You may be distracted by other things in this chapter, but this is actually a very funny description of an opera by Tolstoy. Especially back in the days before surtitles, where for the most part, you had a vague idea of the plot and were just supposed to sit back and enjoy the singing.
But let’s face it – we’re not really noticing the opera. In fact, one can only wonder if things would have gone differently in this chapter if the opera had been interesting and everyone had been riveted on the action.
THEN MAYBE WE WOULDN’T HAVE NATASHA GETTING KEEN ON ANATOLE “RATBAG” KURAGIN!!!
What on earth is this?!?!?
Like a train wreck in slow motion, the most disastrous thing imaginable (who cares about Napoleon invading?) starts to unfold.
Andrei, finally happy after years of miserableness (many chapters and months for us), finds the girl of his dreams, has to wait a year – and then THIS HAPPENS!
While it’s lost some of its shock value, I can still remember that feeling of, “Oh no! . . .” the first time I ever read it.
Everything just has an air of seediness about it. The low-cut dress of Helene’s, the way Anatole makes eyes at Natasha . . . Dolokhov sitting back and watching it all. It’s all the lowlifes of the Russian aristocracy, all having fun at a boring opera, and Natasha is about to step into the middle of it . . .
See you tomorrow, without a doubt.