A Tragicomedy in Two Acts
by Richard Bankowsky

 Characters: a minimum of twelve actors is required, several playing multiple roles.


 Modeste Petrovich Mussorgsky [Modya, Modinka, Mussoryanin]
Alexandra Nicolayevna Purgold [Sasha]
 Nicolay Pavlovich Molas [Molasses, Nikki]


 Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin [Alexy],Vladimir Vassiliyev
 Nicolay Andreivich Rimsky-Korsakov [Korsya, Korsinka], Muzhik
 Cesar Antonovich Cui,  Baba Yaga, Tavern Man
 Nadejda Nicolayevna Purgold [Nadia], Gypsy
Ekaterina Protopova Borodin [Rina], Tavern Woman
Vladimir Vasilyevich Stassov, Eduard Franzovich Napravnik, Tavern Man
Three year old boy [non-speaking role]

Only four sets are required and may be as simple or as elaborate as practical. No set required in Act II, scene 2--scene played on the apron of the stage before the closed curtain.

The action takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the latter part of the last century.


Scene 1 - The fall of 1871. Morning, M's and RK's studio apartment.
Scene 2 - Christmas Eve. Evening, the Purgold's music room.


Scene 1 - One year later, January 1873. Borodin's study in his apartments at the Academy of  Science.
Scene 2 - One year later, February 1874. Evening, backstage at the Maryinsky Theater.
Scene 3 - Later that morning. The upstairs pumproom at the Maly Yaraslevetz Tavern.

Most of the music may be perfromed by solo piano or be recorded. The audience is seated to recorded music from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.


Scene 1

At RISE: The gloomy "Promanade" following the "Gnomus" movement of Pictures is heard.

A furnished room in a boarding house in St. Petersburg--gloomy, cold, foreboding. By the glow of a smoking witch'scauldron occupying an open space, center stage, the audience can just make out that this is a bachelor-musician's quarters--a piano, a coal stove, a writing table, minimum kitchen facilities, a cot on either side of the room.
One cot, left, is occupied by the sleeping RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (RK), his head buried under a pillow. In the other cot, MUSSORGSKY (M) tosses and turns in his sleep as KNOCKING is heard off stage. And as the whining violins of the last bars of the gloomy "Promanade," instead of dying away, grow louder and louder and suddenly explode into "The Hut On Fowl's Legs" movement from Pictures, M abruptly sits up in bed as flashing strobe lights create a wild, nightmarish world.

ENTER BABA YAGA as though flying in on a wooden hay fork. BABA YAGA is the traditional witch of Russian fairy tales, her red braids streaming out behind her, a large fuzzy hat pulled over her forehead, her feet wrapped in coarse puttees, her bony arms sticking out of the sleeves of her robe, a sparse red beard protruding from her chin, and her horrible eyes gleaming maliciously as tusks flash in her half-opened mouth. She does a wild, whirling dance around the cauldron, and then in the mysterious middle section of the movement under quivering flutes, she stirs her steaming witch's brew with the hayfork handle to the accompaniment of the bassoons and contra-basses.

As M looks on from his bed, BABA YAGA and other witches who have stolen in from the wings dip empty brandy bottles over and over again into the smoking cauldron in a grim bacchanalian ballet round and about M's cot, pawing at him and offering him the bottles to drink as he shakes his head and tries to fend them off. When their dance can get no wilder, M who is moaning like a man trying to cry out in a dream, finally manages to do so as the music comes to an abrupt end.

M: [yelling in a high, childish voice, covering his face with his hands] No, no, Baba Yaga! No, Baba Yaga! No!

[The strobes cease to flash and the lights begin to change]

RK: [sitting bolt upright in his cot] What! Modya! Wake up! [hurrying to M in his bare feet and night shirt and shaking him awake] Wake up, Modya! You're dreaming again!

[In the momentary silence, M buries his face in RK's chest like a frightened child as BABA YAGA and her witches scatter backwards into the wings like a receding dream, taking the cauldron with them and leaving on the floor in its place an empty Cognac bottle]

[As the KNOCKING continues off stage, Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia softly begins to pervade the house, and the lights come up slowly as the morning sun shines on snow falling outside the boarding-house windows, revealing that RK's side of the room is arranged in orderly military fashion, shoes lined up before his bed and his naval uniforms hanging neatly in his closet; whereas, M's side of the room is as disorderly as RK's is neat--formal trousers, jacket, shoes and socks, a fur-collared great coat and muffler scattered about, the empty Cognac bottle on the floor center stage.]

[M is a man in his early thirties but looks ten years older. Instead of a nightshirt, he still wears the knee-length, highly-embroidered, formal shirt of his previous evening out. His looks are unusual; though he is not a large man, he reminds one of giants in Russian fairy tales or a Russian fighting bear. He wears a short beard and mustache and a full head of disheveled hair, and his otherwise regular features are slightly disfigured by a somewhat red nose, the result of frost bite on parade during his short military career and aggravated by his excessive drinking.]

[RK is a thin, handsome, quiet-spoken, slightly rigid, military man of twenty-seven, showing in his manner of speech a strong sense of decorum and common sense. He sports a neatly- barbered, short beard and mustache and usually wears the owlish, silver-framed, Trotsky eyeglasses now sitting on his nightstand]

M: [embracing RK like a frightened child embracing his mother] A premonition! I saw Death come for me like Baba Yaga on her hayfork.

[continued KNOCKING]

RK:[teasing] Perhaps it's Baba Yaga at the door, eh, Modya?

M: God, have mercy! [crossing himself and pulling the blankets over his head]

RK: [hurrying to the door, trembling with cold, teasing] Is it you, Baba Yaga?

[M moans]

BORODIN: [off stage] It's Alexy, come to fetch the new Conservatory Professor for his first day of school.

RK: [unbolting the door and rushing back to his warm cot, teasing] Come in Baba Yaga! He's all yours! I'm sick of him anyway! [drawing the blankets over his head]

[ENTER BORODIN, carrying a market basket over his arm]

BORODIN (B) is a large man in his late thirties, goateed and mustached, thinning hair and dark oriental eyes which lend a quality of sleepiness to his entire manner. He wears a full uniform under a great coat and a fur hat spattered with snowflakes. This is his teaching uniform, which he calls wearing his "amunition." His epaulets shine like two suns, the sixteen buttons sparkle like diamonds, the cuffs and collar gleam as though he were on parade. He is very robust and radiates brilliance and might look every bit "his Excelency" as he is called by his students, except for the fact that he has a bandaged hand and a cold and is constantly blowing his nose and so talks funny. He is decidedly, despite his position as lecturer at the Academy of Science and his musical genius, a comic character]

B: [with a feeling of great camraderie] Wake up you lazy louts! Up! Up! Russian music is in its birth throes, and the happy parents sleep! Awake! Awake!

[B throws the covers off RK, who reverts to a foetal position, pulling the pillow tighter over his head as M is already snoring in a lovely baritone]

B:What a stable! God preserve us! [picking up the empty Cognac bottle] [to M] Cognac, eh? Another night on Bald Mountain, Modinka? With Baba Yaga and her witches?

[Blowing his nose profusely, B fires up the stove and prepares tea in a samovar, removing rye bread and Swiss cheese from the market basket before taking off his hat and coat and helping M out of bed. He then brings water and soap and holds towels for him while he washes, helping him into his robe and slippers as the music from Steppes continues, softly tenderly and B either "la, la, la's" or hums the melody amid the activity while the other two remain silent and, like sleepwalkers, go about the business of waking up, M lumbering about in his robe like a small bear just rising out of a long winter's hibernation as the self-sufficient RK neatly makes up his cot in military fashion and begins to dress, donning his naval uniform piecemeal throughout the scene]

RK: [hooking his owlish spectacles over his ears and examining the breakfast table, laughing] Ah! Swiss on Rye and Ruski chai!

M: [poking in the basket] No Cognac?

B: [gaily, to M] Don't complain! Don't complain! Swiss Cheese is good for what ails you.

RK: [histrionically] Swiss cheese sandwiches and strong black Tea, a breakfast fit for a Tsar.

B: [histrionically] Ruski Chai and Swiss on Rye, the breakfast of Russian music's brightest stars!

[They all dive into their breakfasts like gluttons]

B: So what have our Tsars of the New Russian music composed while I was away in Moscow, eh? Eat hearty, and then to the piano, both of you!

M: [ferociously devouring a huge, clumsy sandwhich] I hate cheese!

RK:The girls have a new nickname for us--"the cheese-eaters."

B: Ah, and how are the lovely Purgold sisters? Have either of St. Petersburg's most eligible bachelors proposed yet? [teasing] Still ignoring poor Sasha's advances, Modya? [to RK] The poor child. So in love, and look at with what!

RK: [good naturedly] He says if we ever hear he's shot or hanged himself, it'll simply mean he's' married!

B: Tush, tush. What a thing to say, Modya!

RK: He insists the only reason I've accepted the Conservatroy appointment is so I can afford to marry Nadia!

B: Ah, who can blame you? [removing a profile photo of NADIA PURGOLD from the piano and gazing longingly at it] Look at that Greek profile. What innocence and beauty are expressed in this face!

[RK takes the portrait from B, kisses it and playfully waltzes it about, winking at B]

M: [disgruntled] Pah! Disgusting! The end of his career as a composer!

B: Now, now, Modya! Marriage isn't necessarily the end of one's creative life.

M: And what have you composed in the last two months, husband? Nothing! Nothing! You've composed nothing!And why? Because your wife's asthma took you to Moscow again where the air is drier.

RK:[replacing the portrait on the piano] Come on now, tell us! How much have you written on your opera? Not a note in over a year, eh?

M: That big stack of music paper we bought you with  PRINCE IGOR  proudly embossed on the title page, it's still lying on your piano untouched. Confess!

RK: Under the Tortoise paper weight the sisters gave you for your birthday.

B Not true! Not true!

M: [excitedly] You've started on Igor again? Show us! Show us!

B: Not exactly. But it's no longer lying on the piano . . . I moved it to the desk.

RK: [good-naturedly] Professor Tortoise! The sisters have nicknamed you well.

B: [laughing] But how can I compose, I burned my fingers again? [holding up his bandaged hand]

M: It's a ruse. He can play. It's only to cover his refusal to work on anything but his science and that preposterous marriage of his.

B: [sheepishly] It was an accident! I was pouring acid into a test tube for this delicious little student, and . . .

M: Science and women, that's all you care about! [to RK] He's hopless!

RK: Don't mind Modya, Alexy. It would be safer to bait a Russian fighting bear than Modya in his condition! He started drinking at the Purgold's last night when Cesar Antonovich brought the bad news from the Marinsky.

B: Bad news? No! Don't tell me they turned Boris down again? I don't believe it!

M:Yes! Turned it down! Again! [ironically] And why not? The Directors of the Marinsky Theater have impecable musical taste.

B:You don't mean that, Modya. Boris Gudunov is a work of genius, the greatest peoples' opera ever conceived.  Why, I could weep .

RK: Don't, Alexy; you'll get the same treatment he gave Sasha last night. Absolutely took her head off for weeping over his disappointment.

B:[gently scolding] Modya, the poor child . . .

RK: Even insulted Nadia when she came to her sister's defense. It was a disaster. He, of course, conveniently remembers none of it .

M: [genuinely distressed] Insulted Nadia? Oh my God, I'm sorry, my friend. What did I say?

RK: Never mind Nadia. I knew how to console her well enough [kissing Nadia's portrait and winking at B]. But Sasha, on the other hand, poor thing, she was devastated.

M: What did I say? No, don't tell me; I can't bear to hear! Oh God, I'm such a despicable lout when I drink.

RK: [good-naturedly] It's true. It's true. You are a despicable lout--drunk or sober! At least where Sasha's concerned, poor soul.

B: Still, we all love you, Modya, and regret this injustice perhaps even more than you do yourself.

M: God only knows why? I certainly don't deserve friends like you. Here, let me kiss you both!

[M rushes at BORODIN and kisses him on both cheeks, embracing him bearishly]

RK: Never mind us, we're as mad as you. But why such a marvelous soul as Sasha should waste her young life on the likes of . . .

[RK is interrupted by kisses and a bear hug from M]

M: You're right. You're right! If only she were here, I would kiss her too . . . But she'd only misunderstand.

RK: And think you returned her feelings, eh? And you could never have that, now could you, Mr. misogynist?

M: Please! Don't even tell her I mentioned kisses . . .

RK: For two years now she's been mooning over him and . . .

M: Just as you've been mooning over her sister?

RK: All right. So you don't share Sasha's passion . . .

M: As you share Nadja's?

RK: Still, theres no need to treat her like somefoolish schoolgirl, laughing at her feelings, making fun of her love for you.

M: Only a fool would be willing to settle for the likes of me, a penniless clerk at the Department of Forestry, a failure in every respect, musically as well as morally. [eating like a bear]

B: Nonsense. A woman like Sasha is just what you need to put you back on the straight and the narrow. To relieve you of your opressive moodiness, your . . .

M: But that's what I have my beautiful friends for, no?

[M advances on BORODIN again to embrace and kiss him, bread in one hand and cheese in the other, but is held off by the much taller man, his palm on M's forehead]

RK: [laughing] Good God, don't encourage him, Alexy. Think of poor little Sasha. Imagine having this bear for a husband.

M: [going after RK again to embrace him] Ah, darling friend! Despite your own foolishness, you have the good sense not to encourage ME to marry.

RK: [evading M's embrace and hiding behind B who resorts once more to the palm on the forehead] My God, he'd crush the poor girl in their first embrace.

B: All joking aside, a wife's just what he needs.

M: If you're any advertisment for married life, my friend, thank you very much but no thank you. No offense; I love your Rina dearly, but she's the worst possible wife for an artist. Dinner at midnight, never getting to bed before four in the morning and sleeping till four in the afternoon. That's why you always look so sleepy, so . . .

B: But Sasha's no Rina. Sasha's a sensible, solid, healthy, young woman. Rina's a hypochondriac like me; afraid of typhoid, cholera, colds and flu, thunder storms, dark nights, uneven ceilings, flies, cockroaches, dogs and horses, cows, chickens, sparrows, peasants, hogs and sows, little boys, muzhiks--drunk or sober--the seasons, summer,spring, winter, fall . . . But enough domestic talk. Show me what you've composed while I was away. To the piano, both of you.

RK: Do "On  Mamka's Knee," Modya! The new lyric! [to B] He wrote it in honor of his chronic nightmares.

M: [seats himself at the piano and plays and, impersonating a child, sings song 32, from The Nursery]

Tell me story, Mamka dear,
That scarry one I like to hear,
Of Baba Yaga, the witch,
Who flies around the house at midnight
And carries children off to the wood
And eats them up, blood and bones and every stitch
As they cry and scream for Mamka in their fright.
Mamka dear, the reason Baba Yaga swallows children up
Is cause they misbehave and aren't good, isn't it?
Disobeying grownups, so Baba eats them up, Mamka dear?
Wait! Not that one;
The one 'bout the King and Queen's so much more fun.
They live by the sea in a palace made of gold;
King walks with a limp for King is old;
Queen always has a frightful cold.
Mushrooms grow where King falls down;
Qeen's sneezing blows the windows out

Please, dear Mamka,
Don't tell that Baba Yaga story or I doubt
I'll sleep a wink.
The one 'bout King and Queen
Is much more fun I think.

B: [clapping] Magnificent!

R : Isn't it marvelous?

B: Ah, to hear you sing your Nursery pieces, Modya, is to return once more to childhood innocence.

RK: [laughing good-naturedly] The soul of a childin the body of a lumbering bear.

