermordung der Godunovs (T. 16), Dimitrijs Hauptthema (ab T. 37), das Thema Xenias (T. 91-94), das Thema aus dem Liebesduett von Marina und Dimitrij (T. 111-114) und schließlich das Thema von Marinas Mazurka (T. 141-142).
Vorstehende Informationen entstammen dem Originalvorwort des führenden Dvorák-Forschers Otakar Sourek, der die vorliegende Partitur 1946 im Erstdruck herausgab.
Aufführungsmaterial ist vom Originalverlag Hudební matice Umelecké besedy, Prag zu beziehen.
(b. Mühlhausen, 8 September 1841 – d. Prague, 1 May 1904)
Dimitrij Overture (1882)
Antonín Dvorák composed Dimitrij, the sixth of his ten operas, between March 1881 and August 16, 1882. The libretto, by Marie Cervinka-Rieger (1854-95), is the sequel to Modest Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov and ends with Dimitrij’s death. This edition of the score reproduces the original, separate overture to the opera, which was written between September 5 and 23, 1882, partly in Sychrov, near Turnau, partly in Prague and performed at the first eight performances of the opera at the Prague New Czech Theatre. The premiere took place on October 8, 1882, conducted by Moric Angr.
When Dvorák revised parts of the opera Dimitrij in 1883, he cut out the whole of the Allegro section, introducing it simply with the Largo section (Bars 1-36) and ending instead in the rather more gentle key of E flat major. Since then the opera is usually performed with this short prelude. Dvorák withdrew the original overture and it was re-discovered only in 1941 at the time of the centenary of the composer’s birth. It is an ideal concert overture.
The overture quotes the following themes from the opera: the mythical Russian heroic theme (b. 1), Dimitrij’s death theme (b. 16), Dimitrij’s main theme (b. 37 et seqq.) , Xenie’s theme (b. 91-94), the theme from the love duet between Marina and Dimitrij (b. 111-114) and, finally, the theme of Marina’s Mazurka (b. 141-142).
The above information is taken from the original preface by the leading Dvorák expert, Otakar Sourek, who published the first edition of this present score in 1941.
Overture to “Dimitrij”
Antonín Dvořák is mainly known as a composer of symphonic and chamber music, whereas his eleven operas are rarely performed or discussed outside of the Czech Republic (perhaps with the exception of Rusalka). During his lifetime, however, Dvořák was considered one of the most prominent Czech operatic composers, second only to Bedřich Smetana. Like Smetana’s output, Dvořák’s operas cover a wide variety of styles, including three works that emulate the tradition of French grand opera: Vanda, Dimitrij, and Armida. Out of the three, it was Dimitrij that achieved the greatest success. It was first produced on October 8, 1882 at the New Czech Theater in Prague, and in November of the following year it was performed alongside Smetana’s Libuše during the festival that celebrated the re-opening of the Czech National Theater, newly reconstructed after a devastating fire of 1881.
During its 1883 run at the National Theater, Dimitrij appeared in a slightly modified version. Dvořák was particularly interested in avoiding the murder of one of the female heroines (Xenie) in Act 4, since it was criticized as too gruesome by both the Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick and by Dvořák’s German publisher Fritz Simrock. Among these early revisions, most likely completed during the summer of 1883, was the radical shortening of the opera’s overture. The original overture (contained in the present volume) consists of a dramatic introduction (Largo) followed by a fast sonata-form section (Allegro vivace). It was the fast section that Dvořák cut, turning the overture into a prelude.
The 1883 modifications were part of a larger revision that culminated in 1885 with the publication of a piano-vocal score. Dvořák further revised the opera in 1894, producing what most commentators refer to as the second version, and in 1904 he combined elements of both versions for a production in Plzeň. After Dvořák’s death, yet another round of revisions was executed in 1906 by the long-time opera director of Prague’s National Theater, Karel Kovařovic. Kovařovic made further cuts in the opera, brought back elements of the first version, yet retained the shorter prelude. The prelude therefore introduced the opera throughout most of its reception history, whereas the longer overture was most probably used only during the opera’s initial run at the New Czech Theater. The prelude is also used in most recordings of the opera.
