• Rodion Shchedrin
  • Dead Souls (1976)

  • Schirmer Russian Music (USA, Canada and Mexico only)

Available in the USA, Canada and Mexico only

  • 3333/4331/timp.3perc/hp/str (
  • mixed chorus
  • 2 Baritones, 6 Tenors, 3 Mezzo sopranos [1=High Tenor], 2 coloratura sopranos, 6 Basses, Countertenor, silent role, ballerina
  • Libretto by the composer after Nikolai Gogol's novel.
  • Russian

Programme Note

Brief Synopsis:

The master swindler Pavel Chichikov has a plan to buy from landholders the titles to souls (serfs) who have died since the last census, in order to appear prosperous and thus win the hand of the very wealthy governor’s daughter. Although a stranger in the town, with his charm and social graces, he is soon being feted by everyone. However, rumours of his unusual dealings with serf owners Manilov, Sobakevich, Korobochka and Plyshkin reach the town, coupled with the lies of Nozdrev and Pavel decides to leave in a hurry.


Chichikov, a minor nobleman, travels across Russia with the intention of strengthening his reputation and credibility through the pretend ownership of as many servants as possible. He seeks out landowners and pesuades them to sell him their dead serfs that are still registered as living. After attending a great dinner party at the house of the procurator, Chichikov visits the landowner Manilov in order to buy some 'dead souls'. After initial doubts, Manilov allows himself to be convinced of the legality of the deal. Chichikov subsequently visits the female landowner Korobotchkina, but she is suspicious and so fearful of being disadvantaged that she asks that she can first make some enquiries about the usual price. He visits the landowners Nozdrev and Sobakevitch, the latter offering him his ancestors at a very high price and haggling over the money. His last visit is to the stingy landowner Pliushkin, who only wants to sell him dead souls under the condition that they produce a sales contract.

Word has got round about Chichikov's purchases, and the subject provides the main conversational topic at the governor's ball. Chichikov is outraged about the sumptious festivities - while the country is riddled with poverty and rising cost of living. In the city, people seriously wonder about Chichikov, and a great number of rumours circulate about his background. Suspecting him to be an auditor, the procurator commits suicide. There is also a rumour that Chichikov has eloped with the governor's daughter. When Nozdrev accuses him of kidnapping and maintains that Chichikov is considered by many to be a robber or secret agent, Chichikov makes a rapid departure.