[M, striking a huge chord, plays and sings very dramatically in a lovely basso-baritone voice from Boris Gudunov.]

M:[singing] And even sleep has fled,

                    For now every night-time a child appears,
                    His face congealed with blood.

Sobbing in anguish, clenching his fists, he begs for mercy,
But mercy was denied him!

Freshly, his wound is gaping,
Loudly he cries, as death enshrouds him . . .

[rising abruptly from the piano bench]
O, Gospodi, Bozhe moi!
B: [clapping] Magnificent! Long live Boris Godunov! How could the Marinsky turn down such genius?

M: [emotionally] My Boris's grief over the murder of the Tsarevitch is my own grief for the murdered child in me, in all of us. Oh, Lord, why must we all murder the child in us, to grow up, to marry, to become Conservatory professors and chemists and critics. Why can't we all remain children forever, singing nursery tunes on our Mamka's knee?

R :  laughing] Careful Modya, you'll have us in tears! [to B] After a night of drinking it's always like this; he's a sentimental basket-case.

M:Sentimental? I, Sentimental? [sitting down at the piano again] Listen to this, Alexy!

[M plays the love theme from Sheherazade, reading some music sheets left open on the piano]

B: Why it's lovely, lovely! What is it? It's you Korsya, every note. For your opera?

M: [striking a chord] For Ivan the Terrible? This sentimental emoting? [repeating the theme]

B: Does it have a lyric?

RK: [embarrassed] It's nothing. An orchestral fragment. Something I've abandoned . . . for the moment at least.

M: It's clear enough what it says without a lyric . . . and to whom.

[M, singing to the photo-portrait of Nadia on the piano top, composes an impromptu love lyric, facetiously singing in falsetto to the tune of the love theme from Sheherazade]


Ooooh, how I love you, I love you, I love you,my angel divine.
Promise to love me, to love me, to love me and always be mine
Mine till the stars cease to shine Mine till the end of the line.
Oh, I adore you, oh, Oh, I implore you . . .
Oh, merde! I can't think of a rhyme!
B: Modya, you musn't joke. It's beautiful.

[M plays the theme again, accompanied by off-stage violin]

M: It is beautiful, isn't it?

[B closes his eyes and conducts the air as M sings the last few bars in his own lovely baritone]


Oh, I adore you, oh. Oh, I implore you!
Oh, come back to me angel divine!

[overwhelmed by the beauty of the melody and his own lyric, M, his head bowed over the keyboard, silently weeps]

RK: [to B] An emotional basket case. Was I right?

M: Forgive me, my friends. It's true; after a night of cognac, I'm an emotional disaster. I could weep at the Marinsky clowns this morning. [drying his eyes with the hem of his robe]

B: Nonsense. Its beautiful. And beauty always makes you weep, you sentimental old bear. It's your primitive Russian soul.

[without warning M leaps up from the piano and pacing the floor and wringing his hands shouts to the heavens]

M: My primitive Russian soul weeps, yes! It weeps the death of Russian music! Goodbye Russian music! Hello German counterpoint!

B:Goodbye Russian music?

M: Yes, goodbye Mighty Five, goodbye Russian music! Our leader Balikierev has turned to religion and fortune tellers. Cesar Antonovich spends more time writing criticsm than music. You, Alexy, deliberately pour acid over your fingers as an excuse not to compose, . . .

B: An accident! I . . .

M:  . . . and Korsya? . . . [throwing his hands up in disgust] Korsya has outright deserted to the enemy!

B: Modya, that's unfair! As Cesar Antonovich says in his column this morning . . . Wait! Wait! [digging a newspaper out of his great-coat pocket folded to the article in question, to which he points as he speaks] Korsya's appointment is a victory for The Five. [reading] Here, here.

"This inivitation to one of the representatives of the contemporary movement of young Rusian composers, signifies that the Conservatory reliquishes its attitude of exclusive conservatism and accepts life and progress. Such a new direction could naturally be of great benefit to our musical life."
[handing the folded paper to M] Here, read it yourself.

M: Pah! Only last year, Balakierev turned down the position himself, and Cesar Antonovich congratulated him in this very same newspaper.

[M tosses the folded newspaper onto a chair without reading it, and RK picks it up and reads, smiling and shaking his head]

B: That was last year, Modya. Times are changing. Think of it! One of our own in the stronghold of the enemy--our Trojan horse, Modya!

RK: Precisely! I'll undermine the enemy from within.

M: Trojan horse? Pah, hobby-horse is more like it. A play toy of regressive idiots.

B: [reading, laughing] "Professor of Practical Composition and Instrumentation, Nicolay Rimsky-Korsakov . . ." What a joke! Any knowledge of composition and instrumentation I have is purely instinctive and certainly much too vague to teach to students.

M: [raving, for M does nothing in half measures] Nonsense! To hear and recognize an interval or chord is more important than knowing their names, To compose Antar or Sadko as you've done, is more important than knowing how to write four-point counterpoint. You are precisely the man to teach our Russian youth--but not at that bastion of German conservatism and regression! At the Free School, yes! But at the German Conservatory, never!

RK: Not anywhere! I'm shaking in my boots just thinking of standing before students. [to B] How long will it take them, I wonder, . . . to realize what a fraud they have for a teacher.

B: Not to worry. Take it from an old chemistry professor who at the beginning of his career stayed one page ahead of his students and fended off embarrassing questions with, [pompously, harrumping with hands on lapels] "We haven't time now, Little Father, to go back to basics! [harrumping] And how is it possible, Little Mother, to make such an insufferable stink with such expensive equipment as you have done?

M: If you'd spend less time in the laboratory with your test tubes and adolescent Little Mothers and more time at the piano composing . . .

B: But I'm only a Sunday composer. My first love is chemistry, science . . .

M: Damn your science! You think history will remember you for acid-burned fingers?

B: I don't want history to remember me. Only you, Modya, think of history, constantly calling Russian music on to new shores, waving our glorious fighting banners.

M: Pah! What fighting banners? Any fighting banners we once waved are locked away with seven locks behind seven doors. Without banners, without aim, without desire to look to the future, we'll all end up Conservatory professors pouring over Mozart and Hayden--petrified, feelingless immitators, mere musico-mathematical automatons, composing like machines. And Cesar Antonovich and his collection of critcial frogs, puffing contentedly in their inherited rotten swamp, will present us with their praise.

B: [clapping] Hurrah for Modeste Mussorgsky, a nugget from the Russian soil. Even his looks remind one of giants in Russian fairy tales, eh Korsya?

RK: [clapping] Our very own Russian fighting bear. The only one of the five who still believes in what once bound us together and made us so unselfishly happy in one anothers' achievements.

B: Really, Modya, is it so astonishing that the disruption of our group should happen sooner or later?

RK: It's the natural order of things.

B: So long as we were eggs laid by one hen, [clucking like a hen] Balak, Balak, Balak, Balakierev, we were all more or less alike; but when the young chicks came out of their shells, each one clothed himself in different feathers.

RK: And now that our wings have grown, we each fly off in different directions.

M: The mighty five have hatched into a horde of souless traitors; their scourge has become a child's toy whip in the hands of a souless music critic urging on a Troika pulled by a tortoise . . . a . . . a hobby-horse and a . . . a . .

RK: [playfully] . . . a hung-over Russian bear?

B: Yes, yes, I like that, Korsya. A tortoise, a hobby-horse and a hung-over Russian bear! What say, Professor hobby-horse? Surely we must not leave our fighting bear in such a ferocious mood, eh?.

[B places one arm over M's shoulder and the other over RK's like a Troika yoke]

RK: Cheer up, Modya! Professor Tortoise is right! The Mighty Five may be dead and done . . .

B: But the Troikateers will never succumb!

RK: A tortoise, a hobby-horse, and our hung-over Russian bear.

B: One for all and all for one.

[RK and B clown around, good-naturedly teasing M who tries to remain somber but cannot]

[B plays with two fingers of his left hand what is known here in the west as Chopsticks.]

RK: What's this? What's this? Something new?

M: [laughing] Sounds more like child's play than something new,

B: Quite so! Quite so! While we were in Moscow, my daugther Gania asked me to play duets with her on her grandma's baby grand. And when I remarked that she didn't, after all, know how to play; with two small fingers of each tiny hand, she thumped out this lovely little tune. [playing Chopsticks] It so amused me, that I set out to write variations on the theme that very night. The theme in the upper register of the treble, can be played by anyone with two fingers, [demonstrating] while variations can be played on the lower register by the more accomplished pianist. [removing some music sheets from his coat pocket] I wrote a polka, a waltz, a requiem and a march tune in a comical vein.

RK: [perusing the papers] On the one side musical notation! On the other, the glycerine chain!

[RK, strightens out the crumpled sheets on the piano and immediately begins to play a comical polka variation with two hands as B continues to pound out the origianl theme with two fingers of his left hand, both men surrounding M who is still seated at the piano, rather dumbfounded, and who hesitantly starts in on the comical funeral march variation a la Chopin when RK finishes his Polka and defers to M with a flourish. When M finishes B's requiem, he begins a galloping variation of his own. All this is accompanied by lots of business, the dancing of various sorts of dances, Cossack, Spanish, etc.]

M: I dedicate my "Gallop" to our invincible troika! Long may we gallop side by side happily and merrily like this. Forever! [getting carried away, he begins changing the theme in the development]

B: [stopping his pounding] Whoa! Whoa! You're changing the theme. No fair, Modya!

M: [indignant] Says who? As a side-horse in this Troika, I gallop where I please! shaft-horse be damned!

RK: [fully dressed now in his naval uniform] But Modeste! It's all in fun. Don't get upset. [to B] We'd better be off, or we'll be late.

B: Ah, don't we look magnificent in our teaching amunition, Modya? [sprucing up RK] Epaulettes shining like two suns, buttons sparkling like diamonds, cuffs and colars gleaming as though on parade. Well, we're off, darling--Korsya to the Conservatory and I to my beloved Academy of Science.

RK: Kiss me for good luck, Modya? On my first day?

M: [yelling] Out! Out! Professors? Pah! Traitors to Russian music! I never want to see either of you again. Never! And here! [picking up the newspaper] Take this rag with you.

RK: [laughing] Better get out, before our fighting bear devours us blood and bone!

B: [teasing] Now, no drinking while we're gone! Or Baba Yaga will devour little Modinka blood and bone and all.

RK: With her hayfork in the seat of his pants, eh?

M: [holding the door open] Out! Out! [throwing the paper out into the hall]

RK: [to B] Age before beauty. [to M] Remember, no drinking. A good morning's work at the piano and off to the Division of Forestry this afternoon--sober!

M: Go to hell! Both of you and the Division of forestry too. Out! Out!

[EXIT RK and B as M slams the door behind them and then immediately opens it again]

M: Wait Korsya! Wait! A kiss for your first day!

[EXIT M and laughter off stage]

B: [off stage] And what about me?

M: [off stage] A kiss for the Tortoise too!

RK: [off stage] The Troiketeers! All for one and one for all!

M, RK and B: [off stage] The Troikateers! A ll for one and one for all! Hey!. A hobby-horse, a tortoise and a hung-over Russian bear. Hey! Hey! Hey!

M: [shouting off stage] Goodbye, my friends! I love you!

RK and B: [off stage, from a distance] All for one andone for all!

[ENTER M, very low, depressed, holding his head and rubbing his eyes. Sitting down at the piano, he begins plinking out Chopsticks which turns into the love theme from Sherherazade accompanied by violin off stage. Taking the portrait of Nadia from the piano top, he gazes at it mournfully and begins to play and sing Song 311,  from A Fantasy]

M: [singing]

Ah, her beautiful face weaves a spell around me.
Her magical voice to me softly calls.
In dreams it floats before me,
At night when darkness falls.
She whispers strange words to me;
Her murmurring voice recalls
Some crystal fountain flowing coolly
In the silent darkness around me.
It speaks of love and consolation;
It tells of joy and happiness unending, and oblivion.
In dead of night, when all alone,
I see her eyes that brightly shine on me--
Yes, I see her smile to me--
Through shadows her voice calls to me:

"Oh friend, my trusted friend, how I love thee,
I am thine own!"

[The lights begin to fade as M lingers over the last few notes of the piece, looking mournfully at the portrait. He sips on the empty cognac bottle, throws it down in disgust, and slow blackout.]

[During the blackoput and the scene change, SASHA's soprano and M's basso-baritone are heard singing excerpts from the love duet, Act III, scene 2, of Boris Godunov]


Lights up. Christmas Eve at the Purgold's. The music room. A piano, a large Christmas tree elaborately decorated in the Russian manner--popcorn strings and fruit, dolls, painted eggs, and candles. Among the presents under the tree is a magnificent hobbyhorse.

M, dressed formally, and SASHA and NADIA, in evening gowns are performing for the company--M and SASHA singing and NADIA at the keyboard.

RK, in his Naval dress-uniform, including white gloves and saber, MOLAS and CUI in their army dress uniforms, B in his teaching "amunition," RINA in an ostentatious gown with a great deal of decollatage (she, like her husband is a comic figure), STASSOV and family members and guests, all formally dressed, are seated before the piano, listening]

[SASHA is a gifted soprano. A passionate, strong-willed twenty-eight year old, very bright, outspoken, very much a person with her own mind. She is lovely, but not the raving beauty her younger sister is]

[NADIA, a fine pianist, is five years younger than her sister and remarkably gifted at reading and playing orchestral scores. Charmingly expeditious, she is not unaware of her exceptional beauty and is capable of using it to get her way, not in the obvious, comic manner of a RINA, but subtley.

[M in society seems rather a dandy, an immaculately dressed aristocrat with hands encased in lavender gloves, a charmer with immaculate manners, aristocratic reserve and nervous wit--one moment his expression is severe and the next it turns to childish wholehearted laughter. He has a fine basso-baritone voice and is greatly admired for his singing]

SASHA : [singing, from the love duet ACT III, scene 2, of Boris Godunov]
                     I love you, my Dimitri,
                     I am your slave now!

M: [singing] Oh, say those words again, Marina!
                     let my suffering heart find contentment;
                     fill my soul with rapture,
                     my heavenly enchantress, paragon!

SASHA: [kneeling]
                   My Tsar!

M:              Rise, my wonderful peerless Tsaritsa!

SASHA:   Ah, my heart is revived by my hero,
                   by my conqueror!

M:             Rise, let me clasp and cherish you!

[they embrace and SASHA closes her eyes expecting to be kissed, but M uncomfortably breaks away and bows]

[The company sing out all together like the chorus in the opera as STASSOV conducts them]

COMPANY: [singing]
                  All hail! All hail! All hail! All hail!

[general clapping, standing ovation, as M, SASHA, and NADIA bow and curtsey. CUI, however, who stands conspicuously to one side, smoking, one hand on his saber, looking very unamused, does not clap but rather looks on like Rangoni in the opera, shaking his head, his usual sour expression on his face]

[CESAR ANTONOVICH CUI, is an officer in the Army Engineer corps and wears ridiculously huge, board-like shoulder epaulettes on which the three-star-triangle insignia of his rank gleams. Medium height, delicate features concealed by a carefully trimmed beard and whiskers, cold, grey, blinking eyes behind tiny Trotsky spectacles, he is a very methodical man who has been nicknamed CAUSTIC by the Purgold sisters, for he delights in his role as a hard-nosed, uncompromising critic. Despite his genuinely sour nature, which his friends excuse as deliberate affectation, he is loved by all save SASHA, who resents his condescending attitude toward M and does not trust him. Three years older than M, CUI adopts an attitude toward this former member of the "golden youth"--the elite Guard--not merely prejudiced but actually condescending with regard to M's aspirations as a composer, an attitude which M only laughs at good-naturedly, loving CUI as much as any of his friends and dismissing SASHA'S intuitive distrust of the man as female nonsense]

STASSOV: [holding up his hands, signaling for silence]

Thank you all! This encore performance of Maestro Mussorgsky's magnificent love duet from BORIS brings to a close the musical portion of our evening's festivities.

