High notes: Opera discussed
The wealthy, noble Sheremetev family owned approximately 200,000 serfs in 18th-century Russia, including Praskovia Kovalyova. At age eight, she began training with the opera company that her master, Count Peter Sheremetev, was putting together with his son, Nicholas. She became one of the most famous opera divas of her time — known as the Pearl — but it was still considered socially unacceptable for her to be romantically involved with Nicholas, the richest aristocrat in the country. Douglas Smith’s The Pearl: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great’s Russia (Yale University Press, 2008), explores Kavalyova’s life, career, and marriage while also providing a history of Russian music, ballet, and theater, and the tradition of using serfs as performers and set designers. The Pearl is up for discussion at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 8, at the Vivace book club, held at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St., 505-988-4226) in conjunction with the Santa Fe Opera Guild. Upcoming Vivace meetings, which are designed to open up the world of opera through the reading of literature are July 10, when the talk is about Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto; Sept. 11 (The Castrato and His Wife by Helen Berry); and Nov. 13 (Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family by Daniel Berger). There is a $5 suggested donation; call 505-629-1410 Ext. 120.
For those who crave even more opera knowledge, Collected Works also hosts the Santa Fe Opera Spotlight Series, and the Friday, May 5, installment, “Birds of a Feather: Rimsky-Korsakov and Stravinsky” focuses on Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel, opening in July at the Santa Fe Opera. Oliver Prezant lectures on this timeless operatic satire of autocracy and Russian imperialism. The lecture begins at 6 p.m. and is free of charge. — Jennifer Levin