The original overture uses several motives from the ensuing opera and distributes them throughout both the Largo and Allegro vivace. Programmatic aspects and two-part form became common features of operatic overtures in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, following the examples of Mozart’s Don Giovanni or Beethoven’s Leonore overtures. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, composers of serious opera began to move away from the formulaic convention toward the shorter and more amorphous prelude (as exemplified in the operas and music dramas of Richard Wagner, or in the works of Smetana). Dvořák’s original overture is therefore quite anachronistic, reminiscent in its structure of works by much earlier composers. Particularly noticeable is the difference between Dvořák’s overture and the prelude to Smetana’s Libuše, composed a decade before Dimitrij but performed during the 1883 reopening of the National Theater just a few evenings prior to Dimitrij. Unlike the original Dimitrij overture, Smetana’s prelude uses motives from the ensuing opera in a less formal fashion. Perhaps it was the fact that in 1883 Dimitrij was to be performed at the National Theater in close proximity to Smetana’s mythological Wagnerian drama that prompted Dvořák to make the overture more obviously up-to-date with latest operatic conventions.
Yet even the original overture is by no means a mere derivative imitation of outdated practices, but rather it uses techniques explored concurrently in the compositions of Brahms and the music dramas of Wagner. Most prominently, Dvořák relies heavily on thematic transformation. He opens the piece with a jagged, descending motive in E-flat minor presented in the low register of the strings, and it is this motive that eventually transforms into the heroic main theme of the Allegro vivace. The second motive presented in the Largo (mm. 3-4) also appears in different guises and shapes throughout the entire overture. The symphonic development of the two motives therefore underlies and gives shape to the whole piece.
As in many other nineteenth-century works, all of the melodic motives in Dvořák’s overture have associations with characters and situations in the completed opera. In order to understand the relationship of the overture’s motives to the themes in the opera, a brief overview of the opera’s plot is needed. The work is basically a sequel to Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov; Mussorgsky’s plot concludes with the arrival of Dimitry the Pretender to Russia, whereas Dvořák’s opera opens with the arrival of Dimitrij to Moscow, his ascension to the Russian throne, and the death of Godunov’s son Fjodor. The Muscovite people and the boyars acknowledge Dimitrij as the rightful tsar only when Marfa, the wife of the late Ivan the Terrible, confirms that Dimitrij is Ivan’s son (murdered many years ago by the Godunovs). Marfa knows that her real son is dead but decides to accept Dimitrij out of compassion for the young man who earnestly believes in his royal origin and out of her own desire to get revenge on the Godunovs. Dimitrij’s claim to the Russian throne is supported by his alliance with the Polish army won by his marriage to the Polish noblewoman Marina. Throughout the opera, Dimitrij and Marina grow apart and Dimitrij instead falls in love with Xenie, the daughter of the deceased Boris Godunov. The love affair is doomed, however, since Xenie refuses to bind herself to Dimitrij, with whom she is in love, but whom she holds responsible for the downfall of the Godunov clan. In Act 4, the jealous Marina has Xenie murdered and reveals that Dimitrij is indeed a pretender. Marfa is called upon to swear on the Bible that Dimitrij is her true son. Dimitrij, dejected by Xenie’s murder and shocked by the newly acquired awareness that he is not the true tsar, stops Marfa from making the sacrilegious oath, publicly acknowledging his false origin. As a result, he is shot dead by Shuisky, an enraged supporter of the Godunovs and the next heir of the Russian throne.
Dvořák foreshadows the tragic and turbulent outcome of the opera in the Largo section of the overture. He opens with the above-mentioned tortured theme and thus establishes an atmosphere of grim foreboding. The oppressive tone increases in mm. 3-4 when the oboes and bassoons present a melancholy theme that throughout the opera is associated with Xenie. The two themes are repeated in sequence, and then the opening motive builds up to a powerful arrival in m. 15. At that moment, Dvořák introduces a descending octave leap motive associated, in Act 4, Scene 7 of the 1882 version, with Marfa’s attempted sacrilegious oath and Dimitrij’s public endorsement of his false origin, both of which lead to his untimely death. Dvořák not only works in a reference to the death of Dimitrij, but also to the murder of his predecessor, Fjodor Godunov: interchanging with the octave leaps is a motive that Xenie employs in Act 1 to describe the mob that killed her brother. Several statements of the “oath” and “death to Godunov” motives lead to a forceful, grandiose return of the opening “fate” motive in m. 22. Afterwards Dvořák combines the “fate” and Xenie motives to create a transition to the Allegro vivace.
