No, it’s not the Marx brothers film – it’s the centre of the Russian aristocratic circle, the opera.

I must admit, it was hard to pay close attention to this chapter, because I was so horrified by the concept of people arriving in the middle of and talking through the overture to the opera!

I know that this happened, from what I’ve heard about in my reading of the history of opera – but still, could we stomach such a thing nowadays?

Anyway, I was a bit calmer when I heard they all shut up when the curtain opened.

But let’s ignore that – again, we just have a myriad of detail.  Natasha and Sonya’s clothes, the fussing in the boxes, Boris and Julie and – of course – the one and only Dolokhov.

What I find most interesting is Helene Bezukhov showing up (Pierre’s wife).  I’m not sure why (okay, well, I do think I know why, but I won’t say anything today) but there’s something sinister almost about her presence.  Putting Natasha and Helene together in a chapter (and this is their first chapter together) is a contrast between Innocence/Righteousness on the one hand and Guilt/Philandering on the other.  They’re poles apart . . . and yet Natasha looks at Helene and thinks that she’d be the type of woman a man would want to fall in love with . . .

Scary stuff.

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2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 8.8 – A Night at the Opera

  1. Yes, Matt, I too shared your horror at the carry-on during the overture – but you’re right: that was just the way it happened then. In fact, my understanding is that it was Wagner who began the practice of dimming the lights at the beginning of the overture for the very purpose of discouraging people talking.

    But, despite feeling rater riled at people’s disregard for te music, I did think this was another clever way of giving us some insight into Natasha and how she is feeling, and her growing sense of bewilderment and unease at Andrei’s absence. It was kind of ironic, I thought, that she looked with such envy at Boris and Julie – an engagement which we know is nothing other than superficial and shallow.

    Indeed, when we look back over the past several chapters we can see how slowly, almost insidiously, Tolstoy has painted for us this picture of Natasha – full of yearing and love, but beside herself with frustration not only because Andrei is away, but also because his family has been so dismissive of her. So it is hardly surprising that Natasha is now this lethal mix of disquiet, sadness, loneliness and envy.

    And that’s not a good place for someone like Helene to be stepping into!!

  2. Heh! Heh!

    We’re coming close to the fiasco with the ‘Ratbag’, aren’t we?

    Sorry I’ve been ‘elsewhere’ these past few days.

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