The Genius Song: Text to Music

Humanities Seminar
Event Format
In person
CGIS South, S354, 1730 Cambridge St

Tsvetaeva completed her long poem “Новогоднее” in February of 1927. Almost a century later, in 2007, the contemporary composer Lera Auerbach wrote her Symphony N2 (“Requiem for a Poet”), using Tsvetaeva’s poem as a libretto. Both the poem and the symphony are an homage to the life and death of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. In 2005, almost contemporaneously with Lera Auerbach’s piece, Leonid Desyatnikov’s opera, The Children of Rosenthal, had a scandalous premiere at the Bolshoi. The opera production was a collaboration with the well-known contemporary novelist and, in this case, the opera’s librettist, Vladimir Sorokin. The opera’s plot centers around cloning five celebrated European and Russian composers, especially highlighting the cloning of Mozart.

Olga Zaslavsky argues that these two text-to-music productions are unified by the modern and post-modern tableaux of the “disintegrated world” to borrow an expression from Dmitry Bykov. At the same time, they are homages to the literary and musical figures of past and present. In this talk, Zaslavsky will be pointing out some details about the works in question and addressing the cultural myths around the reception of these fascinating literary and musical productions. 

Refreshments will be provided.


The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact us at 617-495-4037 or in advance of your participation or visit. Requests for Sign Language interpreters and/or CART providers should be made at least two weeks in advance if possible. Please note that the Davis Center will make every effort to secure services but that services are subject to availability.