A Month in the Country (play)

A Month in the Country (play)
A Month in the Country

Konstantin Stanislavski (left) and Olga Knipper (right)
as Rakitin and Natalya in
the Moscow Art Theatre's production in 1909.
Written by Ivan Turgenev
Characters Natalya Petrovna
Mikhail Rakitin
Aleksei Belyaev
Arkadi Islaev
Lizaveta Bogdanovna
Anna Semenovna
Date premiered 1872
Original language Russian
Genre Comedy
Setting The Islaev country estate in the 1840s
IBDB profile

A Month in the Country (Russian: Месяц в деревне, Mesiats v derevne) is a comedy in five acts by Ivan Turgenev. It was written in France between 1848 and 1850 and was first published in 1855. The play was not staged until 1872, when it was given as a benefit performance for the Moscow actress E N Vasilyeva, who was keen to play the leading role of Natalya Petrovna.[1]


Plot summary

The setting is the Islaev country estate in the 1840s. Natalya Petrovna, a headstrong 29-year-old, is married to Arkadi Islaev, a rich landowner seven years her senior. Bored with life, she welcomes the attentions of Mikhail Rakitin as her devoted but resentful admirer, without ever letting their friendship develop into a love affair.

The arrival of the handsome 21-year-old student Aleksei Belyaev as tutor to her son Kolya ends her boredom. Natalya falls in love with Aleksei, but so does her ward Vera, the Islaevs' 17-year-old foster daughter. To rid herself of her rival, Natalya proposes that Vera should marry a rich old neighbour, but the rivalry remains unresolved.

Rakitin struggles with his love for Natalya, and she wrestles with hers for Aleksei, while Vera and Aleksei draw closer. Misunderstandings arise, and when Arkadi begins to have his suspicions, both Rakitin and Aleksei are obliged to leave. As other members of the household drift off to their own worlds, Natalya's life returns to a state of boredom.


  • Arkadi Sergeyevich Islayev, a rich landowner, 36
  • Natalya Petrovna, his wife, 29
  • Kolya, their son, 10
  • Vera Aleksandrovna (Verochka), Natalya's ward, 17
  • Anna Semyonovna Islayeva, Arkadi's mother, 58
  • Lizaveta Bogdanovna, a companion, 37
  • Adam Ivanovich Schaff, a German tutor, 45
  • Mikhail Aleksandrovich Rakitin, a family friend, 30
  • Aleksei Nikolayevich Belyaev, a student, Kolya's tutor, 21
  • Afanasi Ivanovich Bolshintsov, a neighbour, 48
  • Ignati Ilyich Shpigelsky, a doctor, 40
  • Matvei, a servant, 40
  • Katya, a servant, 20


Act 1: The Drawing Room, afternoon

Act 2: The Garden, the following day

Act 3: The Drawing Room, the following day

Act 4: The Estate, the same evening

Act 5: The Veranda, the following day

History of the play

Originally entitled The Student, the play was banned by the Saint Petersburg censor without being performed. Turgenev changed the title to Two Women. In 1854 it was passed for publication, provided alterations were made — demands made more on moral than political grounds. To play down the controversy, Turgenev finally changed the name to A Month in the Country.

Following the 1872 premiere, the play was not performed again until 1879, when it became a regular part of the Russian repertoire.[1]

In an introduction to his 1994 English translation, Richard Freeborn wrote:

”Turgenev’s comedy has often been called Chekhovian, even through it preceded Chekhov’s mature work by more than forty years. The happiest irony surrounding the play’s survival is that its ultimate success was due more than anything to the popularity of Chekhov’s work and the kind of ensemble playing which Stanislavsky fostered at the Moscow Art Theatre. It was his production in 1909, when he played the role of Rakitin, that finally demonstrated the true brilliance of Turgenev’s long-neglected play.”[2]

Major productions in English translation


Films in English

A Month in the Country has been adapted several times in English as made-for-television films. These include productions in:


Turgenev's play was freely adapted by choreographer Frederick Ashton as a one-act ballet of the same name for the Royal Ballet company in 1976. John Lanchbery arranged the score based on music by Frederic Chopin; the stage design was by Julia Trevelyan Oman. Natalia was first danced by Lynn Seymour, for whom the role was created, and Anthony Dowell danced the role of Beliaev. For research purposes, Frederick Ashton took Lynn Seymour and the rest of the ballet cast to see the London production of the play, with Dorothy Tutin in the lead.[8]

The premiere ballet performance was presented at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 12 February 1976, and the production was filmed that year by director Colin Nears for the BBC. Lynn Seymour also danced the role in New York.


Lee Hoiby composed a two-act opera based on the play. Originally titled Natalia Petrovna, it was premiered in 1964 at New York City Opera.[9][10]. It was revised as A Month in the Country; this form was premiered in Boston in 1981, and has since been recorded.[10][11]



  1. ^ a b Proscenium Publications programme note for the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford revival (1994)
  2. ^ Richard Freeborn’s programme note for the Richmond Theatre presentation of his English translation, March 1994
  3. ^ John Thaxter wrote: “Michael Redgrave’s famous Guildford staging of A Month in the Country, with Ingrid Bergman as a blameless Natalya, helplessly in love with her son’s young tutor, has served as a benchmark for almost thirty years. Its place is now confidently taken by Bill Bryden’s definitive new production with a superlative cast led by Helen Mirren. Turgenev was first to set all the effective action within the minds of his characters. Bryden’s chamber opera approach turns the play’s potentially awkward interior monologues into the spoken equivalent of arias and recitatives. His placement of actors across the stage in vivid, essentially two-dimensional relationships, also adds a Mozartian zest to the trios and duets.” Richmond and Twickenham Times review 25 February 1994
  4. ^ A Month in the Country (1955) at the British Film Institute
  5. ^ Theatre 625: A Month in the Country (1966) at the British Film Institute
  6. ^ A Month in the Country (1978) at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ A Month in the Country (1984) at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ Kavanagh (1996).
  9. ^ http://viviansings.webs.com/MusicalAmerica%20hoiby.pdf
  10. ^ a b OPERA America - New Works Directory
  11. ^ Lee Hoiby: A Month in the Country: Information from Answers.com

External links

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