Saturday, June 2, 2012

Backing Into Pushkin

Planning to attend American Ballet Theatre's new production of John Cranko's ballet Onegin in a couple of days got me to thinking that I've never read Pushkin's Byronic verse novel Eugene Onegin, though I've read much about it and am a devotee of Tchaikovsky's actually perfect opera despite my failure to have learned more than a few words of Russian. In fact, the only Pushkin I've read, in translation of course, is his short story "The Queen of Spades" ("Pikvaya Dama") also because of an almost-as-wonderful Tchaikovsky opera.

The above portrait from Moscow's Pushkin Museum doesn't show any indication of Pushkin's partial noble African ancestry. Some sources indicate that this was a source of pride, while others maintain that there was some prejudice against him because of it.  Here are statues of Alexander and Natasha Pushkin in Moscow. A duel with a would-be admirer of his beautiful wife brought about the revered poet's death at age 38. Took this photo a few years ago when a tourist there.

And here is Pushkin himself—did his friends call him Sasha?—sitting at a table in what purports to be his old Moscow hangout. Eat your heart out, Madame Tussaud!

Couldn't resist snapping this on my way out of the restaurant. Anyway, at last I'm going to go at least part way to the source. Since I can't read Russian, I've just downloaded an Onegin translation on my Kindle and will read at least some of it before the ballet. Even though I know what's in Tatiana's letter and how it all ends (sniff!).

In Pushkin’s footsteps | Russia Beyond The Headlines