[sporadic clapping as STASSOV holds his hands up again]

[VLADIMIR VASILYEVICH STASSOV is a middle-aged, imposing, grandfatherly-looking family man with greying hair and full beard. As head of the Arts Department of the St. Petersburg Public Library, he has a civil service rank equal to that of a General, is an intellectual, very well-traveled and an avid supporter of the New Russian Music and organizer of these musical soriees]

STASSOV: [warmly] I know I speak for all, when I say how grateful we are to Maestro Mussorgsky as well as to Lieutenant Korsakov for his new operatic ensemble from his IVAN THE TERRIBLE, and to Professor Borodin for playing for us the groups' newest Gania variations. And also to our esteemed musical critic Caesar Antonovich Cui, not only for his contribution to the variations but also for his professional evaluations of the merits and faults of each of this evening's offerings. Which once again, of course, are directly contradicted by the evaluations of the guests here assembled who have chosen, as usual, to encore precisely those pieces our Caesar of Petersburg Musical criticim disliked most. I say disliked MOST, because as usual he disliked EVERYTHING, [general laughter] criticising most severely his own delightful offering, which though we did not see fit to encore, we assure him we all liked very much more than he did, very much more indeed.

[CUI makes an imperial bow as all politely applaud]

M:[applauding louder than anyone else] BRAVO! BRAVO! [running up to CUI with outstretched arms and roughly kissing him on both cheeks] Even if you do not approve of our love duet, we are all pleased to have you among us again.

NADEJDA: Now that our famous critic is the father of one child and expecting another any day, he rarely visits us anymore.

CUI:[sourly, straightening out his uniform after M's bear hug] I came this evening only out of curiosity over the alledged feverish productivity of the so-called Troikateers.

STASSOV:Troikateers? Nonsense. [to the guests] Perhaps there's no longer a Mighty Five now that Balakierev's deserted our circle, but we are certainly left with a formidable four-in-hand, indeed? [clapping] Mussorgsky, Korsakov, Borodin and Cui!

[general applause]

CUI:[sarcastically to all] And why, may I ask, does oneof our four-in-hand refuse to pull his share of the load?

M: [ingenuously, with a great smile on his face] You mean my failing to accept your invitation to contribute to the Gania variations? Thank you, Cesar Antonovich! But I have no desire to join a four-in-hand galloping headlong into oblivion.

CUI:[sarcastically, refusing to address M directly] Oblivion? Oblivion? He calls our publishing the Gania variations as a group and Tchaikovsky's getting the the great Lizst to introduce them to the west, oblivion?

M:[exploding] Tchaikovsky? That waterfly? Don't even mention his name in my presense.

CUI:[smiling, still not addressing M directly] I should think not. How was it Maestro Tchaikovsky described the Polonaise from BORIS--coarse, unpolished, ugly?

M:Pah, the devil take him! And his entire effete Moscow school. They can't fool us with pretty sounds, like a well-to-do lady passing around a box of chocolates.

RK: [enthusiastically] But the great Liszt, Modya! The great Liszt!

M: Excuse me my friend! You know how much I love you, but this treatment of serious composers as though they were hired workmen, producing variations to order on a nonsensical child's invention, and the stupidly overblown evaluation of these efforts by critics such as yourself, Cesar Antonovich, have the natural and impending consequence of disaster for our circle!

CUI:[to the group, mocking M] Oblivion? Disaster? The man is incabable of moderation in his speech any more than he is in his music!

M:Pah! To think that these childish variations will be the first of our efforts to find their way westward into Europe . . .

CUI:[to the group] He calls the Gania Variations childish while he goes on producing the kind of musical barbarisms this ignorant group has seen fit to encore?

[an awkward pause, as a hush falls over the group]

SASHA:[very deliberately] I beg your pardon Cesar Antonovich. Modya's Boris is as great an opera as your own Ratcliff was a miserable failure.

[a general gasp]

NADIA: Alexandra Nicolayevna! How dare you? Lieutenant Cui is a guest in our home.

SASHA:[undaunted, cooly] So is Modya. And just because Cesar Antonovich praises your Korsya's IVAN to the skies is no reason to defend his insulting Modya's Boris! What the Directors of the Marinsky rejected is perhaps the greatest conception of a peoples' drama ever imagined!

NADIA:Pooh! Not while we have Korsya's Ivan the Terrible!

[M, no longer serious, applauds loudly, thoroughly amused]

SASHA:Whatever is great in Ivan is due to Modya's influence! Ivan is so much Modya's, he can play and sing every part from memory, which is more than Korsya can do?

[RK applauds loudly, equally amused]

B:[to RINA, delightedly wringing his hands] They're at it again!

COMPANY: They're at it again! The sisters are at it again!

[M and RK playfully mimic the two womeng behind their backs, clapping in turn for each other's defender]

RINA:[jumping into the fray] And what about my Lexy's Prince Igor?

NADIA:[ignoring RINA] How dare you? Modya's influence? Why, it's precisely the opposite. The best in

BORIS is Korsya's doing.

SASHA:Who did the Russian history research? And if not for Modya's helping Korsya with his recitative and declamatory skills RINA:[unsuccessfully trying to break in] And what about my Lexy's Igor?

NADIA:The truth is, without Korsya's restraints on Modya's bizzarre originality, the polishing of his rough harmonization and occasionally illogical constructions . . .

M:[clapping] Here! Here!

SASHA:[to M, angrily] Can't you take anything seriouly? All she's doing is mimicing Cesar Antonovich!

RINA:BORIS score! IVAN score! You've no right!

No right to ignore my Alexy's IGOR!

NADIA:[ignoring RINA completely] I just happen to agree with Cesar Atonovich, that's all. Modya's BORIS is improving with Korsya's influence but is still far from good enough for production.

M:[to RK, clowning, playing with the sounds of the words] My BORIS GODUNOV isn't good enough?

SASHA:[furiously] Good enough? Good enough? If BORIS isn't good enough, why then IVAN's terrible!

RK:[clowning] My IVAN THE TERRIBLE's terrible?

RINA:[thoroughly frustrated and befuddled at being ignored] No right to IGOR Alexy's PRINCE ignore!

B:[delightedly to RK and M] IGOR my PRINCE ignore?

M:[clowning] Is BORIS good enough?

RK:Is IVAN terrible?

B:Will the critics simply IGOR my Prince ignore?

[M, RK and B simulate a TROIKA galloping about the stage, M in his formal suit flanked by B and RK in their "amunition," M's arms over their shoulders and his formal coattails held like reins by CUI as they gallop about the stage, CUI's other hand pinching his nose]

[All razz CUI and he loves it]

RK:[breaking from the pack, flushed with excitement] May I have your attention please? I have an announcement to make.

STASSOV:Quiet everyone! Quiet!

RK: [breathlessly] With great pleasure and pride I wish to announce that the beautiful and talented Miss Nadejda Purgold has consented to become my wife!

[general excitement]

RINA:When's the happy day?

NADIA: In June, the month of brides.

RINA: [before B can stop her] Good! Still plenty of time for a double wedding. Surely, gallantry isn't completely dead, Modya? A younger daughter marrying before her sister--shameful!

[embarrassment all around as B draws RINA aside. SASHA is mortified and hides her face. M, is bewildered at first but makes a joke out of the situation]

M:I? Marry? [laughing] I'm much too young to die. If ever I'm so tired of life as Korsya is, I will immediately put a pistol to my head, preferring a quick and painless suicide to a prolonged and miserable one.

NADIA:[rushing to her sister's side] Modya! How cruel! To both of us.

M:[always sorry too late] No, no. You musn't think it's you I'm disparaging, Nadia dear. Only marriage. [relying on his wit to save him] If Tristan [pointing to RK] has to die, what better death partner than his beautiful Isolde. [kissing Nadia's hand most gallantly] And certainly were I myself so affected by the German school as ever to opt for love death to accompany my musical death as Korsya has, I should definitely propose to the other German lady in our midst. [bowing to Sasha]

SASHA:[trying to laugh it all off, but furious, humiliated] [to all] And should the suicidal gentleman ever consider proposing to me, [directly to M] I should be honored, sir, . . . [curtsying] to hand you a pistol.

M:[grasping his heart, clowning, pleased with her answer] A pistol is unnessary, my dear. That barbed tongue of yours has pierced my heart, andstony death follows hard upon. [feigning death agony]

NADIA:[recognizing her sister's plight] Oh, Sasha . . . he's such an impossible child. [embracing her as they move off together followed by RINA]

RINA:I'm sorry! I didn't mean to . . .

STASSOV:A toast to the happy couple. Champagne for all in the parlour.

[All begin to exit, congratulating RK]

M:[to B] Don't let me have any more than one glass.

B:[putting his arm around M's shoulder] A toast and not a drop more!

M:[shaking his head] Even ONE tonight and I'm afriad . . .

B: [laughing] . . . Baba Yaga will fly in on her hay-fork, eh? Come, come! Raise a glass for the toast, and water the potted plants with the rest.

[EXIT all, leaving the stage empty for a moment as laughing and toasting is heard off stage]

[ENTER a chubby little BOY between the ages of two and four dressed in woolly Doctor Dentons like a baby bear, cautiously, frightened, on tip-toe, peeking around the door. However, when he sees the decorated tree, he rushes to it leaving the door open and completely loses himself in a kind of clumsy little teddy-bear sort of dance--a dance of awe, a totally unconscious and uninhibited, childish almost pagan celebration of beauty which should be both funny and amazing--fists clenched, arms and feet pumping up and down, head bobbing]

[ENTER M with a champagne glass in hand, enthralled by the sight before him as though priviledged to witness a secret Christmas Eve nature ritual equivalent perhaps to Oxen kneeling before the crib of the Christ Child. Allowing the child to continue his dance, M absently pours the contents of his champagne glass into a potted plant just as the child catches sight of him and freezes where he stands with fists raised and one foot still in the air. M begins to applaud, and the child tries to scoot past him to the door, but M catches him up into his arms]

M: Whoa, whoa, Little Father! Not so fast! Nothing to be afraid of. It's uncle Modya. Ah, but who are you, Little Father? I know all the children of the house as though they are my own. [the child is fascinated by M] And how is it I've never had the pleasure of making the aquaintance of your honor? How is it every time I visit, the other children run to the door crying, Uncle Modya, Uncle Modya, and kiss me and sing with me at the piano?

[M seats the child on the hobby-horse and, sitting down at the piano, sings in a childish voice, Song #41, ON THE HOBBY HORSE (the NURSERY, VI) as the child, hesitantly at first, begins to rock the hobby-horse]

M:[singing] Hey! Clop, Clop! Clop! Clop, clop, giddy- up!
                    Hop, hop! Giddy-up, Giddy-up, Clop, Clop Clop
                    Yat, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ata, Hey!
                    Yat, ta, ta, ta, ta, at, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, Hey, Hey!


M:[seeing her, he continues his song]

Whoa boy! Whoa, whoa, whoa! Sasha, hiSasha!
Can you come over and play today?
Come early if you do, okay?
Giddy-up now! Bye, bye, Sasha!
Got to be home before dark  and stll have a long way to go.
Please don't come too late!
They put me to bed so awfully early, you know.
[turning away from SASHA and the child, completely lost in his song]
Yat ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, Hey!
Yat ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, Hey, Hey!
Giddy-up! Heigh-ho, and away we go!Clop, Clop! Out of the way!

[in the meantime, the child slips down off the rocking horse, and evading SASHA'S attempt to capture him, EXIT's running as M comes to the end of the verse]

SASHA:[applauding] Bravo! Bravo!

M:But where's my little Cossackgone?

SASHA:[smiling] Back to bed where he belongs, the little rascal.

M: And whose is he? Why haven't I ever seen him with the other children?

S:He's cook's boy, a fatherless child . . .


S:Well, not exactly. Cook's unmarried, you see, and . . .

M:Ah, ha! A little bastard is he! And that's why he's not allowed to play with the other children?

S:Of course not. Servants' children are simply not allowed above stairs. They have their own Christmas below.

M:And I thought our serfs were freed some yearsago. Apparently the emancipation proclamation hasn't yet reached the Purgold household?

S:Oh, Modya, there you go again. Making fun of me. Our servants are paid very handsomely and treated like family as you very well know.

M:[teasing] So long as their little bastards remain below stairs?

S:Modya, must you always . . . We all know how democratic you are, how you freed your family's serfs long before the Tsar's proclamation. But must you always . . . [realizing he is teasing, softening] You're right of course. I'll see to it he spends Christmas morning with the other children. Oh Modya, you always make me feel so inadequate . . . so . . .

M:[evasively] I'm off! I'm off to see to it that our little Cossak is well mounted Christmas morning. Pray Skolsky hasn't sold his last hobby horse!

S:At this hour? On Christmas eve? Modya . . .

M: Skolsky lives above his shop. If a pebble at his window won't wake him, a stone through his store front will.

S: You'll spend Christmas in jail, Modya. [admiringly] No wonder the children love you so, you're the biggest child of them all.

M:I'm off! I'm off! [kissing her quickly on the forehead] No need to worry. Nothing's impossible for Father Christmas.

[EXIT M hurriedly]

S:But Modya, please! I have something to say to you! I . . . [frustrated] God, he's impossible! Always, running off somewhere. Galloping about like a child at play . . . [absently rocking the horse] . . . galloping through the wild wood, back to the land of impossible dreams, where nothing is ever what it seems. And when the little rider skins his knees, and his airey castles come tumbling to the ground. Mummy comes and takes him in her arms and sings . . . [singing from THE HOBBY HORSE]

Don't cry, little Modya, Mummy's here.
Mummy's kisses will make it go way.
My brave little soldier, dry your tears,
go out and play . . .

Oh look at that pretty bird there.
See it there among the trees?
Oh, what pretty feathers!
Look! Over there!Don't you see?

Now how are your knees? All better?
You've traveled so very far
And still have so very far to go. Clop, Clop!
The whole world's out there waiting for you,
Worlds to conquer, so much more to do
Before Heavenly Father's stern curfew.


NADIA:You're here alone? Where's Modya?

S:[resignedly] Run off again.

N:Just as well. Lieutenant Molasses . . er . . . a . . . Molas is a fine man, who loves you. He'll be good to you . . .

S:But I don't love Molasses.

N:[giggling] We must stop using that nickname now that he's planning to propose.

S:I love Modya . . .

N:And you'll die an old maid waiting for Modya to propose. He can't love a woman. Not the way my Korsya loves me. [like a lovesick schoolgirl] My Korsya loves me more than anything in the world, more than his work, his music, anything!

S:[proudly] I could never love a man who loved me more than his work. Modya's a genius, and that's what I love in him. I want to be part of this great creative spirit.

M:[laughing] Playing second fiddle to his music?

S: I don't mind playing second fiddle to his music. What I do mind, is playing second fiddle to you. [frustrated] Damn it! It's you he's in love with. You're the pretty one, and that's all men care about.

N:Nonsense! Most men think you're much more fascinating than I. Which is precisely the problem. Knowing you fascinate other men with that frightfully strong personality and intellect of yours, you can't tolerate not having the same power over Modya. In fact, that's the only reason you think you love him; he's the only one you can't fascinate.

