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Alexey Verstovsky

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Alexey Verstovsky

Portrait of 20-year old Alexey Verstovsky at the piano with the score of his first successful vaudeville Grandmother's Parrots (1819)

Alexey Nikolayevich Verstovsky (Russian: Алексéй Николáевич Верстóвский) (March 1 [O.S. February 18] 1799 – November 17 [O.S. November 5] 1862) was a Russian composer, musical bureaucrat and rival of Mikhail Glinka.


Alexey Verstovsky was born at Seliverstovo Estate, Kozlovsky district, Tambov Governorate. The grandson of General A. Seliverstov and a captured Turkish woman, he was also a descendant of the Polish szlachta (gentry or aristocracy). A civil engineer by training, he became interested in music while he was studying at the Corps of Engineers in St Petersburg. He also studied piano, violin, musical theory and composition. John Field was among his teachers.

At the age of 20 he became famous for his 'opera-vaudeville' Grandmother's Parrots (1819). Excited by the success he continued to compose light music for this currently fashionable genre and composed more than 30 of them. He also created a series of ballads for voice and piano, which he called cantatas. The performance of them had often involved a theatrical action. One of them The Black Shawl or Moldavian Song (1823) a setting of Alexander Pushkin's poem, became immensely popular in the aristocrats' salons. In 1825 he was appointed as an 'inspector of music' in Moscow, in charge of the imperial theatres including the Maly and Bolshoi, controlling all the repertoire (from 1830) and chairing the board of directors (from 1848 until 1860).

He turned to the genre of opera in 1828 and wrote six works. The romantic opera Kiev State Opera Theatre.

However the "Epoch of Verstovsky" soon changed to the "Epoch of Glinka" and Verstovsky's operas fell into oblivion once more.

He was a friend and correspondent with many famous writers, among them Alexander Pushkin, Haemorrhoid) by association with the title of his opera Gromoboy.

He died in Moscow in 1862, aged 63.

His wife a famous Russian actress and singer Nadezhda Repina survived her husband for five years.


  • Operas
    • Pan Tvardovsky (Russian: Пан Твардовский, libretto by Mikhail Zagoskin, 1828);
    • Vadim, or the wakening of the twelve sleeping maidens (Вадим, или пробуждение двенадцати спящих дев – Vadim, ili probuzhdenie dvenadtsati spyashchikh dev, after Vasily Zhukovsky, 1832)
    • Askold's Grave (also: Askold's Tomb, Аскольдова могила – Askol'dova mogila, 1835)
    • Longing for Home (Тоска по родине – Toska po rodine, 1839)
    • Day Dream or The Chur Valley (Сон наяву, или Чурова долина – Son nayavu, or Churova dolina, 1844)
    • Gromoboy (Громобой, after Zhukovsky, composed 1854, staged 1857)
  • Operas-vaudevilles (more than 30) including:
    • The Sentimental Landlord in the Steppe’s Village (to the text translated from French by Verstovsky, 1817)
    • Grandmother's Parrots (Бабушкины попугаи – Babushkiny popugai, to the text translated from French by N. I. Khmelnitsky, 1819)
    • The Crazy House, or Strange Wedding (to the text translated from French by Verstovsky, 1822),
    • Who is a Brother, Who is a Sister, or a Trick after a Trick (to the text written together with Aleksander Griboyedov, 1824)
  • Music to Dramatic Theatre
  • Cantatas including The Feast of Peter the Great (after Pushkin)
  • Choruses
  • Songs, Romances and Ballads including famous The Black Shawl or Moldavian Song (to the poem by Alexander Pushkin)
  • Piano music, etc.

Music and sound sample

The beginning of the vocal line of the romance The Black Shawl, or Moldavian Song by Alexey Verstovsky

Problems playing this file? See .


  1. ^ Yuri Arbatsky, Studies in the History of Russian Music, New York, 1956 (in Russian) pp. 231-2


  • Abraham G.: The Operas of Alexei Verstovsky, 19-th Century Music, 7(1983) no. 3, 326-335.
  • Dobrokhotov, B.: A.N. Verstovsky, Zhizn', Teatral'naya Deyatelnost', Opernoye Tvorchestvo, Moscow/Leningrad, 1949
  • Keldysh, Yu. V.: Istoriya Russkoy Muzyki, 1948. Vol. 1, p. 345-368.
  • Levasheva O. E.: Istoriya Russkoy Muzyki ed. by N.V. Tumanina, 1957. Tom 1, p. 216-234.
  • Shcherbakova M.: Introduction to piano score of Askold's Grave, 1983.
  • Tvorcheskiye Portrety Kompozitorov (Reference book), Moscow, Muzyka, 1989
  • Verstovsky, Alexey Nikolayevich by Richard Taruskin, in 'The New Grove Dictionary of Opera', ed. Stanley Sadie (London, 1992) ISBN 0-333-73432-7

External links

  • classical composers database
  • on Russian page
  • Askold's Grave, you can listen some tracks
  • sheet music free download
  • some interesting but disputable stories about Verstovsky, Varlamov and Gurilyov
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