Praise for The New Penguin Opera Guide: 'For range, breadth, enthusiasm and common sense, Amanda Holden's labour of love is already irreplaceable' Dennis Marks, Observer
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Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka; b 1 June 1804, Novospasskoye, Russia; d 15 February 1857, Berlin.
Glinka was by no means the first Russian to compose opera, yet he was indisputably the founder of the Russian operatic tradition. Born into a minor landowning family, he was educated in St Petersburg, then settled into the role of a dilettante in the city's salons. Though he had had no proper musical education, he composed a good many undemanding songs and piano pieces, and shared in the current Russian taste for French opera, as well as for Rossini. But by the end of the 1820s Italian opera in general was becoming his central interest, and in 1830 he left for a three-year residence in Italy. He met Bellini, soaked himself in the Italian tradition, but by the end of his stay was turning against it; as he himself put it: `I could not sincerely be Italian. A longing for my own country led me gradually to the idea of writing in the Russian manner.' On his return journey he delayed five months in Berlin for the only formal composition study of his whole life. The following year he began his first opera, Ivan Susanin (better known as A Life for the Tsar), and it was a sensation at its first performance in 1836.