S:He's not capable of being fascinated. Not by a mere woman anyway. He doesn't consider women equal to men, considers us inferior, contemptuous lower creatures.

N: On the contrary. He's terrified of women. Afraid of falling under our spell, realizing only too well that we can be clever and sly and, if we cared to, could completely dominate him.

S:Dominate Modya? Never! Besides, I wouldn't want to dominatel him, anymore than I'd ever allow him to dominate me.

N:Precisely! Two of kind.

S: What does that mean?

N:Proud and sassy, both of you! What you both lack is warmth, tenderness, of which there's so much in my dear Korsya, and me . And in Lieutenant Molas too. It's what every woman needs from a man--warmth, tenderness, admiration, praise. Not witty back-handed compliments but real, true, genuine praise, and adoration. [resolutely] The time has come, Alexandra Nicolayevna; you need a husband!

S:I need Modya. And he needs me. Oh, God! One would think I'm mad--the way I carry on. But his BORIS drives me insane. He IS Boris; he mourns the death of the child in himself, but the child is not dead. Tonight when I saw him singing for Cook's boy like an overgrown child himself, I was so happy! All past evenings pale compared with tonight. Everything, even the Chrisitmas tree, was made radiant by his extraordianry presence.

N: Really! This is too much!

S:Oh, God! I know I sound like an adolescent girl,

and a mad one at that! For just a moment ago, I swore how much I despise him as a man, and yet . . . It's terrible, but I can't help myself! If I don't see him, I can frown and calmly judge his many faults. But when I see him, everything turns upside down. My silly heart gives my brain a nudge, and my mind starts doing summersaults.

N: Now is it possible that you're not so different from the rest of us after all?

S:Good heavens, what happens to me when my Modya's near? What kind of power dwells in him? Just one of his words means so much more than a thousand spoken by others. The power to make my spirit soar dwells only in him as in no other.

N:Not even Lietenant Molasses?

S:How I should like to play a role in my Modya's charmed and miraculous life. To plumb the depths of his gifted soul, to gaze in awe at the treasures there. Together sharing all there is to share as happily married man and wife. [weeping] But we never will, never, for we'll never marry. Never.

N: [embracing the weeping SASHA] Oh my poor darling, how I wish you could be as happy as I. And you will! You will! Lieutenant Molas will be good to you. He's no genius like Modya and Korsya . Still, his water colors and his poems are quite charming, and he's steady and sober and . . . Oh darling you're better off without Modya, believe me! Korsya won't discuss it openly--men are so loyal to each other. But can you imagine what it would be like married to a dypsomaniac?

S:Dypsomaniac? Modya? Nonsense! Why, he drinks hardly at all. He consistently refuses wine with dinner.

N:I tell you, Korsya won't speak of it directly, but I know he worries. And besides, there's another woman . . .

S:{frightened} Another woman?

N: . . . a street singer at a certain tavern Modya frequents regularly, a gypsy!

S:I won't wait any longer! If he wopn't propose to me, I'll propose to him! When he comes back . . . if he comes back . . . if he isn't in jail . . .

N:. . . or drunk in his favorite tavern? With his gypsy street singer?

[ENTER RK and Lieutenant MOLAS]

[NIKOLAY PAVLOVICH MOLAS is aptly nicknamed "Molasses." He is sweet and slow-witted but in a very endearing way. He never takes offense, cannot be insulted, all irony and sarcasm is lost on him. He loves everything and everyone, and everything and everyone loves him. He is M without genius, a very nice, lovable very human being. He absolutely worships RK and M as men and musicians. A self-styled poet, he often creates verses on the spot]

MOLAS:[a bit tippsy] There you are my little star!
                                     Once again my life's a twinkle,
                                     Now that I've found my periwinkle!

SASHA:[to N] Periwinkle? A sea snail? How flattering!

MOLAS:Not a sea snail, my darling . . .
              Though, marinated in garlic overnight,
              Sea snails are rather a gourmet's delight.

NADEJDA:Escargot? He compares me to escargot? How shattering!

[the ladies laugh good-naturedly]

MOLAS:No! No!--the flower, the periwinkle,
              With beautiful blossoms all blue and white.

SASHA:[patronizingly] And did you, all on your own, dream up this amazing metaphor.

MOLAS:Quite! Quite right!

[expanding his chest as though he had just been complimented]

              Though it's nothing at all compared to BORIS or IVAN or IGOR,
               If I may be so bold?
               Behold! There's more!

S:[to M] I don't suppose we have a choice?

MOLAS:No choice! No choice!
               I've composed a little something
               For pianoforte and voice.

RK:No choice whatsoever now that the shy Lieutenant's finally gotten his courage up . . . [making gestures simulating drinking, and sitting down at the piano]

MOLAS:[to RK] Comrades in arms, fearless in battle.
                            Cannonade and saber rattle,
                            Music to our military ears.
                            In matters of the heart, however,
                            We're love's subalterns, subserviant chatel,
                            Quite o'ermatched in amorous battle.

                           By love's sharp arrows and kisses tender,
                           Thoroughly defeated, we must--
                           Unconditionally we trust--
                           To superior arms surrender.

[kneeling before SASHA}

                           In surrendering my arms to thee,
                          This enemy on bended knee
                          Submits, completely, slavishly,
                          And unconditionally.
                          Asks no quarter, asks no mercy.

                          Chain me, tame me,
                          Dismember, maime me!
                          Imprison me in irons for life!
                          Matrimonially . . . er . . .
                          You and me . . . er . . .
                          Someday three . . . er . . .

[shouting]         DAMN IT! Can't you see? . er . . .
                         I'm asking you to marry me
                        And be my wife!

MOLASand RK: [both on their knees]

                        Comrades in arms, brothers for life,
                        Taking the Purgold sisters to wife.

NADIA: A double wedding in the month of brides. For richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health, till death do us part.

MOLAS:       Say yes, little Sasha, say,"Yes, yes! I do!"
                      And we'll live happily ever after,
                     Just me and mydarling wife, you!

SASHA:[distastefully]For the rest of our natural lives?

MOLAS:     And a good deal longer, besides.

[ENTER M riding a hobby horse on wheels. He too is a bit tipsy and in very high spirits]


                   Yat, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta,
                   ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, Hey, hey!
                   Whao boy! Whoa, whoa whoa!
                  Sasha! Hi Sasha! Hi Nadedja!
                   Hi Molya! Hi Korsya!

M: [no longer singing] Bought a new shaft-horse for our Troika now that you're marrying and deserting us.

RK:Modya, I'm not deserting! I'm simply getting married.

NADIA: Oh, don't pay any attention! He's been drinking!

M:Drinking, yes! Chanukka wine! Skolsky wouldn't open shop till I had a Channuka drink with him. Haggled like Goldenberg and Schmuyle in Hartman's painting. Sang together too, synagogue songs. Glorious, inspiring music. [singing mournfully]

                  OI! OI! OI! OI! OI!

[moved by his own singing] How I love our Russian Jews. Our Russian music. Love everything tonight! Everyone! Happy Chunnaka! Everybody! Merry Christmas. Kiss me Korsya! I love you! [as RK evades him, to Molas] Kiss me Molya [giving MOLAS a big kiss on the lips and a bear hug]

NADIA:[aside to SASHA] Now's your chance! Ask him now!

M:And now the ladies. First, the beautiful Nadia soon to be wed.

N:[evading him] No, Sasha first!

[SASHA looks on helplessly as NADIA directs M to her and drags RK and the reluctant MOLAS out of the room]

MOLAS:But . . . but . . . but . . .

NADIA: Trust me! Everything will turn out to your liking.

[EXIT, N, RK, and MOLAS. Face to face with SASHA, M laughs uncomfortably]

M:Age before beauty, eh? The old maid of the Purgold family.

S:[hurt but determined] I may not be beautiful, Modeste Petrovich. But niether am I an old maid. Lieutenant Molas has . . M:Molya? [turning, realizing disappointedtly that the others have gone] Where is everyone?

S: . . . he's asked me to marry him.

M:Asked you what?

S:To marry him?


S:Lieutenant Molas?

M:Molasses? [laughing] I don't believe it. Where did he ever find the courage?

S:The same place you do, Modeste Petrovich, in a Champagne bottle.

M:[laughing] There isn't enough courage in all the cellars of

France to get me to . . . [soberly] You're serious! Proposed? Molasses? [he is disapointed and annoyed] It's very annoying, all these marriages. [determined to hide his true feelings] Well then, congratulations. [kissing her hand] I wish you both all the happiness in the world.

S:[frustrated] I'm twenty-eight years old, Modeste Petrovich. I'll die and old maid waiting for you to propose!

M:Me? Waiting for me? [trying to make a joke of it] But just an hour ago you said if I ever proposed you'd hand me a pistol to shoot myself.

S:I want to be your wife, Modya. I . . . I worship you . . . your talent I mean. Of all the five, you are the one true genius. Alexy and Korsya are fine artists, of course, but YOU? Your NURSERY songs are childhood revisited, and BORIS is the greatest people's drama ever written.

M:[valuing his freedom above his pride] Nonsense! Nonsense! Would the greatest people's drama ever written have been turned down by the Marinsky? Twice? Ridiculous! You heard what Cesar Antonovich said about the Polanaise and the love duet . . .

S:[to heaven] I'm asking him to marry me, and he's talking musical criticism.

M: Cesar Antonovich is right, and that's why I love him: he doesn't allow friendship to get in the way of honesty but speaks the truth at all costs.

S:Modeste Petrovich, you're deliberately evading the issue. I'm asking you to marry me.

M:Nonsense. I won't have you disparage my friend or his opera. Our group had great hopes for Ratcliffe. It failed because of the public's attitude toward the critic not the composer. He's been bitterly criticizing the public's tastes for so long, our enemies had no problem at all organizing a demonstration against his opera.

S: [despite everything, unable to resist the opportunity to disparrage Cui] But people booed and hissed in his face. They took keys out of their pockets and whistled through them, the strongest expression of disapproval in Russia. That's why he's so jealous of BORIS, of you. He . . .

M: And how did our valiant friend respond? The next day in his newspaper column he invited the public to please refrain from attending future performances. Naturally the cowardly Directors of the Miryansky dropped RATCLIFFE from the repetoire. How can one not admire a man with such courage and integrity? No matter
what he says about me and my music at our private soirees. Why, insulting each other is just a way we men have of showing affection for each other. Nevertheless, should the Marinsky ever have the courage to produce BORIS, my brother Cesar Antonovich Cui will praise it to the skies. That you can count on! [turning away from her, pretending to be furious]

S:What I can count on, Modeste Petrovich, is that you are the most noble and forgiving friend in the world, and not only Cesar Antonovich but all of us are unworthy of you. [love shining in her eyes, despite herself] Oh, Modya, how revolting you sometimes make me seem in my own eyes! Perhaps I will never understand men and their mysterious ways with each other. I know only one thing--that we are not worth one of your dear glances, not one of your darling warm smiles in which you reflect all your being and which I have never seen in any other man. Just for this darling smile I am ready to . . . ready to . . .

[S's entire manner suddenly changes as she takes the bewildered M's hand and placing it on her breast sings from Mozart's DON GIOVANI]

S:[singing] Feel my beating heart,
                   It tells of my love for you!

[M breaks away and puts the piano between them as SASHA stalks her prey, singing]

Let me console you, my dearest!
I have a lovely remedy.
Nature created it,
Not bitter but sweet.
No one but I can prescribe it!
M:[across the piano] Mozart? German music? Are you mad?

S:[stalking like a cat]

Trust in my healing.
Soon you will be well.
Now shall we try it?
Do you know where to find it?
Feel my beating heart,
It tells of my love for you!
M:[frightened by the stalking S] You expect to seduce me with GERMAN music? Never! Never to GERMAN music. You must be mad! You ARE mad!

S:Oh, love me, Modya. Don't marry me if you can't. Only love me! Love me! I'm yours; do with me what you will. Now! Here! This very moment.

[Catching M, she kisses him ravenously, but he breaks away]

M:Mad. MAD I tedll you!

S:But I'm offering myself to you without marriage, here and now. Am I so unbeautiful that I don'teven arouse the man in you?

M:The man in me? The man in me? Why, what must I do to make you see that marriage is simply contrary to all I hold sacred and cannot be reconciled with my artistic mission, that carnal needs are quite unworthy of artistic souls, that I've deliberately severly resticted my carnal desires and mercilessly afflicted my body with self-inflicted [drunkenly] lelibacy . . . er . . . belibacy . . . er . . . CELIBACY! In me, common passions are superseded by wider ambitions. The purely instinctive literally hold no appeal for me. I much prefer the tortures of celibacy to dreary, domestic debauchery. Carnal knowledge, common instinctive sexual drives, offend my intellect, my brain. And for you so frivolously to invite me to join in this joint absurdity is really quite litterally the same as asking me to flush my brain down a godamned, bloody drain.

SASHA:Modya, you're not cold! You're no Cesar Antonovich who reasons his way through life because he's incapable of feeling!

M:What must I do to make you see that I'm quite outside the ordinary. The conventional's as anethema to me as commerce to a poet and, indeed, I sieze delightedly upon every opportunity to show it. To escape the cursed spite of God's mundane creation, of romantic love and other common afflictions, I resort to philosophic and artistic recreation, making love through music, not my glands--love to the whole, round, spinning world, to the planets and the stars, platonic realms where love can travel only on bodiless wings of sound. And when finally they lower me into the cold and clammy ground, through their tears they'll hear me still declaiming the fleshless music of the spheres, as metronomic dirt clods rain down upon my coffin lid.

S:But you're not dead, Modya! You're a warm and passionate man. Oh, if only I were as pretty as Nadia, you'd . . . you'd . . . [bursting into tears]

M:Not at all! Nadia could disappear from our circle altogether, and it would have no effect whatsoever on my music. But if you were to disappear. . .

S:Oh Modya, please don't be kind to me; it only makes it worse. I know my singing's unworthy of your music, that you visit our home twice a week, not so I can sing your music but so Nadia can transcribe it and . . .

M: Nonsense! Were there no female singers like you to sing my pieces, composing wouldn't be at all worthwhile! [approaching her gingerly as she only weeps harder as he compliments her]

S: Oh I know I'm nothing. I'm unworthy of your talent and a fool ever to hope you could love me.

M:But I do love you.

S:[with renewed hope] You love me?

M:[retreating] Er . . . Yes . . . of course. Just as I love all of my talented friends--Korsya, Alexy, Cesar Antonovich . . .

S:[bawling] Oh Modya!

M:[flustered by her tears] Let's just say, that I love you much too much to marry you, to do such a terrible thing to you. I'm nothing, Sasha! A miserable Nobody! A clerk in the Division of Forestry, going progressively mad with the drudgery! You deserve happiness, and life with me would be unrelenting misery. Our marriage banns would be a foretaste of purgatory!

S:[howling] Modya, I love you.

M:But how can I ask you to be my wife? I'm only happy when composing. I work far into the night every night of my life, and only drink allows me a bit of dozing. In truth, it seems I hardly ever sleep at all. My music and my bottle are my mistress and my wife. Only drink allows me to say yes to life. Only song allows me to say yes to my dreams.

S: Then say yes to your dreams, Modya! Say yes to your wildest dreams! Marry me, and my love and my ample dowry will relieve you of all your drudgery. And when it runs out and is no more, I'll take yourjob at the Division of Forestry, and you can compose all through the day, score after score after score and as far into the night as the night is long. You'll no longer have to run to the Purgold home to try out your latest songs; I'll be there with you in your little room to sing them for you evnn as it comes from your pen.

