Monday, April 09, 2012

Catherine the Great documentary

Here is the first of five parts of the documentary that PBS did about Catherine the Great. It's pretty good really, they hit all the important points of Catherine's biography. They didn't mention her affair with Rimsky-Korsakov or many of her other lovers but they aren't important compared to bringing innoculation for smallpox to Russia or expanding Russian territory all the way to the Crimea. And that's just as well, more chance for me to make an impact with my play.

In spite of the general good quality, it's always curious to see what they left out. They show her with Stanislaw Poniatowski when they were young lovers. And later they show Catherine, decades later, with the king of Poland - and neglect to mention it is Poniatowski, whom Catherine had made king of Poland.

Also in books about Catherine you get the sense that she was surrounded by servants virtually all the time, but in the scenes of this documentary you rarely see servants. And although they show her aging throughout the documentary she doesn't gain any weight - and any later portraits of Catherine make it clear, in spite of the portraitist's obligatory flattery, that she put on quite a lot of weight in her later years. She was quite svelte in her youth, as can be seen by the portrait here, although even then she didn't look like Catherine Zeta-Jones, who played her in a movie in 2001. Oh well, that is the business we call show.

But - SCORE! - I located two translated plays written by Catherine the Great herself - she wrote over a dozen and have ordered them through the Queens library system: OH THESE TIMES and THE SIBERIAN SHAMAN. Reviews will be forthcoming, of course.