Julian W. Connolly / Slavic Language & Literature
For a teacher of Russian literature, the ultimate “dream project” would be to take a small group of students to St. Petersburg, Russia, which was unarguably the literary and cultural capital of imperial Russia. To retrace the very
path that the hero of Fyodor Dostoevsky's celebrated novel, Crime and Punishment, walked as he set off to kill the old pawnbroker and test whether or not he was an “extraordinary man” is a genuine thrill for the lover of that novel.
Similarly, to visit the haunts of Russia's great writers-Dostoevsky's last apartment, the room where Alexander Pushkin died after his fateful duel, the apartment where the great poet Anna Akhmatova wrote some of her most compelling poems under arduous circumstances-is to bring the images and visions from the printed page to life.
Unfortunately, the cost of realizing this dream might be prohibitively high for the Mead budget. Round-trip airfare to St. Petersburg is $850 per person. When one adds on the cost of lodging and food, a budget of $2000 would perhaps cover the costs for one student and myself. As much as I would like to see this dream fulfilled, it may not be financially feasible.
As an alternative, I propose to offer a small group of students a modified version of this Russian experience. In March 2006, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City will be working with the famed Mariinsky Theatre opera company from St. Petersburg, Russia to put on a new production of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1884 opera Mazeppa.
Based on a narrative poem written in 1828 by Russia's greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin, Mazeppa combines a romantic plot with material from a crucial turning point in Russian history-the defeat of an invading Swedish army by Peter the Great at the battle of Poltava in 1709. I propose to take a small group of students to see the opera in New York City on March 25, 2006. To prepare ourselves for the event, we will have one or two meetings during which we will discuss Pushkin's poem, Tchaikovsky's opera, and the historical events that the two works depict. Through this discussion I hope to enrich our students' understanding of three distinct topics: the nature of Pushkin's poetic talent, the characteristics of Tchaikovsky's music, and the role of Peter the Great in Russian history. On March 26 we will then take the morning train from Charlottesville to New York, have dinner at one of the good Russian restaurants in mid-town Manhattan, and attend the 8:00 PM performance at the Metropolitan Opera. On the next day, we will return to Charlottesville on the mid-day train.
My initial estimate of the cost of this trip is as follows.
The cost break-down is per person.
Round-trip Charlottesville-New York Amtrak fare $174
Lodging (shared accommodations) 125
Local transportation 10
Opera Tickets 120
The total for three students and myself would be $1956.