M:STOP! Stop! You don't understand.

S:But I do, I do. You'll never feel lonely ever again! And when you get weary , why we'll get drunk together and . . . and so long as we loveeach other . . .

M:[desperately] There's someone else! Someone . . . [long pause as SASHA does not reply] How can I tell you? I've never told anyone . . .

S:You love another?

M: Yes, someone I can never ask to marry. And you must promise, Sasha! Promise me never to breath a word to anyone. Notto Nadia, nor anyone?

S:Oh my God! Nadia! Just as I feared!

M:[laughing sardonically] No not Nadia. It's true I have strong feelings for your sister. Whenever I look at her beautiful profile, or moon over her portrait on our piano, gazing at the innocence and beauty expressed in her face, I'm reminded of my first and only love . . .

S:The tavern wench! The street singer!

M:The gypsy? No, the gypsy I love as I love cognac. And when she plays the harp, I loll in alcoholic reveries of the past, dreaming of my one true love, my little cousin Estella, who played the harp so beautifully she made the angels jealous and so they took her from me and turned her into a star. A little, twinkling star. The first song I ever composed, I composed for my Estella.

[M sits at the piano and plays and sings Song #1.]


Tell me, star, where are you; have you lost your light?
Have the jealous clouds thrown their dark cloak over you;
Are you forever gone, or simply hidden from my sight?
Tell me, absent maid, tell me now where are you?
Have you forsaken your companion for the night,
Your companion so true who is lost without you?
Jealous clouds have hidden my star from sight,
And forever the grave hides her shining light.

S:That beautiful, sad, song? But you said you wrote it when you were only seventeen!

M:Yes on the day of her burial.

S:You're in love with a girl whose been dead for twenty years?

M:I placed a package of love letters under her head in the coffin. I've never written a love letter since.

[ENTER from the wings, under a blue SPECIAL, the dream-girl played by the same actress who plays NADIA. Draped in somber, transparent garments, her face veiled, she performs a spectral ballet as M sings Song #59, A VISION, 1877. The dream-girl is invisible, of course, to SASHA]


I see her veiled, transparent form, at night,
Somber, bathed in blue starlight,
Young enchantress of my youth,
Of beauty and of truth.

Her veiled eyes pierce deeply into mine.
Her breath wafts forlorn sighs of love sublime,
Of endless drifting down the corridors of night.
And as she drifts forlornly out of sight,
Her sighs beckon me, promising rare delight.
Then I hear a ghostly music never heard by mortal ears,
The soundless music of the spheers.

I'd follow her into endless night,
But ghostly maid and music always disappear.

[EXIT the dream-girl into the wings]

S:And that's why you'll never marry?

M:The dead don't marry. [taking a leftover champagne glass from the piano and drinking it all in one swallow] There's nothing like a ghostly love, believe me, a love that dies in her youth, that you can re-create in your dreams making of her whatever you wish. [laughing sardonically and downing another abandoned drink] Who knows what would have happend had my Estella lived, if we'd married had children and the whole connubial disaster?

[ENTER RK, running]

RK: [shouting ecstatically] Modya! Modya! They're going to do it! The Marinsky! Next season! [waltzing M around, joyfully] Cesar Antonoivich has inside information.

SASHA: [elated] Next season? When?


M:[ecstatic] I can't believe it?

SASHA:[ecstatic] I told you, Modya? How could the Marinsky turn down the greatest people's drama ever written?

RK:[oblivious to M and SASHA's misunderstanding in his excitement] You must help me get it ready, Modya! The first Act, where Ivan confronts the Turks needs work. I . . .


RK:. . . but this is no time to talk of work. We must celebrate.


[SASHA and M look at each other unable to hide their dissapointment from each other, which goes unnoticed by RK in his excitement]

RK:. . . but quietly. Just among ourselves. I promised Cesar Antonovich not to breath a word to anyone before the public annoucement. But how can I keep such joyous news from you and

Alexy. Still you must swear. And you too Sasha. Mums the word til the public announcement.

M:[embracing RK with genuine joy] IVAN THE TERRIBLE!Next year at the Marinsky! Kiss me, my darling! [smacking RK furiously] Kiss him Sasha! Kiss him!

SASHA:[unable to hide her disappointment] Oh, Modya! IVAN is as much yours as his . . . Korsya, I . . .

Forgive me, but I . . . Oh, God! Where is there justice in this miserable world?

[Overcome with conflicting emotions, EXIT SASHA running, in tears]

M:[as cavalierly as he can manage] Women! Who can understand them? They laugh at pain and weep for joy.

RK:No, Modya, she weeps for the injustice of fate, that the Marinsky should accept IVAN and reject BORIS. But she's right, my friend, IVAN is as much yours as mine; this is a victory for both of us, for the Troika, the Mighty Five! And I promise you, no stone shall remain unturned till BORIS as well as IVAN are enshrined together in the Marinsky repetoire.

M:I love you my friend! [embracing RK] And I weep for joy. Fate is just. Fate has given me such friends as you to love.

[ENTER B boisterously, champagne bottle in hand and three glasses]

B:Rina and the Purgolds are weeping for joy all over each other. I can't stand it; I need a drink. A toast! A toast!

M:To IVAN THE TERRIBLE! May his reign be long, glorious, and . . .

RK:  . . .and profitable!

B:To IVAN and to his creator, our Trojan Horse, whose Conservatory appointment has opened the gates for all of us. IVAN first; then BORIS. And, who knows, if I ever finish the score, one day perhaps even my recalcitrant PRINCE IGNORE!

[they all drink champagne toasts and M mounts the rocking horse and RK the hobby horse]

M:Yat, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, Hey! Here's to IVAN THE TERRIBLE!

RK:Yat, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, Hey! Hey! Here's to BORIS GODUNOV!

B:Hey, let's not ignore my unfinished IGOR!

M: IVAN THE TERRIBLE's in-com-par-able.

RK: BORIS GUDONUV's mercurial stuff.

M and RK: And whenever it's finished,

B:If EVER it's finished,

M:The critics can't possibly ignore,

B: My still unfinished, recalcitrant PRINCE IGOR?

M, RK and B: One for all and all for one! HEY!

[ENTER MOLAS, SASHA, NADEJDA and RINA carrying champagne bottles and glasses. All are joyously raucous, the women with kerchiefs in their hands wiping away tears of joy, all save SASHA whose tears are not tears of joy]

MOLAS:Whoa! Whoa! I have an announcement to make! The beautiful and talented Alexandra Nicolayevna Purgold has consented to become my wife!

NADIA:[embracing RK] A double wedding in June. I'm so happy!

BORODIN:[embracing Molas] Congratulations my boy!

RINA:Kiss the bride to be! [jealously] On the cheek. [gaily] A double wedding in June, imagine!

[B kisses the tear-stained face of SASHA, who is being very brave, as does RK after embracing MOLAS, while M stands with his eyes on SASHA in a state of shock]

RINA:[to M] Don't just stand there like a stone. Congratulate the future bride and groom!

MOLAS:[humbly, nervously] Modeste Petrovich, if you would do me the honor . . . us the honor. Lieutenant Korsakov and I wish you to be best man for both of us. We love you and I . . . I know that Alexandra Nicoleyevna . . .

M:[breaking out of his trance and embracing MOLAS and kissing him extravagantly] Congratualtions my friend. I will be honored, honored . . . This is the happiest day of my life! [grabbing the champagne bottle from MOLAS] I drink to all of you! A long and happy marriage to both of you, my dear and lucky friends! [tips the bottle over his mouth and guzzles]

SASHA:Modya! Don't! [raising her hand and moving towardshim as if to stop him, but restrained by NADIA]

M:[the bottle raised on high] To the marriage of my great good friend to the beautiful and talented Nadia Purgold! [guzzles before others can pour and raise their glasses] To the premiere of his magnifient IVAN at the Maryinsky! [guzzles as others raise their glasses and drink] To the marriage of the very lucky Lieutenant Molas to the beautiful and talented and . . .

[M cannot say her name and guzzles instead, the bottle tilted over his mouth as all look on in silence. When RK tries to stop him, champagne splashes all over M's face and down the front of his uniform]

RK:I'm sorry, Modya! I . . .

M:[swaying now, stands looking down at his wet uniform, trying to joke, in a falsetto, childish voice] Look, Mamka, little Modya is so happy, he wet hispants.

[no one laughs, a very awkward silence]

[ENTER CUI, who stands in the doorway shaking his head as M rushes past him with another opened champagne bottle in his hand and almost knocks down the ENTERing STASSOV]

SASHA:Modya! No!

[SASHA moves to follow M, but is restrained by NADIA]

NADIA:Korsya, after him!


[RK and B hurry out after M. MOLAS tries to follow them, but NADIA restrains him and places the weeping SASHA in his arms]

STASSOV:I've missed something. What's going on?

MOLAS: [ingenuously] Modeste Petrovich is so happy, he wet his pants.

CUI:Happy? Nonsense! He's so jealous of Korsya's IVAN premiering at the Marinsky, he'll be drunk for a month.

[SAHSA suddenly wails loudly against MOLAS's chest and EXIT STASSOV hurriedly, followed by MOLAS solicitously ushering the weeping SASHA offstage]

NADIA: Cesar Antonovich, how can you? [EXITING after SASHA and MOLAS] Sasha?

CUI:[to RINA, self-righteously] The truth is the truth!

RINA:[swigging on a champagne bottle and curtseying elaborately with a big mock smile on her face] The truth, Cesar Antonovich, you STINK!



Before rise: the "Promanade" from PICTURES is heard. At rise, "The Tuileries," and "Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells" from the same score accompany sounds of ballroom dancing off stage.


January 1873. BORODIN's study in his spacious apartments at the Academy of Science following the premiere of IVAN at the Marinsky. Five years have passed since the Borodins moved into this apartment next to the laboratory at the Academy, but it still looks as though they have just arrived. In the middle of the room stands an open trunk that the Borodins call their "foreign trunk," half-packed with summer clothes, suitcases strewn about on government property furniture--a desk, a piano, and several sofas submerged under papers, books and a pile of winter coats, mufflers, and hats of the guests. One of these sofas faces a wall, apparently to make room for a large, half-painted wardrobe, the painter's having left their brushes, etc. behind. A door is off it's hinges and leaning against a wall.

A ballet of masked young men and women costumed as Italian abbots, Turks, Spaniards, walking playing cards, and harlequins ENTER in couples, waltzing gaily in from the ballroom off stage, sipping champagne and indulging in brief clandestine sexual charades, kissing briefly and EXITing again, leaving their champagne glasses behind and giggling at the sound of another champagne-sipping couple entering to use the study for a similar purpose.

One of the earliest amorous couples is really a trio, made up of the masked ALEXY BORODIN dressed as a mandarin dragged reluctantly into the room by two costumed female students who kiss him several times before he escapes, and EXIT B with giggling students following after him.

One of the later couples amorously involved on the back of the coat-strewn sofa facing the wall, suddenly shrieks in surprise, gazing down over the back of the soafa for a moment, and says "EXCUSE US!" before EXITing giggling as ENTER RINA followed almost immediately by B, cuddling a big CAT.

RINA is rather incredibly costumed as a seductive cat, herself, with revealing decollatage, masked, smoking a cigarette in a long silver holder and carrying a glass of champagne. She has drunk a bit too much and has a crying-jag. B, still masked, is very calm almost lethargic, very used to this sort of behavior from his wife.

RINA: [weeping] No! NO! NO! I can't! I won't any longer. I'm going back to Mother's, to Moscow. This climate depresses me! Oh, my asthm! I can hardly breath! [tossing summer clothes out of the trunk] I'll pack my winter things in the morning.

B: [almost indifferently] Rina, darling, please. They're just students. Children.

RINA:Some children! Not with tits like theirs!

B: [calmly caressing the cat] How can you imagine such lovely young things could be interested in an old fart like me? My hair's thinning; I shed like a dog. No one says anymore that I have a poor shock of hair; they say, Your bald patch is not so big. [seductively] Whereas, you in that revealing costume; you're the envy of every young woman on the floor and the object of every young officer's desire.

RINA: [incapable of resisting sexual flattery] Oh, Lexy, I couldn't blame you if you ran off with one of your students. I know I'm a terrible wife. Look at this room. We've been living here for five years,and it looks as though we just moved in. How can anyone compose in here? [tossing clothes and books about] Our foreign trunk still unpacked in the middle of the floor, and the cook using sketches of your songs to cover jars of sour cream and line Vaska's cat-box. [sneezing] Will, you get that fucking animal out of here! I can't breath! Yougive her more loving than you do me. And your adoring students too, Coming and going at all times of day, sleeping on sofas overnight. And your relatives, and friends of relatives too, and jobless musicians, all presuming on your generosity, your unrelenting hospitality, using our apartments as their own combination commisary, brasserie-charcuterie, and rent-free home away from home!

[RINA wails like a cat, and B shoos VASKA offstage and embraces the amorous RINA]

B: Come, come, my little Vaska! The apartment's supplied by the Government after all; there's plenty of room for everyone. Anyway, you know you can't stand to be alone with your insomnia; this way at least you never lack for someone to talk to. Cheer up! It's a wonderful party and all your doing, all your hard work.

[B kisses the petulant but seductively submissive RINA]

RINA:I love your balding head. Let's make love shall we?Right here and now!

B:[smiling] With guests in the next room?

RINA:We'll keep our masks on! I've never made love to a Mandarin before.

B:Nor I a cat.

RINA: I wouldn't bet on that!

B:[devilishly] Confucius say, "Variety is spice of life!"

[RINA growls like a cat, and attacks just as

ENTER RK dressed as a very regal Ivan the Terrible and a pregnant NADIA equally regally dressed as the Queen of Hearts]

NADIA: [patting her belly] Careful now, Rina darling, or in a few months you'll look like the Queen of hearts!

[RINA and B untangle]

B: [not at all flustered] Come in, my friends! Come in! Rina is simply suffering a little bout of melacholy [making the tipling sign behind her back].

RK: What's this? Melancholy on the night of thegreatest triumph of the Mighty Five?

NADIA: The triumphant premiere of IVAN THE TERRIBLE? We hoped to catch you two alone long enough to thank you again for this magnificent masked ball in Korsya's honor. We are blessed indeed to have friends like you.

[RINA and NADIA embrace warmly]

RINA:Careful! Don't squash little Korsya!

RK:[embracing B] What more could we ask for? The triumphant premiere of IVAN and the incredible reception abroad of our Gania variations . . .

B:Which for some myterious reason, Cesar Antonovich tells me, Western Europeans have re-christened "CHOPSTICKS." In honor of which I appear before you tonight as a Mandarin. [bowing deeply] Confucius say: "Man who eat with CHOPSTICKS get both belly and ear full."

NADIA:By the way, where is Cesar Antonovich? He proclaims Korsya the leader of the new Russian music from the stage of the Marinsky, and then fails to turn up at the champagne celebration in the composer's honor? I'll never forgive him if he doesn't arrive soon.

B:He's probably still at the Opera House composing his review for the morning paper. But what's happened to Modya? Haven't seen him since supper.

RINA:He didn't eat a thing.

NADIA:Too busy guzzling champagne. It was cruel of you, Rina, to seat him beside Sasha.

RINA:But why? They're still friends aren't they? After all, Modya was best man at the wedding.

N:You know how she still feels about him. Thank god, he hasn't asked her to dance in his condition.

RINA:He hasn't asked anyone to dance. Says his uniform's too tight.

