The opera The Captain's Daughter was composed by Mikhail Kollontai (1952–) following a commission from the Bolshoi Theatre to mark two hundred years since the birth of Pushkin, but it was never staged. Soloists of the Mariinsky Academy of Young Opera Singers under Valery Gergiev will present this work to the public in concert for the first time.
The Captain's Daughter is the only opus by Mikhail Kollontai in the genre of opera. In the libretto, written by the composer himself, the text of Pushkin's tale is interwoven with verse by Pushkin in Russian and French as well as folk songs. Following the death of her parents, Masha reads a psalm honouring the deceased, in the epilogue we hear the anthem Let the Thunder of Victory Sound! , while the "subversive paper" and Pugachov's aria are based on actual edicts of the pretender.
The opera is reigned by a sensation of gloom, darkness and Gogol-like phantasmagoria. Pugachov and his band take on an almost demonic appearance, and the Empress cedes nothing to them in this. In the words of the author, she is Pugachov's double, having come to power – like he – by illegal methods. With such an interpretation the composer considered a happy end to be impossible, and in the opera Catherine, in response to Grinyov's request for a pardon, merely howls like a wolf. The protagonist is sent to Siberia while Masha remains in St Petersburg in order to have a career at Court. The image of the operatic heroine from the very outset differs from that of Pushkin: she is much more practical and thrifty. Shvabrin loses any semblance of villainy. Throughout the entire opera he remains a duellist mockingly singing songs, as is indicated at the very start of the story. In this character the composer almost sees Pushkin himself. It is not by chance that the role of the poet in the epilogue, in accordance with the author's idea, should be performed by the same singer.
Throughout the opera we have a motif of a snow-storm, a symbol of "lack of shelter, cold, devilishness and the fear of Russian life". The characters and the plot repeat Pushkin's "fearsome and boring", while the opera concludes with other verse by the poet: "Gloom everywhere and tiresome dreams, the passing of the hours is simply monotonous. There is no light."