The range of topics that Vladimir Odoevski treated in his fiction and journalistic pieces is impressive. His interests embraced what we today think of as the more or less discrete categories of the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. His acquaintances referred to him as “the Russian Faust.“ Included in his oeuvre is a substantial body of music criticism, and indeed, he may rightly be considered Russia's first music critic. Odoevskii's opera criticism, an admittedly narrow topic, is the subject of this article.
There is good reason for concentrating on Odoevskii's writings about opera. For the operaphile there is the vicarious pleasure (and occasional mortification) of sharing a musically literate listener's reactions to then contemporary or nearly contemporary masterpieces by Mozart, Gluck, Rossini, Bellini, Verdi, Wagner, and others. On a less visceral level, an acquaintance with Odoevskii's opera criticism enhances our overall appreciation of the broad patterns underlying Odoevskii's complete literary output as well as Russian cultural history in the nineteenth century.