N:The truth is he's having trouble enough standing,much less dancing. Though it is true, his uniform is too tight; he's so bloated from drinking.

RINA: And his nose is redder than ever.

N:And to think he once had the naive Purgold sisters believing it was frost-bitten on parade while a cadet in the Guards.

RK: That was when he was still hiding his drinking problem.

RINA:Well, he's not hiding it anymore. Not since the wedding.

RINA: Trading most of his belongings for drinks, even his formal clothes which he'd always been so meticulous about. He's wearing that worthless old uniform because he couldn't afford a costume.

B: And spending all of his time in taverns because he can't bear to be alone in the flat since you moved out, Korsya.

RK:Come, come, you exaggerate! Surely . . . Stassov tells me he's very popular among the university students, that he plays for them at student benefits.

B:Yes, and free of charge, though he's as poor and needy as any student, himself. That's how starved he is for attention. And then only if he isn't too drunk to show up. Why, just the other day, at two in the afternoon, I found him dressed in a frock coat asleep in a chair at the kitchena table covered with empty bottles and remanants of food. There was nothing else in the apartment. And when I finally woke him, he immediately began bellowing Ruski Chai and Swiss on Rye just like in the old days. I tell you it was so pathetic, I wept.

RK:It's not that bad, surely. I've been so busy with the Opera and my work at the Conservatory . . .

B: Just the other night I rescued him from a tavernnearly in rags, his hair disheveled and his face swollen from alcohol, guzzling vodka with some shady character, a Gypsy street singer who acompanies herself on a harp.

RK: I can't believe it-the once impeccably dressed aristocrat, the heel-clicking man of society, scented, fastidious . . .

B: When his head cleared enough to recognize me, he was as gay, amiable, and witty as ever. I managed to get him to work for a few days. But before the week was out, he was back at the tavern with his dissolute friends, drinking heavily until daybreak, suffering the most horrific attacks of delirum tremens. He's been missing work at the Forestry Department for periods of as long as three and four weeks at a time. I'm afraid only a production of BORIS can rescue our friend from total physical and mental disintegration.

N:Thank God, Sasha married Molas and not Modya.

B:I wonder? Perhaps if Modya had a wife . . .

RINA:Precisely what he needs--a good wife to provide an orderly home and warm bed to keep him out of taverns and the arms of disreputable gysies.

RK:Perhaps. But, I know Modya. He's married to his music . . .

N:And the brandy bottle.

B: That's probably where he's disappeared, to his favorite tavern and his street singer.

RINA:Or passed out in one of the bedrooms.

RK: Alexy's right; we must get BORIS produced at all costs, or lose a great raw talent to disillusionment and drink!

B:Perhaps now that IVAN is such a huge success . . .

RK:Yes! Yes! Cesar Antonovich must call for the mounting of BORIS in his morning review. We must speak to him before the MESSENGER goes to press.

B: Perhaps he's already arrived. He promised we'd never recognize him in his costume.

RINA:But can we depend on him? He doesn't hide how he feels about Modya's dissipation.

N:He called him a driveling idiot to his face the other night, saying he knew all along Modya would throw away what little talent he had.

RK: We must convince Cesar Antonovich that it'a matter of life and death!

B:Yes, Cesar Antonovich is poor Modya's only hope.

[EXIT ALL, leaving partially drunk champagne glasses scattered about as off stage, music and dancing continues]

[After some moments, M's tossled head rises above the back of the coat-strewn couch which faces away from the audience and toward a wall. He holds his head, and raises an empty champagne bottle to his lips and, disappointed, abandons it as he rises from the couch tossing coats aside and holding his head. He is dressed in his old military cadet uniform which does not quite fit him anymore and is opened at the collar and looks slept-in. Searching about for more to drink, he downs the abandoned glasses of champagne like a man in a desert]

[APPLAUSE offstage as the music momentarily stops]

M:[to the audience bowing as to an audience at the Marinsky] Thank you! Thank you all, for that delightful applause. I can't tell how happy I am to be here before you at the great Marinsky Theater for the premiere of my friend's magnificent opera [hiccupping as the MUSIC begins again offstage]. Pardon me, my medicine you know, anodyne against the ravages of a contagiously fatal disease. An affliction so grievous, it's better never to have been born than to succumb to its deadly terrors. But I cannot help myself, my envy of Korsya, the success of his IVAN, his marriage, his happiness. It would be a simple thing to accept this envy were it not for my affliction, no less than my envy of good old Molasses and his happiness with the woman I might have married, which, cynically speaking might indeed have provided the cure for my affliction, just as had my ghostly loved one lived and we'd married and . . . Ah, my dears, but it is annoying about these marriages. For you see . . . you see . . . well, a man like me, fitted by nature to be independent and free, should certainly be above such petty, domestic envy. A man like me should provide for his needs self-sufficiently, living on spiritual fare, never seeking to be fed with the rest, drawn like them to earthly nourishment, but rather to do my level best to be totally free and independent.

[M strikes some chords on the piano as ENTER CUI, unseen by M and unrecognizable as himself, for he is costumed as Baba Yaga, carrying a wooden hayfork. He leans casually against the furniture and quietly listens and watches as M continues]

M:A superior man's strength should lie within himself, not in his relationship to others,regardless how close others may be. If his perpetual center of gravity depends on them, he's inevitably tossed to and fro, is constantly spun round and round on love's perpetual Merry-go-round--exquisite joy, unconsionable sorrow, here today gone tomorrow, rejoicing to the skies on Sunday, bluer than the bluest on Monday. Now he beats the drum and sings; hope in him springs eternal. Now the doldrums get him down and hope takes the first train out of town. Such is the fate of those who care, who wear their hearts upon their shirtsleeves, whose happiness in life depends on inner accord with certain friends indispensible to them, and whose most casual whims, most quixotic moods, like a fluttering heartbeat or shortness of breath, are treated as matters of life and death.

Some call love the supremeest happiness. Generally, love is rather well-thought-of. But to my way of thinking, this bliss we call love 's an affliction a bloody crucifixion, a plague sent down by the god's above--a travesty, a tragedy. The only reason the gods gave us love in the first place is that misery loves company! Yes, love is an affliction, a most pitiful addiction. It picks you up only to knock you down. One day you're walking on a cloud, the next, might just as well be six feet under ground. And those who suffer most from this affliction are those of us in love with . . . GHOSTS--a disastrous affliction whose only anodyne is total oblivion with fine French wine?

[M drinks as CUI claps. M is not even taken aback by Baba Yaga's presence, almost as though he expected her, drunkenly imagining that he is suffering an attack of delirium tremens, which he has come to think of as the visitation of friendly old ghosts]

M:A toast! A toast to the heavens and the comforting ghost of delerium tremens! [drinking] Welcome, Baba Yaga, my darling. A little ahead of schedule this evening, eh? So far, only had one or two bottles of champagne. [offering CUI a partially empty champagne glass] My old reginmental commander would be proud of me. Yes indeed! Old General Sutkov was always displeased with cadets who drank common vodka. Nothing would gain his esteem quite so much as the sight of a young coronet drunk on champagne returning to barracks sprawled in an open carriage drawn by one's own pure-bred trotters. Wine, women, song and the honor of the regiment were all that mattered in life in those happy days. Carefree days. Can you imagine? I actually resigned my commission for music of all things. What a mistake! I certainly make a much better cadet than I do a musician. [saluting] Never should have resigned! Never! I'll drink to that! [drinking] I've been looking forward to your company this evening, my darling; the others are all such bores. You're the only one who understands me anymore. Come, let me kiss you on the lips. I love you, you boozy old whore.

[M lunges at CUI, who sidesteps agilely as M sprawls headlong onto a couch for a moment, derrier up, CUI poking him with the wooden hayfork]

M: [leaping up holding his behind] Angels and ministers of grace defend me!

CUI:[in a disguised voice, histrionically raising his cape like bats wings] I have come down from Bald Mountain, Modeste Petrovich Mussorgsky, to show you your future. Are you ready to stare fate in the eye?

M:[lunging at CUI again, who evades him again] Come come, Baba! Give Modya the kiss of death! Ah, but you are only flirting with me again, you old cocotte you! Well, then have a drink with me. To celebrate the premiere of IVAN THE TERRIBLE, eh?

CUI:[in his own voice] I'll drink to that. [raising his mask and lifting a champagne glass] So long as I don't have to kiss you, Modinka.

M:[amazed, hardly believing his eyes] Is it really you Cesar Antonovich? Not an hallucination! Cesar Antonovich masquerading as Baba Yaga? [suspiciously] Or is it you, Baba Yaga, masquerading as Cesar Antonovich?

CUI:No, it's me, old sot! Come late to the ball!I just happened to have been discussing with the directors of the Marinsky . . .

M:My old friend, let me embrace you. Kiss me!

CUI:[evading M once again and grabbing him by the coat tail to keep him from propelling himself into the audience] I say I was discussing with Napravnik the possibilty of opening the Marinsky next season with BORIS GODUNOV!

M:[oblivious to what CUI has just said] [to the audience] If he is not Baba Yaga, how is it he keeps disappearing?

CUI:[taking M by the shoulders, turning him around and shouting into his face] Don't you understand, you imbecilic sot? Napravnik wants to do BORIS! Next season! On the strength of the success of IVAN!

M:[confused] BORIS? At the Marinsky? Next season?

CUI:Yes, so long as you agree to extensive cuts and allow Korsya to make your barbarous music presentable to the public.

[M bear hugs and kisses CUI and unceremoniouslydrops him, suddenly completely sober and deadly serious]

M:I know Cesar Antonovich that you insult me from affection like a worried brother, ashamed to take pen in hand to describe the rubbish written by someone with druken eyes and brains, inspired by the fumes of delirium tremens . . .

CUI:As you know, I do not have any particular faith in your talent, although I don't have any doubt of it either . . .

M: Then for God's sake keep a tight rein on me! Don't let me kick over the traces of whatever talent I have left! [pacing, his hands behind his back] It's time to start my brain working again! I've done nothing this past year but drink and feel sorry for myself. It's my Russian laziness! But now I want to do things. I must do things, and one can do things only when one feels well. In a delirious condition one can only tremble, create fantasies, and squander one's strength in vain. And so now I must have recourse to every kind of antidote.

CUI: The antidote is no more drinking--none! Your rule must be: Everything for the physical cure!

M: No drinking--getting as much rest as possible, gymnastics, cold baths. These must be my salvation. [raising an empty champagne glass to CUI] To Baba Yaga, who I thought had come to give me the kiss of death and who instead has given me the kiss of life.

CUI: [raising an empty glass] To BORIS and a newseason! Come let's tell them all the good news!

M:Korsya! Alexy! My BORIS. The Marinsky's doing my BORIS!

[EXIT all as the Overture to BORIS pervades the house and a collective cry of joy is heard off stage]

COMPANY:Long live Mussorgsky's BORIS GODUNOV! May his reign be long and prosperous!

[CURTAIN and segue immediately into next scene.]

[The CURTAIN remains closed during the following scene giving the crew an opportunity to mount the Tavern set for the final scene of the play]


Backstage at the Mirinsky a year later, February 6, 1874, following the premiere of BORIS. The offstage cheering of the previous scene becomes the cheering of the opera audience behind the CLOSED CURTAIN as the action of the play continues on the apron of the stage.

CAST: [offstage] Brava! Brava! Bravo! Bravo! etc.

[ENTER VASILYEV in his Pimen costume, and non-speaking EXTRAS appropriately costumed--the Prima Donna, Boris, Shuisky, etc. They ENTER from behind the closed curtain as though returning from repeated curtain calls, breathless, all in a flutter, returning with bouquets as the opera audience continues to cheer off stage]

[VLADIMIR VASILYEV is played by the same actor who plays Borodin. He is a large bearded basso with a booming speaking voice as well, very much the huge, brawling, passionately histrionic Russian of the popular imagination]

[ENTER M from the wings, right, formally dressed, wearing tails, cape, lavender gloves and carrying a top hat and cane, very dandified and looking the picture of health. He is followed immediately by NAPRAVNIK and they are arguing]

[EDUARD FRANZOVICH NAPRAVNIK, conductor and member of the Board of Directors of the Marinsky theater is played by the same actor who plays Stassov. He is a Czech of French descent, beardless, and has an acent]

NAP:Mais Monsieur it is highly irregular! Tradition dictates that the laurel wreath be presented to the composer on stage!

M:Say what you will, Napravnik, my friend. It is your theater, of course. Nevertheless, I will only accept the laurel if the presentation is made dans le chambre verde. Under no circumstaces will I appear on stage! I've already sent intructions to the young ladies.

NAP:But I beg you to reconsider! The tradition! It must be on stage!

M:You will find me dans le chambre verde should you change your mind! [rushing to singers] Vasilyev! Vasilyev! Never before has there been such singing! You are a genuius, my friend! The greatest basso in all the wolrd!

[M flamboyantly congratulates all the singers, shaking hands and kissing the men as well as the ladies as NAPRAVNIK flutters about nervously]

M:[to VASILYEV] Hurry and change! I'll meet you in the green room. We can all go together to Alexy's for Champagne and supper after the presentation.

NAP: Mais Monsieur! C'est impossible!

VASSILYEV: But what about our friends at the tavern, your honor?

M:At the Maly Yaraslevetz? Ah, I miss them, but you know what happens if I have one drink.

[EXIT M and VASILYEV into the wings, left]

NAP:Mais Monsieur, c'est impossible! Merde! Merde! Merde! [to the singers, yelling] We have no choice. To the Green Room! Vite! Vite!

[ENTER RK, MOLAS, NADIA, RINA and a preganat SASHA from the wings, right, dressed formally. The ladies are bearing the

traditional romantic expression of admiration for an artist, the laurel wreath decorated with ribbons on which melodies from the opera are embroidered: ON TO NEW SHORES! . . . TO NEW TRIUMPHS . GLORY TO YOUR BORIS! . . . etc.]

RK: [outraged] Why was the laurel wreath not presented on stage? Where's the composer? This is outrageous!

NAP:[his patience gone and his dander up] The composer is in le chambre verde, where the wreath will be presented, tout suite if you will be so kind as to follow, Monsieur.

SAHSA:The Green Room!

RINA: Unheard of!

NADIA: An insult not only to the composer but to the entire Mighty Five!

RK:I consider myself personally insulted, Monsieur. I don't mind telling you!


MOLAS:Darling, don't excite yourself!

NADIA:Unheard of!

RINA: An insult to the women of Russia!

NAPRAVNIK:But gentlemen, ladies, I . . .

[ENTER CUI and B. B is formally attired and CUI is in his dress uniform and cape, saber at his side, and is uncharacteristically cheerful]

B:I found him! I found him! But he says . . .

CUI:What's all the excitement? Alexy's about to have a fit!

RK:An insult to all of us!

NADIA: To the Mighty Five!

SASHA: To the new Russian Music!

NAP:[to CUI, as to a rational man] Your honor, it is the composer's wish.

CUI:What is the composer's wish?

RK:Napravnik is presenting the wreath in the Green Room instead of on stage. Can you believe it?

NAP:But it is the composer's wish. What can I do? Mon dieu!

CUI:Where is the composer?

NAP: In the Green Room.

CUI:Good! You say it's his wish? Well then. Whatare we waiting for? On to the Green Room!

RK:You can't be serious.

B:[to RINA] He can't be serious. Can he?

RINA:Of course he's serious, you twit. An insult to Russian womanhood!

CUI:Russian womanhood, notwithstanding, I came back specificaly to warn Modeste against appearing on stage. It could be very ugly. There's a lot of resentment out there, and not only among the critics.

