Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Snow Maiden

I often listen these days to the Classical Morning program that airs on Swedish Radio from Monday through Friday, but that's also available through the Internet. Their selection is always interesting and frequently includes women composers. The director and beguiling voice of the program is Erika Libeck Lindahl.

On Christmas Eve they featured Peter Tchaikovsky’s incidental music to Snöflickan or The Snow Maiden, a play by Alexander Ostrovsky, which premiered in 1873 at the Bolshoi Theater. 

There are variations of the snow girl, Snegurka, in Russian fairy tales. I remember one story from Andrew Lang’s fairytale series. Childless parents make a girl from snow, who comes to life and brings them joy. Eventually, of course, she melts when the weather warms. Another version, the one used by Ostrovsky and Tchaikovsky, has echoes of The Little Mermaid. The Snow Maiden is unable to fully love, even though she likes a shepherd. As soon as her mother allows her this gift, love makes her heart warm. And she melts.

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