The motivic development continues in the Allegro vivace, but the style of that section does not exactly reflect the plot of the opera. Curiously insensitive to the tragic and sentimental content of the opera, the Allegro vivace is filled with a spirit of Beethovenian heroism. The modulation from the oppressive E-flat minor in the introduction to the Allegro vivace’s E-flat major, brings Beethoven’s C-minor-major transformations to mind (especially in the Fifth Symphony, or as emulated by Johannes Brahms in his First Symphony). The key of E-flat major creates a link to Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, as does the march-like opening theme. The theme later appears at several points of the opera where it is linked to Dimitrij himself: most prominently it resounds in Act 1, Scene 2 when the boyar Basmanov urges the Muscovite people to accept Dimitrij as the rightful tsar, and in Act 1, Scene 6 when Dimitrij, Marfa, and the Russian people celebrate Marfa’s public acceptance of Dimitrij as her son. The melodic contour of the theme bears a clear resemblance to the “fate” motive, which constantly reminds the perceptive listener of the unavoidable tragic outcome.
The rest of the Allegro vivace’s exposition proceeds in a fashion similar to symphonies of Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. Dvořák starts modulating away from E-flat major in m. 57 (reverting to the fanfare from the introduction—in the original key of E-flat minor). The modulation seems nearly complete in m. 69 when the dominant seventh of B-flat major arrives, but in m. 72 Dvořák thwarts expectations with a deceptive cadence to the flat submediant in B-flat. In the following measure, we hear incoherent fragments of the Xenie motive. Both the arrival of B-flat major and the full statement of the motive come only in m. 91. The delayed arrival of the secondary theme and its gradual crystallization from fragments resemble typical procedures of the nineteenth-century symphony. Once in the dominant key, Dvořák supplies not only the Xenie motive but also the motive associated with the other female character with whom Dimitrij is romantically involved, Marina. Appearing in m. 111, the motive comes from the opening of the duet for Dimitrij and Marina in Act 2, Scene 1 and is later used in the Dimitrij-Marina duet of Act 3. The closing theme comes in m. 139; its melody is similar to that of Marina’s aria from Act 2, though the duple meter in the overture clashes with the triple meter of Marina’s mazurka. The theme also resembles the melody at the beginning of Act 1, Scene 5 when the chorus celebrates the arrival of Dimitrij to Moscow and the final moments of Act 1 when the Russian people celebrate their new tsar. Rather then being associated with either the Poles or the Russians, the closing theme therefore seems to reflect moments of popular celebrations in the opera.
With the exception of the celebratory closing theme, all of the themes and motives undergo transformation, fragmentation, and numerous modulations in the development section. The whirlwind of developmental techniques comes to a brief ethereal respite in m. 223, where, after a series of dissonant blows, the woodwinds present the Xenie motive in the distant key of C major. It is as if Dvořák wanted to create a brief vision of the opera’s ideal outcome: the union of Dimitrij and Xenie. The fact that this vision occurs in a distant key (the major submediant in E-flat major) and at the overture’s most unstable moment (immediately before the recapitulation) makes it appear even more idealistic and untenable.
The recapitulation starting in m. 247 lacks the sense of drama associated with the earlier sections of the overture. Dvořák repeats the themes from the exposition, this time without modulating to the dominant, and then he proceeds to a rousing coda based on the Dimitrij theme. The “fate” motive completely disappears from the overture’s final portions, as if the overture were a celebration of a hero’s victory, although the opera ends in a tragic defeat. The full version of the piece therefore represents a great example of an exhilarating concert overture filled with ingenious transformations of the opera’s main themes, but it is easy to see why it did not conform to late nineteenth-century concepts of operatic drama and why even nowadays it rarely accompanies performances of the full opera.
Martin Nedbal, 2012
For performance materials please contact the original publisher, Hudební matice Umelecké besedy, Prague.
160 x 240 mm