Portrait of A. N. Ostrowskij by Vasily Perov.
Alice Freindlich in the 1984 screening of Ostrovsky's play Bespridannitsa
Alexander Nikolayevich Ostrovsky (Александр Николаевич Островский in Russian) (April 12 (March 31, O.S.)1823— June 14 (June 2, O.S.)1886) was a Russian dramatic author.
Ostrovsky graduated from the First Moscow Gymnasium (1835 - 1840) and then studied law at Moscow State University (1840 - 1843), which he left without having submitted to the final examination. He was then employed as a clerk in the office of the Court of Conscience, and subsequently in that of the Commercial Court at Moscow. Both tribunals were called upon to settle disputes chiefly among the Russian merchant class, from which Ostrovskiy was thus enabled to draw the chief characters for his earliest comedies. Among these are The Poor Bride (Bednaya nevesta), Poverty Is No Crime (Bednost' ne porok), and Don't Put Yourself In Another Man's Sledge (Ne v svoi sani ne sadis'). Of this last Nicholas I said, it was not a play, but a lesson. The uncultured, self-satisfied Moscow merchants are strikingly portrayed in The Tempest and Svoi lyudi - sochtyomsya!. The last-mentioned comedy was prohibited for ten years, until the accession of Alexander II, and Ostrovsky was dismissed from the government service and placed under the supervision of the police. The liberal tendencies of the new reign, however, soon brought relief. Ostrovsky was one of several well-known literary men who were sent into the provinces to report on the condition of the people. Ostrovsky's field of inquiry lay along the upper Volga, a part of the country memorable for some of the most important events in Russian history. This mission induced him to write several historical dramas of great merit, such as Kozma Zakhar'yich Minin-Sukhoruk (the full name of the famous butcher who saved Moscow from the Poles), The False Dmitriy and Vasily Shuisky, Vassilisa Melentieva (the name of a favorite court lady of Ivan the Terrible) and the comedy Voyevoda. Many of his later works treat of the Russian nobility, and include Beshaniye Dengi, Bespridannitsa, and Volki i Ovtsi; others relate to the world of actors, such as Les, Bez viny vinovatiy, and Talanty i Poklonniki. Ostrovskiy enjoyed the patronage of Alexander III, and received a pension of 3000 rubles a year. With the help of Moscow capitalists, he established the Malyi Theatre as a model theatre and school of dramatic art, of which he became the first director. He also founded the Society of Russian Dramatic Art and Opera Composers.
Ostrovsky died on his way to his estate in Kostroma.
Works adapted in music
Several of Ostrovsky's plays figure into the works of composers, mostly Russian ones. His early comedy Live Not As You Would Like To [Не так живи, как хочется] (1854) was adapted as the tragic opera The Power of the Fiend (premiered in 1871) by Alexander Serov. The play The Storm [Гроза] inspired the opera of the same name by V. N. Kashperov (1867 and KŠťa KabanovŠ by Leoš JanŠček, as well as an overture by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. The historical drama The Voyevoda was transformed into two operas: one by Tchaikovsky (under the same title) and later another by Anton Arensky entitled Dream on the Volga. The most notable Russian opera based on an Ostrovsky play -- for which Tchaikovsky had originally written incidental music -- is Rimsky-Korsakov's Snow Maiden.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopśdia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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