Commander Rezanov
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§ The Opera “The Juno and the Avos”

Andrei Voznesensky about the history of the poem and opera

Andrey Andreevich Voznesensky I began to write the poem “Avos!” in Vancouver. It is the true information that Rezanov led his ships into Vancouver bays and every morning watched the hills which were so similar to those he loved in San-Francisco, where “dating with ’the Gispanish beauty’ he could caught a sight of challenging features in her character” which he openly told about on the 17th of June in 1806.

At dawn when hippies and pine-trees calmed down, having returned the ticket for a plane, having also broken the schedule of the performances I read galloping the pages of a great thick volume by J. Lensen, following the fate of our brave compatriot Rezanov.

The Real Chamberlain, a creator of a Japanese dictionary, a dreaming Derzhavin`s and Dmitriev`s companion and acquaintance, he reached California seized by the crazy idea and torched by storms,. The crew was starving. “The people fell ill with scurvy. At midnight we used to freshen with shells we had found and the rest of time we used to shoot eagles, crows, in other words, ate what we had managed to catch”.

It was April. In San Francisco Rezanov, wearing the gala uniform, seduced Concha Arguello, a city commandant’s nice daughter . Mind that it was April. They got engaged. A sudden Rezanov`s death ruined their plans. Concha took a veil and became the first nun in California.

Several books describing Rezanov in admiration were published overseas. Brett Garth wrote a ballad about Rezanov. I completed the poem in Moscow. There is Rezanov’s manuscript report in our Central State Historical Archives partly published by Tikhmenev (1863). A womanly handwriting in baroque style shows an intelligence and impressive heart.

What a personality, pride and verbal gesture! “I’ve arrived at last. The governor welcomes me politely and my plans are also of great interest for him”. What a language!“… And in the end the spirit of importance and grandeur will die out. In other words: we will be like an old match, which is tried to light, but even a spark can hardly be gotten and nothing can be burnt with it. But when it could have been used for setting fire we hadn’t done it”.

The way of criticizing of buyers is so similar to Avvakum’s: “If boyars knew, how many lives their hats and fur coats cost, they would cram their hats over the ears deeper!”. How wrathfully and naively in his letter to the Tsar he tries to correct all the mistakes of the humankind: “18.07.1805. On that very day I tried Kulikalov from the island Atkhi for cruel beating an American woman and her baby. Putting the criminal into irons was a ceremonial example of strict justice”.

Rezanov was the leader of the first Russian round- the world expedition, which is surprisingly called Kruzenshtern’s. Kruzenshtern and Lisiansky traveled under Rezanov’s command and envied him. They didn’t get along with him. Rezanov arrived in San-Francisco having already got rid of their company. Khvostov and Davydov were his companions at that time. All the sailors were peasant slaves. Their money was quite enough to pay for the freedom. So their travel in the ocean was actually the way towards their freedom.

Two sea officers happened to be in the poem. Their names are changed a bit. The author is not so unreasonable and light-minded to describe the real persons and to insult them with incorrect details . Both their images and names are only a slight echo of the real fates. The tragedy of the Evangelic woman, trampled down by a higher dogma is unproved though undoubted. The idea itself trampling the fife and feelings of people has no right to exist.

Rezanov died in Krasnoyarsk on the 1st of March in1807. Conchita couldn’t believe the sad news about her fianc?’s death. In 1842 a well-known English traveler, a former Head of Hudson company Sir George Simpson having arrived in San-Francisco told her about Rezanov’s death in details. Conchita had been waiting for Rezanov for 35 years. Having believed in his death she gave an oath of silence and in some years’ time became a nun in the Dominique church in Monterrey.

Mark Zaharov It’s clear that the images of poem’s and later of opera’s personages are not fully correspond to the originals. Alexey Rybnikov I wrote the opera libretto in 1977. The composer A. Rybnikov created the music based on the plot of the poem where he amazingly orchestrates the history of Russia, both eternal and present. In 1981 the opera was staged by M. Zakharov in the Lenin Comsomol Theater.

In other words, if the poem makes readers turn to the original text of this sad story, the author’s work hasn’t been done for nothing.

Translated by Olga Eglis