SASHA:Nonsense! You heard the applause.

NADIA:There were uncountable curtain calls!

CUI:Yes, for the singers, for the performance, not the opera.

B:Not the opera?

SASHA:You're mad Cesar Antonovich. I always knew it! You're jealousy has driven you mad!

MOLAS:Darling, control yourself. The baby . . .

CUI: [haughtilly] Russian audiences are used to hearing certain kinds of music. Music they've rightfully come to expect from a work so praised in advance by eminent muscicians like yourselves.

RK:Musicians like ourselves? What about you! Yousaid yourself a thousand times that BORIS was new . . . revolutionary . . .

B:. . . the new Russian National Music, you said.

[ENTER M from the wings, right, unnoticed by his friends as he stands listening among the singers]

CUI: That's precisely the problem; it's too new, too revolutionary.

SASHA:Too new? This is absurd!

MOLAS:Don't excite yourself. The baby . . .

CUI:The choppy recitative, the chorus's playing as important a role as the characters, all this left the audience more bewildered than pleased. They'll murder him if he appears on stage.

RK: Nonsense! You're exaggerating!

CUI:It'll be my RATCLIFFE premiere all over again, only worse; there are rumors the royal family'sdispleased.

NAPRAVNIK:The Royal family?

CUI:Yes. . . . with the opera's politically subversive themes.

SASHA:Politically subversive?

B: Preposterous!

RK: Impossible!

MOLAS:Sasha, the baby . . .

NAPRAVNIK: I'm afraid this matter will have to be reviewed before any further productions can be approved.

CUI:[smiling] Perhaps with some judicious, possibly even ruthless cutting . . .

SASHA:This is tragic! Tragic! I can't believe it!

MOLAS:The baby . . .

SASHA:Oh for God's sake, shut up about the baby!

RINA:Wait till the women's league hears of this!

B:Yes, wait till the women's league hears of this!

NADIA:Korsya, darling, do something!

RK:Poor Modya!

B: Poor Russia!

NAP:[very worried] [screaming at the ladies] To the Green Room. Get it over with. Vite! Vite! [wringing his hands] The Royal family displeased! O Boze moi! Mon Dieu! Boze moi!

CUI:Luckily, our composer has heeded my preachments on the virtue of non-public presentations of such romantic expressions of admiration for a "beginner's" work.

SASHA:[amazed] Beginner's work!!!

CUI:It must have taken a remarkable effort for a show-off like Modya to forego the limelight.

SASHA:Show-off? If Modya chose the Green Room, it was out of modesty.

CUI: [cynically] . . . recalling no doubt my experience with Ratcliffe. Besides, he's as aware of the defects of BORIS as any of us, and is also aware that our efforts to have it produced in spite of its defects was literally to save his life.

B and SASHA: Defects?

CUI:Yes, choppy recitative and vagueness of scattered musical ideas make the opera a potpourri. Often with only the slenderest musical interest.

SASHA:Cesar Antonovich Cui may you rot in hell!

MOLAS:The baby, the baby . . .

SASHA:If you don't shut up I'll let you have the baby!

CUI:Not to mention his barbaric preference for coarse splashes of color in the tone painting. It's his immaturity as a composer, his lack of self-criticism, his hap-hazard self-complacency, and slapdash way of composing . . .

B:Enough! Enough! You're not writing crticism now,Cesar Antonovich. We're hear to present the laurel wreath to a composer of the new Russian National Music.

RK:Granted its defects, you're not thinking of pointing them out in your morning review? Think of our cause, of the Mighty Five . B:. . . of poor Modya!

CUI:[pompously] Truth is truth! And I above all, speak and write the truth as I see it and let the chips fall where they may!

SASHA:Truth! Truth! Jealousy, you mean!

B:[taking SASHA aside] Hush, you'll only make it worse for Modya.

M:[shouting] No need to come to my defense Alexadra Nicolayevna! The truth? Beginner's work, is it? [pushing his way through the crowd accompanied by a gasp from the spectators] Complacency? Slapdash way of composing? Immaturity? Whose? Whose, I would like to know!

RK: Modya! Pay no attention. Everyone loved your music.

B: You heard the applause, Modya!!

M:I'll not be patronized any longer. Not by any of you! The Mighty Five eh? "Efforts to have Boris produced to save my life, eh? Granted its defects?" Korsya? This from you? I can understand Cesar Antonovich . . . the unjust reception of his Ratcliffe has soured him against life itself. And Naparavnik, his cowardly fear of offending the authorities. But you, my friend, my brother, you?"Granted it's defects?" How could you? The Mighty Five? There is no Mighty Five. Nor any Invincible Troika either. Damn you all! All of you! It took the production of Boris to expose your true selves to me. Boris is all that the Mighty Five could hope to achieve in expressing our principles. It took BORIS to teach me who my friends are. They're not here! No not here!

[EXIT M through the crowd on the run, followed by B and RK]

RK:Modya! Wait! You don't understand . . .

B:Modya, my friend!

SASHA:He's right! He's right! The only friend he has is his own genius! And it's killing him!

[EXIT all, left, save CUI and NAPRAVNIK]

CUI:[laughing] Some people have such an exaggerated self-esteem, they simply cannot tolerate the truth and must be coddled like spoiled children. Rememberhow they pelted me with vegetables at my premiere, Napravnik, eh? And whistled through their keys? Ah it was delightful. My disdain for the Russian audience was demonstrably vindicated. What a pleasure it was the next morning to annihilate my own opera in print, requesting the philistine audience to stay away from any subsequentproductions.

NAP: . . . of which there were very few.

CUI:And BORIS? Perhaps even fewer, eh? [laughs and EXIT all, right, as the curtain rises]


At RISE: selections from NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN accompanies revelry at the Maly Yaroslavetz Restaurant--not the main room of the restaurant where the after-theater crowd is dining, but an upstairs tavern area. Tables with bottles and pates of sausage, cheese, and cucumber. Muzhiks doing Rusian dances etc, a sort of MUZHIK BALLET with, if convenient, VASILYEV and others wrestling with and feeding drinks to an actor costumed as a chained bear. The bear, of course, always wins.

M in formal clothes sits at a table adorned with his top hat, cape and cane and a bottle of cognac--newspapers scattered at his feet. He seems to be reading an early edition of a newspaper, his back resting against the tilted chair; however, he has temporarily passed out and sways from side to side occasionally, snorting loudly.
While downing tea glasses of cognac or vodka, or bottles of wine or beer, men regale the company with stories of their past exploits which bring forth roars of laughter.

VASILYEV: [histrionically, in his shirt-sleeves now, pouring a beer stein full of vodka, his magnificent booming basso voice, hoarse from drinking, holding everyone's attention] . . . and when they took him on the two thousand mile sled trip to Siberia, he begged the authorites not to allow his wife to follow him! [to MUZHIK] Tell them, Callistratus!

[roar of laughter]

MUZHIK: (played by same actor that plays RK transformed into a rough, drunken peasant) [weeping] Ah Siberia--the white hell. The horizonless tundra, the hard labor, the miserable fate of all of us unfortunates exiled there. I'd go back tomorrow if my wife would let me! But she can't bear to see me happy.

[another roar of laughter, and the MUZHIK sings Song #12, CALISTRATUS, M's first attempt at comedy--a study in the style of folk music, 22 May 186]

I can still hear the song my mother sang,
Song my mother sang
When she rocked her baby boy to sleep,
Her baby boy to sleep.
"Little Calistratus, happy you shall be.
When you grow up, a free man you will be,
When grown up, a happy man and free."
And my little mother's prophecy,
By grace of God, alas, has come to pass.
By grace of God, her prophecy
Has come to pass.

No one's happier than Calistratus.
Who's freer than Calistratus is free?
No one freer than Claistratus! No siree!
The running waters of the streams to wash in,
My fingers to comb my beard and hair,
Berries of the fields, fruits in season.

[he feasts off other patron's platters and [gulps down their drinks]
God's plentiful bounty everywhere.
Berries of the field, juicy fruit of the season,
Penniless am I,and not a care!
At home, my old lady scrubs, cooks and mends

The filthy rags she and her brood of little ones wear.
Even so, she's better dressed than me,
With fancy slippers on her bunioned feet--
Though both have lost their soles.
Even so, sings she, "Calistratus Junior, you will happy be
When you grow up. So happy and so free."

[general laughter]

VASILYEV: Ah, no! Mother's prophesies are not mocked! Are we not happy? Are we not free? Yesterday we were serfs; life's gates were locked! Today we're free. Muzhiks, raise a glass and sing with me!

[Raising his glass VAS sings Song #2, THE HAPPY HOUR, a drinking song written by M at nineteen]

COMPANY: [singing]

Raise your glasses high and drink 'em down!
It's past the witching hour; let's forget the clock!
Glasses up and slam 'em down,
Till crowing of the cock!
Drink 'em down and drown your sorrow!
What's the difference, friends?
Here today and gone tomorrow;
Who cares if the whole world ends?
Raise your glasses high and drink 'em down!
To hell with worry; dance and sing around the clock.
Glasses up and slam 'em down!
We'll make the rafter's rock!
VASILYEV: [emptying out his pockets] Barkeeper! Vodka!
Drinks all 'round!
Can't take it with you underground;
The rubles we save, won't buy shit in the grave!
Let's raise hell while still around!
Let's live it up, bring the roof down!
Hell with tomorrow!
Dance and sing around the clock!
Glasses up and slam 'em down!
Let's make the rafters rock!
[ENTER GYPSY, a dark-skinned, dark haired, street singer carrying a hand harp. She is played by the same actress who plays NADIA]

MUZHIK:It's Gypsy, the street singer! Made enough kopecks in the gutter, Little Mother, [making an obsene gesture] to buy a melanchioly Muzhik a drink?

[GYPSY pushes the MUZHIK roughly aside amid approving laughter, moves to the bar, tosses down a kopek and drinks down a cup of vodka in one tilt]

VASILYEV: Come to drink toasts to the Maestro's premiere performance of BORIS?

GYPSY:Perhaps he'll compose a role for his Gypsy one day, eh? How would a street singer go over at the Marinsky, eh, Gentlemen? [raising her skirts and showing her legs]

[Boisterous cheering and applause and shouts of "Brava" and "Prima Donna" as GYPSY accompanying herself on her hand harp, dances and sings Song # 19, HOPAK, 1866]


Hey! Hop, hop, hop, Hopak!
I'm married to a Cossack!
Like the devil, his beard is red;
He's old and weak, no good in bed.
Still,he's my fate until I'm dead.

So when he goes to fetch the water,
I leave the children with my daughter,
Put on my shoes and come to town,
Raise a glass and drink it down,
Sing and dance and fool around.
Can't keep ME down!

One drink's never quite enough;
Need a few to strut my stuff.
Then I dance around the clock
Till the crowing of the cock!

[MUZHIK crows like a rooster and makes an obsene gesture amid cheers and laughter]


To hell with, hubby! I don't care!
"Scream and rant and pull your red hair!
I'm your wife, you're stuck with me!
House, feed and put up with me!

Old Devil! Take pity on the kids,
If not on me. They're hungry!
If you can't fulfill your family duty,
Don't blame your wife for peddling her beauty!
Old devil! Till you earn our daily bread,
Put tail 'tween legs and hang your head!

Don't just sit and pine for me;
Take your children on your knee!
When baby cries, her cradle rock
Till crowing of the cock!"

[MUZHIK crows again and laughter]


Would you believe, not long ago
I was pure as driven snow?
[general laughter]
So shy, whene'er I'd sit and sew
I'd cover up my front window.
But through the curtain I would call
In summer, winter, spring or fall,
Call to Simon or Ivan:
"Cossack, put your caftan on!
Let's take a little walk to town,
Sing and dance and fool around,
Raise a glass or two and drink 'em down!

Hey! Hop, hop, what a life!
I'm a lazy Cossak's wife!
Like a devil, his beard is red;
He's old and weak, no good in bed!
Hey! What the hell! It's FATE! That's life!

MUZHIK:And so is the Maestro your fate. And he's a drunkard too, and his BORIS is a failure. Ah, fate is cruel! Hey, Maestro! Does your cock still crow? [he crows again and laughter]

GYPSY:[concerned, to VASILYEV] There are rumors in the street . . . is it true?

VASILYEV:[reading the review from one of the newspapers scattered at the still sleeping M's feet] ] Listen to what his great friend CUI has to say! " C'est la musique des cochers. Music for illiterate muzhiks. It is not devoid of some good harmonies and thoughts, but as a whole it is rather ridiculous. We must not be too hard on Mussorgsky. To be indignant with him is impossible, but not to pity him is difficult."

GYPSY:[reading from another newspaper] "The singing, of course, was magnificent, especially Vasilyev's Pimen. [nodding toward VASILYEV who takes a histrionic bow] But the music itself is narrow. It glorifies what is coarse and ugly. Mussorgsky has been too easily led astray by the absurd theories of his set and his belief in his own genius."

VASLIYEV: To hell with the critics. May they all burn in hell. BORIS is magnificent! I'm honored to have been allowed to sing it. [to the comotose M, bowing and saluting with his stein] Thank you maestro for giving operatic bassos all over the world this wonderful role to sing.

GYPSY:But will you ever be allowed to sing it again? Will the directotrs of the Marinsky allow it?

VASSILYEV: Ah, Napravnik is fierce! He keeps you tight as a string! Try to miss a rehearsal and he'll pick you to pieces. Modeste Petrovich attended every single one; he was brought back to life for the rehearsals of BORIS, stopped drinking completely, encouraged and praised the artists and orchestra and did not argue against Napravnik's ruthless and inartistic cuts. I tell you, Napravnik has no testicles if he gives in to the critics--the people deserve better! To BORIS and the people! [emptying his stein of vodka with one gulp, to laughter and applause] Brothers I love Lent! Then all you do is sing in church Gospodi pa mili! Slava! Slava! With no Napravnik to watch you or smell your breath. [singing from BORIS] O Gospodi bozhe moi! Gospodi bozhe moi!


MOLAS:There he is.

SASHA: My God, Modya . . .

[They hurry to M's table and SHASA begins gently toshake M awake]

SASHA:Modya! Wake up, Modya.

GYPSY: Hey, lady, don't bother his honor; let him be!

VASILYEV: [laughing warm-heartedly] He's composing an opera from the daily news.

[MOLAS begins to shake M as SASHA looks on]

M:[groggily] Alexy? Morning already? Ruski Chai and Swiss on rye. One for all and all for one.

MOLAS:No Modya, not Alexy! Molasses, remember! Molasses!

M:Molasses? For breakfast? No Ruski chai, no Swiss on rye? [grasping his brandy bottle] Molasses for breakfast, yuk! [drinking]

SASHA:We've come to take you home, Modya.

MOLAS:Plenty of Ruski Chai and Swiss on rye at home!

M:[recognizing MOLAS] Molasses? Molya? Have a drink, my friend!

SASHA:Modya, we've come to take you home with us!

M:Sasha, is it you? Here? [recognizing SASHA for the first time and immediately straightening himself up as best he can] Sasha, darling? And the happy groom. Welcome to Maly Yaraslavets's. [shouting] Drinks all aroud! [very solicitously] Come sit down. Here, Sasha, sit. What time is it? [to MOLAS] Why is she out so late, eh? If you don't take better care of her and the baby . . .

MOLAS:But I . . . she won't . . .

M:[to SASHA] Your voice . . . it's raw out. But where's Nadia? [to MOLAS] And Korsya and Alexy?

MOLAS:They're insulted you didn't come to their champagne supper.

SASHA:[chiding] The guest of honor, Modya . . .

