Catherine the Great’s Pastoral Comic Opera “Fedul and His Children” as a Cultural Pattern

2024. № 2, 117-127

Nika R. Testova, Maxim Gorky Literature Institute (Russia, Moscow),


Despite her status, Catherine II was a typical writer of the Enlightenment. She wrote her plays in order to “govern morals”, and her goal was to create a new cultural pattern for the nobility. The difference between her and ordinary writers was not the quality of her plays, but the power she possessed to reaffirm her classicist ideals using off-stage effects. Her opera Fedul and his Children, for example, was written to address the pressing contemporary problems arising from unequal relationships between noblemen and non-noble women. The other characters were also based on real people, drawn from the Imperial court and from the theatrical world. Fedul and his Children is a typical comic opera in which Catherine uses the rules of the genre to persuade the audience of the correctness of her views. The moral victory of the third estate is confirmed in the play by the fact that, according to the text, precisely its members are the carriers of primordial natural values, which is why interactions with the corrupt world of the nobility pose such a danger to them. Her ability to make use of the specificities of the genre sheds light on Catherine as someone who was familiar with and sensitive to the style of the period. Fedul and his Children has all the characteristic features of a comic opera, including allusive character names, peasant songs based on verse and music, the use of proverbs and the fear inspired by the hostile city in peasants fresh from their pastoral idyll.

For citation:

Testova N. R. Catherine the Great’s Pastoral Comic Opera “Fedul and His Children” as a Cultural Pattern. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2024. No. 2. Pp. 117–127. DOI: 10.31857/S0131611724020104.