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The Pearl: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great's Russiaby Douglas Smith
Synopses & Reviews
Filled with a remarkable cast of characters and set against the backdrop of imperial Russia, this tale of forbidden romance could be the stuff of a great historical novel. But in fact The Pearl tells a true tale, reconstructed in part from archival documents that have lain untouched for centuries. Douglas Smith presents the most complete and accurate account ever written of the illicit love between Count Nicholas Sheremetev (1751-1809), Russia's richest aristocrat, and Praskovia Kovalyova (1768-1803), his serf and the greatest opera diva of her time.
Blessed with a beautiful voice, Praskovia began her training in Nicholas's operatic company as a young girl. Like all the members of Nicholas's troupe, Praskovia was one of his own serfs. But unlike the others, she utterly captured her master's heart. The book reconstructs Praskovia's stage career as "The Pearl" and the heartbreaking details of her romance with Nicholas — years of torment before their secret marriage, the outrage of the aristocracy when news of the marriage emerged, Praskovia's death only days after delivering a son, and the unyielding despair that followed Nicholas to the end of his life. Written with grace and style, The Pearl sheds light on the world of the Russian aristocracy, music history, and Russian attitudes toward serfdom. But above all, the book tells a haunting story of love against all odds.
"Douglas Smith has produced the definitive account, and the first in English, of the extraordinary relationship between Count Nicholas Sheremetev, Russia's wealthiest noble ever, and his wife, a former serf actress known as The Pearl." Hilde Hoogenboom, University of Albany
"A moving, romantic, and tragic historical tale." Elise Wirtschafter, California State Polytechnic University
"The Pearl is a bright, sparkling jewel of a book; a masterpiece that deserves as wide an audience as possible. Russia's greatest love story has never been properly told, until now." Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of
"The Pearl is a portrait of one of the greatest and least known love stories in European history. Douglas Smith, a brilliant historian who writes like a novelist, has brought it to life in a rare blend of meticulous research and gripping emotional narrative. Mesmerizing." Andrea Lee, author of Russian Journal andInteresting Women
"Smiths book is an unusual gem-a work that gives us not only an absorbing view of the intimate world of a forbidden romance but also a first-rate historical tour of the lost landscapes of Russian aristocratic society, opera, and theater in its golden age." Willard Sunderland, University of Cincinnati
The American West of the nineteenth century was a world of freedom and adventure for men of every stripeand#8212;not least also those who admired and desired other men. Among these sojourners was William Drummond Stewart, a flamboyant Scottish nobleman who found in American culture of the 1830s and 1840s a cultural milieu of openness in which men could pursue same-sex relationships.
This book traces Stewartand#8217;s travels from his arrival in America in 1832 to his return to Murthly Castle in Perthshire, Scotland, with his French Canadianand#8211;Cree Indian companion, Antoine Clement, one of the most skilled hunters in the Rockies. Benemann chronicles Stewartand#8217;s friendships with such notables as Kit Carson, William Sublette, Marcus Whitman, and Jim Bridger. He describes the wild Renaissance-costume party held by Stewart and Clement upon their return to Americaand#8212;a journey that ended in scandal. Through Stewartand#8217;s letters and novels, Benemann shows that Stewart was one of many men drawn to the sexual freedom offered by the West. His book provides a tantalizing new perspective on the Rocky Mountain fur trade and the role of homosexuality in shaping the American West.
About the Author
Douglas Smith is a resident scholar at the University of Washington and the author of the prize-winning books Working the Rough Stone: Freemasonry and Society in Eighteenth-Century Russia and Love and Conquest: Personal Correspondence of Catherine the Great and Prince Grigory Potemkin.
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Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Opera