M:Ah, I love them like my own family. All of you. But I could not. My friends are here.

SASHA:[distastefully] Friends? These . . .

MOLAS:Hush, darling.

M:I must be here with my people. Not with critics and Conservatory professors. [to MOLAS] You understand Molya; I love you all, but . . . Here, kiss me!

[kisses MOLAS and moves to kiss SASHA but stops short]

SASHA:We've come to take you home with us, Korsya. To care for you, to . . . Nikki has agreed. He loves you as much as I.

MOLAS:[naively sincere] When the baby comes, where could we find a better playmate for him?


M:I'll buy him . . . her a hobby horse for Christmas! Ah, God has blessed me with such friends as you, Molya, and you my beautiful Sasha. But I could never impose on you. And forgive me, isn't it about time you stopped treating me like a child who has to be watched over so he won't fall. [picking up a newspaper at his feet] Today I have wakened from a heavy sleep where I was assailed by extremely tormenting dreams, by hallucinations of fame and fortune so sweet, yet terrible. So intoxicating, that to die in such a state would have seemed an easy thing. But to wake from it . . . [waving the newspaper] Ah, this, fortunately is the end of my suffering; [drinking from the bottle]

SASHA:But your music is a holy thing, and you defile it and yourself by your attraction to . . . to . . . [she wants to say drunks but cannot] . . .

GYPSY:To what, deary?

SASHA: . . .to limited people!

GYPSY:I'll drink to that! To the limited people of the world! [drinks]

COMPANY:[glasses raised] Tell me who you love, and I'll tell you who you are!

SASHA:You're sinking, Modya! Can't you see!

M: Not at all! Given a talent, a man does not sink if his brain

is working. And as for my being attracted by "limited people," all I can answer is . . . [raising his cognac bottle to the crowd] . . . tell me who you love . . .

COMPANY:. . . and I'll tell you who you are!

M: And so if I love "limited people," then I too must be "limited," eh? And if they do not understand the "Holy Thing", my music, they are at least willing to listen and not argue, judge, scold . . . or comfort me. Ah, where else can I find such company if not at the Maly Yaraslovetz, where I am always welcome and have good credit?

MUZHIK:[drinking from M's bottle] A toast to Maestro Mussorgsky, a man of the people!

VASILYEV: No one before Maestro Mussorgsky has ever appealed to the best in us!

COMPANY:[glasses raised] Hurrah, Mussorgsky!

MUZHIK:In a deeper and more tender expression!


GYPSY:Or given a truer picture of the folk imagination!


VASILYEV:Our music lovers and press scribblers expect only sweet little melodies.

MUZHIK: We have no desire to lower our holy music for their entertainment.

GYPSY:We want our Russian music performed simply, without any sort of affectation.

COMPANY: We want music to express the spoken word,

VASS: To restore the original vitality of our mutilated language.

MUZHIK:The present Russian music resembles a man forced to wear shoes with too high a heel . . .

GYPSY:. . . shoes that are much too narrow, crippling ourtoes.

VASILYEV:At least for awhile, in BORIS GUDONUV we wearcomfortable peasant shoes.

MUZHIK:A Russian opera, born in Russian fields and nourished by Russian bread.

VASILYEV:A Russian opera devoid of all somber German philosophy and routine. To hell with Cui. To hell with all critics!

COMPANY:May the lot of them burn in hell!

MUZHIK: They don't know anymore about our Russian Music than they do about our Russian Muzhik!

GYPSY: Here the tocsin knell.

VASILYEV:The Devil take them all! Liars! hypocrites, tutti quanti! All they know is Presto! Molto! and Andanti?
We've had enough Italian opera, of German counterpoint and dull routine. At last we have a peoples' drama born of Russian fields, of Russian hopes and dreams.

COMPANY:To hell with Music Critis! May the lot of them burn in hell!

MUZHIK:They know as little of Russian Music, as they do our Russian Muzhik!

GYPSY:Here the tocsin knell!

VASILYEV:They can't fill our Russian gullets with sweet tidbits from the west, like some rich bitch passing chocolates round among her fat-assed guests. Serve us up some borscht and kasha, something we can chew on and digest, the heart and soul of Mother Russia!

To hell with all the rest!

COMPANY:To hell with Music Critics! May the whole lot burn in hell!

MUZHIK: They know as little of Russian music as they do our Russian Muzhik!

GYPSY:Here the tocsin knell!

[M is lifted up on to a table top by the crowd]

VASILYEV: Three cheers for Maestro Mussorgsky, the genius of our Russian people. Our Russian Shakespeare! Our Pushkin of Music. The greatest of the Mighty Five!

M:Genius? The Mighty Five? Ah, don't throw thesefrightening words at me, my friends! I shudder and break into a sweat at such words. The Mighty Five are no more; they have fallen apart just as I predicted.

VAILYEV:[to the crowd] They who once challenged tasks that have troubled great minds, got tired of carrying the banner and needed rest. Where could they find that rest? In tradition of course.

MUZHIK: "As our fathers have done, so will we do," they whinny. "Pull shaft horse, pull without fatigue."

VASILYEV:And he, as the side horse, was also pulling, but somewhere else. He too was afraid of the whip, but he felt in which direction he must push, and he carried and pulled his own burden. . . our burden.

GYPSY:Here is a worrior from whose hands the banner cannot be torn.

MUZHIK: He may come in rags, but the rags will be his own, not taken from strangers. Muzhuik's rags, the rags of the people!

M:Ah, the people! I imagine the people as one great personality inspired by a great idea. No, it's not Boris who's the hero of my drama but the Russian people. No, the tragedy is not Boris's personal drama but that of the Russian people.

VASILYEV: [ironically] And the Royal family calls BORIS politically dangerous, striking at the heart of Mother Russia?

M: Ah, yes, Mother Russia! And what if Mussoryanin strikes at Mother Russia! It is not the first time I have dug into the black earth, and not in fertilized earth, but directly into the raw. Oh no, they will not get the people out of my mind!When I sleep, I see them in my dreams, and when I drink, they appear before me as a whole--real, without any paint or tinsel. It is terrifying! But it is good!

MUZHIK: Yes, you are one of us, your honor! Our brother!

COMPANY:Tell me who you love, and I'll tell you who you are.

M: [to SASHA, pointing to MUZHIK] This melancholy fellow is my old friend Calistratus. We used to eat onions and stale bread together, on my estate. Before the emancipation. Come, Little Father, let me kiss you!

MUZHIK:[to SASHA and MOLAS] Modeste Petrovich favored the abolition of serfdom from the beginning. And though it took us some time to overcome our suspicion when our former landlord and master wanted to join in our work in the fields and later with the harvesting . . . when his honor moved into a straw-thatched hut, rising with the roosters and going to bed when the cows were brought back to their stalls, working side by side with us . . .

M: [joking to SASHA] The truth is I was exploiting my serfs, even then. For I was studying their particularly colorful speech--in fact I was learning at close range that "truth" about the Russian people which I portray in my compositions. For without preparation, you cannot make a soup, eh Calistratus? Eh, Vassilyev?

M: These are my brothers now, Sasha--my Borodin and my Korsakov! [roughly grabing the MUZHIK and VASSILYEV round the shoulders as he formerly did RK and B] The peoples' Troika.

VAS and MUZHIK: [as they gallop about the stage] Pull shaft horse! Pull without fatigue.

COMPANY:Tell me who you love, and I'll tell you who you are!

GYPSY:The black earth force will show itself when we dig down to the depths. And to dig down to the depths,
the people need a special tool. A Russian prophet! A Holy Fool!

VASILYEV:The emancipation has been proclaimed, but power, strength, and prison are still the rule The truth is, only the times have changed.

MUZHIK:They say that we've progressed; They're lying! They won't let the black earth breathe. On paper, in books, we've progressed, but we're still where we always were--oppressed!hungry! chained and dying!

GYPSY:The people are groaning, and so as not to groan we drink, and then we groan all the more. It's blasphemous to think we're better off than we were before! We're where we've always been where we always were--prison, the police, and that vast white hell Siberia.

VASILYEV: But the good black earth will breath again! Gospodi pomily, and Amen! It breathes in our Russian music!

COMPANY: May the oppressors burn in hell!

MUZHIK: They know nothing of our Russian Music, nothing of our Russian Muzhik!

GYPSY:Hear the tocsin knell!

SASHA:[weeping] Oh Modya, as always you make me feel ashamed of

myself. I see how the people love you, and I don't blame you for loving them. But in writing the music of the Russian people, you're also writing your own epitaph.

COMPANY:Tell me who you love and I'll tell you who you are.

VASILYEV:When a man has the gift and the power to conjure--as no other man ever has before--riot and agony, debauchery and pity, the frenzy of the populace of our holy city in one great, miracilous musical score.

MUZHIK:When a man has in his Russian soul the harrowing joys and pains of creation, the pinnacle and the abyss, and, withal, the violence of Russian blood, and the power to create out of this the song of an entire nation . . .

GYPSY:. . .of the most anguished, primitive and explosive of peoples capable of most violent love and hate; such a man needs unbridled freedom to love, to suffer and create!

SASHA:But in order to lead a normal life, such a man needs, more than any other, a happy marriage, children, a loving wife, a nurse, a mother. For such a man, like a little child, has no sense of measure, of balance, of money, or of health. Squandering his holy treasure like a prodigal with unlimited wealth. Lacking all instinct of self-preservation, thirsting for brotherhood, disappointed by his closest friends, dreaming of purity, mixing demons with angels, straying far from a straight and narrow path; such a man, while writing the music of his people, is also writing his own epitaph.

VASILYEV:From dust we came, and return to dust we must! For death is indescriminate, merciless, unjust, always coming prematurely, destroying all our hopes and dreams. But he who hears in nature's whisperings, in the drowsy surgings of the sea, in the evil mutterings of the deep or in its fearsome uprisings. He who sees in the warm sunset seen through a cloudy mist that last little cloud in capricious flight, clothed in a rosy shift, sees passing youth, a moment of fleeting happiness, of sorrow and dismay and then the reckless impenetrable night, such men need not go to the Caucusses to die for glory as brave hussars. They bask in glory's immortal light and have a place among the stars.

M:Yes! From dust we came and return to dust we must! But still, I hate death, despise her in every way! Not from fear but from disgust; she makes me shudder, takes my breath away. Death deprived me of my first true love. Jealous angels changed her to a star. And only fools make excuses that though a man no longer lives, all the work he's done so far, all that he's had time to write will live forever in peoples' hearts, invulnerable to impenatrable night, immortalized in art. To hell with this hash, I say, with horseraddish for tears! Such mawkish wisdom's no consolation but a cowardly product of human fears. What scoudrel would revel in man's creations, then revel when his creations cease? No! There can be no cosolation, no peace!

Nor am I ready, like some brave hussar, to charge into the thick of cannon fire, to succumb to the cold and clammy femme de noir who, because she has no choice, not with coquettry but with true desire accepts into her lethal, cold embrace each "King of Nature," no matter who, like an old, worn-out whore for whom anyone is good enough to fill her stinking womb. No! There are too many sides to the Russian soul that my art has not yet touched! The new as well as the very old. God grant me longer life! More undiscovered countries of the Russian soul that I may yet discover and explore!

COMPANY:God grant him longer life! Much more! More undiscovered countries of the Russian soul that he may yet discover and explore!

M:Yes! Yes! All I have so far written is only seed! After BORIS the field is plowed, the rich black earth is freed to breath, to drink the summer rain.Even now, a new theme haunts me, perculating in my brain. [seating himself at the piano] Ah, creative moods are as capricious as the most elusive cocotte. One must yield completely to their wishes, whether one wishes to or not.

[M begins to pound out the "Promanade" from PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION and as he does so recorded STUDENT voices singing the revoltutionary theme from Act IV, scene 3 of BORIS begin softly to pervade the back of the theater, increasing in volume as though approaching from a distance]

OFF-STAGE STUDENTS: [recorded]Hurrah!

Casting off our chains of bondage,
we shall set our people free.
We shall free them . . . free them!
Thirst for vengeance has stirred our youthful blood,
Has stirred our youthful blood!
[M stops playing]

VASILYEV: [looking out over the heads of the theater audience as through a window] It's the students from the university, marching through the streets singing the revolutionary theme from BORIS.


Valiant Russian people, end your life of need
And rise in arms to crush the Tsar.
You must fight for liberty,
And put the foe to flight!
Show your courage!
Show your might!
VASILYEV:Come to the window, your honor. Look! Your children, Maestro! See how they love you!

[M leaves the piano and goes to the imaginary window]


Hey! We shall vanquish tyranny,
We shall end all our misery!
Show your strength, o warriors,
Lead us on to victory!
Hey! Hey!
[Cheering on stage as M stands looking out over the theater audience with his head bowed as the singing increases and the COMPANY on stage joins in]


Cossak valour revives in us,
we'll be victorious!
We shall vanquish all tyranny,
we shall end all our misery!
Our strength rises, it burns in us!
For hatred makes us pitiless,
and rouses us to victory!
SASHA:You must go down to them Modya.

[SASHA and MOLAS escort M off stage, followed by all the patrons of the tavern save GYPSY, who is laying cards out on the deserted table top, and the MUZHIK who, left alone, drains all the leftover glasses of the absent patrons]

COMPANY: [while EXITing and off-stage] To hell with Music citics! May the lot of them burn in hell.

MUZHIK:They know as litttle of Russian music as they do our Russian muzhik!

GYPSY:[studying the cards laid out on the table] I hear the tocsin's knell!

MUZHIK: [as the off-stage-student singing continues in the background] His music has played at the Marinsky Theater. Yes, sir!

GYPSY:All that's very gratifying, to be sure. But the students singing BORIS in the corridors of the University and the streets will lead only to its supression by the government.

MUZHIK:You see this in your gypsy cards, do you?

GYPSY:[reading the cards] It will not be very long before BORIS will be removed completely from the Maryinsky repetoire.

[music from "The Catacombs (Roman Graves)" from PICTURES]

MUZHIK: Ah, Fate is unkind. And what other disasters do your cards predict?

GYPSY:[turning cards over] Another dozen years . . . and our great composer of the Russian people . . . will be hospitalized for congnac poisoning, destitute and alone.

[ENTER BABA YAGA on her hay fork doing a death dance to "Catacombs," unobserved by the MUZHIK and GYPSY, as GYPSY lays down more cards, shaking her head, and the MUZHIK drinks greedily from M's bottle]

GYPSY:Ah, the tocsin knells, and the great gates of the Nevsky Cemetery open . . . with the dead in a dead language . . .

MUZHIK:The old hag will get us all sooner or later! But at least when his honor dies, we will speak of him with sorrow but also with pride. For in that coffin will lie the creator of the greatest peoples' drama the world has ever known.

[shouts and cheers off stage as the singing suddenly ceases]

STUDENTS: [off stage] Hurrah, Mussorgsky! Hurrah Mussorgsky! Hurrah Mussorgsky!

[amid the cheering of the students, "The Catacombs"breaks into "The Great Gate at Kiev" music from PICTURES, and the cheering ceases]

MUZHIK: [gazing out over the audience] Ah he's speaking to them from the steps of the Opera house. Look at them; they're spellbound. I don't even have to hear to know what he's saying.

GYPSY:[turning cards and shaking her head] And the Great Cemetery Gates will close. And for a long time the black earth will again be overgrown by oppressive weeds, and for a long time they will stifle our green shoots. [turning up a final card] And then, one day . . . some day . . .

[Bells tolling in "The Great Gate of Kiev," and STUDENTS cheering off stage]




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