Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Star-crossed lovers

I was listening to this new CD with Anna Netrebko and Daniel Barenboim singing Russian songs. (Editor's note, pursuant to comment below: Netrebko sings and Barenboim,  plays the piano. I will have to stop Ms. Kunz Goldman from writing late at night.)

The liner notes mentioned that Tchaikovsky had written some songs for this singer he was in love with, Desiree Artot. That is she pictured above.

This is funny, I have read lots of books and articles about Tchaikovsky, and I never remember hearing about this woman. You always hear about the loon Tchaikovsky married, the woman he hardly knew, and things fell apart very fast. And you hear about Madame von Meck. That is a story I love. It is so Russian, how they correspond but agree never to meet in person.

But this Desiree Artot, no one makes much mention of her.

Yet it appears Tchaikovsky was over the moon about this woman and neglected his friends, finally writing back to one of them who was bugging him that he was sorry, he was just spending all his time with this singer, and he was very smitten.

Here is another picture of Miss Artot.

She and Tchaikovsky were engaged but then she up and married a Spanish tenor. When he heard about it Tchaikovsky freaked out and ended the rehearsal he was leading.

Wow, how interesting! This sounds like a real love affair.

Tchaikovsky is supposed to have written "Romeo and Juliet" while thinking of her. His friends made rude jokes about it. What are friends for? He also wove the letters of her name into a few compositions, the way Schumann used to weave in the names of his girlfriends.

Another picture.This must have been her fat picture, the one she got mad at her friends for bringing out.

 I think it is odd you do not hear more about this episode in Tchaikovsky's life. And when you do, it is always shrugged off, as in: "He believed himself in love..."

How about just "was in love"? Everyone has an agenda, you know?

Here is Tchaikovsky in his later years looking back on Desiree Artot...

and pondering what might have been.


  1. Barenboim singing?

  2. For the record, the previous comment isn't by me. I proudly sign all my cheap shots.

  3. Ha, ha! I corrected my line about Barenboim. Thanks, Anonymous, for the free copy editing!