Rimsky-Korsakov’s flat, and great questions of social class

We went to see Rimsky-Korsakov’s apartment this afternoon. It’s in a building in a courtyard set back from the street (as a lot of houses seem to be here) and the museum is run by a set of elderly Russians who eye you very neutrally as you look at all the little exhibits. You have to slip on these green disposable scuffs over your shoes to protect the floors. The inside of the museum is just Rimsky-Korsakov and his wife’s flat as they lived in it for the last fifteen years of his life – I can now state that I have seen Rimsky-Korsakov’s ashtray. It is shaped like a dragon. I have also seen his glasses, which have blue lenses, as well as his winter coat, his baton, his wife’s desk and their table settings. And his piano. The story is that Rimsky-Korsakov had such a phenomenal ear that he did not compose at the piano – rather, he played a single chord at the beginning of each day and then sauntered into his study to work. I suppose that I believe this.

I am not sure that I learned anything of world-historical significance, but we had fun and S and I did get into an interesting discussion that can be laid at the feet of Derek, who (I believe) secretly finds people like me, and to some extent also S, appallingly bouge. (This would be a shortened form of ‘bourgeois’, pronounced to rhyme with ‘rouge.’) The question was put whether Rimsky-Korsakov is or was bouge. Based on table settings and interior decor – we will leave the music alone for the time being – we were forced to conclude yes.

But I still have fond memories of playing his music in youth orchestra as a young’un. So, color me bouge I guess.

And then later we went to the ballet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (music by Mendelssohn), at the Mariinsky. I know nothing about dance but I always enjoy going – a nice change from all the opera once in a while. They were using choreography by Balanchine, which S says looks old-fashioned. I would not recognize old-fashioned ballet choreography if it bit me on the ass, but context is always useful. (And we have to ask ourselves the question: is Mendelssohn bouge? Is A Midsummer Night’s Dream bouge? Is going to the ballet bouge? Is early American history bouge? IS MY ENTIRE LIFE THE EQUIVALENT OF A SHAKESPEARE QUOTATION ON A TOTE BAG? This is the problem with hanging out with people like Derek. You learn things, but you end up lying there at three a.m. in your little hostel bed thinking that your entire aesthetic life is probably an error.)