The Stone Guest (Каменный гость in Cyrillic, Kamennyj gost' in transliteration) is an opera in three acts by Alexander Dargomyzhsky. The libretto was taken from Alexander Pushkin's like-named play (from his collection The Little Tragedies), with slight changes in wording and necessary interpolations. It was first performed at the Maryinsky Theatre, Saint Petersburg, 16 February 1872 (Old Style).
According to the composer's wishes, the last few lines of Tableau 1 were composed by César Cui, and the whole was orchestrated by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Many years later, Rimsky-Korsakov revised his own orchestration of the opera, rewrote a few of Dargomyzhsky's own original passages, and added a prelude. This version, completed in 1903 and first performed in 1907 at the Bolshoi Theatre, is now considered the standard.
The Stone Guest is notable as an opera for having its text taken almost exactly from the written work which inspired it, and not a libretto derived from it in order to accommodate expectations of opera audiences; this was taken as a radical statement about the demands of spoken and musical drama and was in fact considered a devaluation of the idea of musical form as distinct from spoken drama. Tchaikovsky in particular was critical of the idea; in response to Dargomizhky's statement that "I want sound directly to express the word; I want truth" he wrote in his private correspondence that nothing could be so "hateful and false" as the attempt to present as musical drama something that was not. Relatedly, there is very little musical repetition throughout the work; like the verse itself the music was primarily through-composed.
The opera was novel for its time in its use of dissonance and whole-tone scales, and the oft-mentioned "studied ugliness" of the music intended to reflect the actual ugliness in the story, in Dargomizhky's attempts at realism and remaining faithful to the writing. Cui termed the work a "melodic recitative" for its balance between the lyric and the naturalistic.
Setting: Spain in the 17th century.