I first heard Anita Rachvelishvili with my grandmother in a Met simulcast of Carmen. (I share a love of opera with both my grandmothers, for which I’m eternally grateful.) A year later, I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first-year masters student at Juilliard, stumbling around YouTube in search of repertoire, and I found Rachvelishvili’s powerful rendition of this Rachmaninov warhorse, “Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne.” Pushkin’s text begins, “Don’t sing, beautiful girl, to me / Your sad songs of Georgia.” (That’s Georgia, the country just south of Russia.) It’s a wrenching depiction of nostalgia that reflects Pushkin’s own exile when he ran afoul of the Russian gentry. His overarching rhetoric is that the misery of separation outweighs the joy of remembrance. I’ll let Rachmaninov’s perfect setting sing for itself.
Notable fact: Pushkin was mixed race. His great-grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal, was a black African. Per Wikipedia: “Kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery, Gannibal was taken to Russia and presented as a gift to Peter the Great, where he was freed, adopted and raised in the Emperor’s court household as his godson.”
“Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne” – Rachmaninov/Pushkin
Anita Rachvelishvili, mezzo-soprano
David Aladashvili, piano