Catherine the Great and the Origins of Russian Opera in Late Eighteenth-Century St. Petersburg


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation reconsiders the history of opera in Russia before Glinka, focusing on theatrical life in St. Petersburg during the reign of Catherine the Great. Relying on newly unearthed archival documents and musical manuscripts, this project shows how the Russian court theater found its place on an international operatic circuit at the same time the court came to define Russian opera as something distinct. Under Catherine, opera became an emblem of empire, a way for Russia to extend its reach into Europe while consolidating power at home. It even served an imperial program of domestic reform as the repertoire shifted away from self-representation toward social edification. The cosmopolitan framework of Russian opera was later hidden behind a nationalist fa├žade; this dissertation exposes its foundation.