Mikael Tariverdiev (1931–1996) is known by many for two films – The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath and Seventeen Moments of Spring. Older audiences will remember several other films with his music, for example King Deer or Olga Sergeyevna, in which songs to verse by Andrei Voznesensky were performed by the composer himself. His "serious" music is much less well known. Tariverdiev, however, insisted that he belonged to the classical tradition, unwilling to be known only as a composer of "light" music. A fact borne out by both his regular turning to traditional genres (three organ and two violin concerti and the Chernobyl organ symphony) and the titles of individual works (Concerto for Viola and Strings in the Romantic Style and the cycle of choral preludes for organ Imitating Old Masters). Tariverdiev underlined the link with tradition in his works for theatre, which include four ballets and four operas.
Tariverdiev the opera composer was closely connected with the Moscow Chamber Theatre directed by Boris Pokrovsky. Here in 1983 came the premiere of the opera-buffa Graf Cagliostro; here in the early 1990s the composer's longed-for production of The Marriage of Figarenko – a remake of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro – did not take place. The mono-drama Expectation (1985) was also written for the Chamber Theatre: the first performer was Maria Lemesheva, daughter of the acclaimed vocalists Sergei Lemeshev and Irina Maslennikova and Pokrovsky's step-daughter.
For his libretto the composer reworked Robert Rozhdestvensky's poem Expectation (Monologue of a Woman) (1982). The opera retained the main qualities of Rozhdestvensky's text – generic features of the poetry of those of the 1960s: social pathos (Modern Woman! / Tired out by Fuss, but, as before, Divine! ); loud-voiced declamation envisaging a large audience; and somewhat direct metaphors. But Tariverdiev removes the everyday layer of the poem and the direct references to Soviet urban life, aiming instead for a poetic generalisation.
Expectation is unlike an opera in the traditional academic sense of the word. It is music without aplomb, with its confessional and "chastity" making reference to Schubert's lyricism. The musical language is lightened: here the audience may also detect Soviet variety singing from the 1970s and soundtracks for films from that era – we can hear familiar techniques that are pure Tariverdiev. A chain of episodes that emerge in the "flow of consciousness" of the heroine is connected by the leitmotif of anxious expectation – the fleeting tremolo motif that flickers at times in the accompaniment, and at others in the vocal part. In the individual stanza scenes one can see genres of early music shining through: toccatas (the episode Emergency Services with the anxious repetitions in the accompaniment), baroque arias (Say Something to Me; the instrumental finale – "walking music" in the spirit of Bach's Аndantes; allusions to music by Bach, at times unexpected, can frequently be found in Tariverdiev's songs). From the disharmony of the introduction, expressionistic music that inherited Shostakovich's chorale, there bursts forth a polyphonic interlude and the pathetique recitative The Birds Have the Sense to Hide. The heroine's expectation is resolved in the alarm-bell-like oath I Shall Wait until the Very End.
The most important thing that attracts us in Expectation is the at times simple and at times excited but always incredibly sincere and confidential intonation of the composer. Here is a well-known although poetically animated and worldly collision, devoid of a clear resolution (we will never know whether the heroine waited for her beloved). Here is a bitter note of melancholy, but also a secret hope for a happy outcome – one of the reasons old films with Tariverdiev's music are so well loved.
Expectation was a success from the first production, and since then it has frequently appeared on theatre playbills – most often in a shared evening programme with similar female opera monologues. Of note is Alla Chepinoga's production at the New Opera (2010), at which Expectation was performed along with Spadavecchia's Letters from an Unknown Woman (Mariinsky Theatre audiences have heard this opera in the 2015-16 season) and Gubarenko's Tenderness. The genre of the mono-opera itself does not require detailed stage commentary, and Expectation is frequently performed in a semi-concert version, to piano accompaniment with minimal props – as is the case now at the Mariinsky Theatre.