Rubinstein, Anton


Rubinstein, Anton

Christus (with German libretto)

SKU: 2020 Category:



Anton Rubinstein – Christus op. 117 (1887-93)

(b. Vikhvatinets, Ukraine, 28 November 1829 – d. Peterhof nr. St. Petersburg, 20 November 1894)

Sacred opera in seven scenes with a prologue and an epilogue Libretto by Heinrich Bulthaupt

In the 1880s, toward the end of his long and eventful career, Anton Rubinstein could look back on a lifetime of sterling successes. He was universally acclaimed as one of the greatest pianists of the age, with a repertoire extending from William Byrd to the latest piano works of his student Tchaikovsky. He had single-handedly forged the institutional superstructure of Russia’s music life by founding and directing the Russian Musical Society (now the St. Petersburg Philharmonic) and the St. Petersburg Conservatory. And he had produced a huge body of music that made him, in the eyes of the world, the leading composer in Russia. But one dream continued to elude him: the creation of a new genre to which he gave the name “sacred opera.”

Rubinstein’s ambitions for the new genre were anything but modest. He envisioned it on a scale comparable to Bayreuth: a new type of theater building would have to be erected in which the stage area would reflect the “tripartite” nature of the material (Heaven, Hell, and Earth); singers would have to be specially trained to project the gravitas essential to their biblical roles; choristers would need to sing long fugues from memory; special rules of behavior would be required of the audience. More importantly, a new repertoire would have to be created: the works of Bach, Handel, and Mendelssohn, adapted for the stage, would provide basic staples to get the genre started, but, with the sole exception of Méhul’s Joseph (1807), Rubinstein could think of no modern works suitable for the kind of theater he had in mind. What he wanted was a “church of art” in which biblical subjects would be interpreted in music, not for the purpose of proselytizing or conveying religious dogma, but to inculcate the loftiest religious sentiments in the spectators – a sort of superior Oberammergau Passion Play without, as he put it, its “more than naive music.”

By the time Rubinstein came to publish these ideas, in Joseph Lewinsky’s Vor den Coulissen (Berlin, 1882), he had been nourishing such plans for a quarter of a century and had sounded out the cultural capitals of Europe (Berlin, Paris, London, Weimar) in the hope of finding a sponsor to underwrite his vision, as King Ludwig had done for Wagner. Convinced that the new genre would also turn a large profit, he even probed the United States in the hope of finding a willing business entrepreneur for his venture. All to no avail: too entrenched was the aversion to seeing biblical subjects depicted on stage, unless, as in Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah (1877), they were reworked to serve as conventional opera librettos. Precisely that was what he sought to avoid. …

Read full preface > HERE

Score Data


Opera Explorer






210 x 297 mm



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