Noted Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev produced just one work for the stage which can be said to have had the same impact as his greatest books and that play is A Month in the Country. Although Turgenev wrapped up the finishing touches on his manuscript in 1850, it would not actually be produced for the first time until 1872 due to its being rejected by the country’s state censor.
By then, Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Sons was already being recognized as one of the greatest works in the Russian literature. Even that spike to his reputation was not enough to ensure success, however and it seemed that this story which had been allowed to sit untouched for decades would likewise cement his disappointment as a playwright. A revival seven years later was far better received and allowed A Month in the Country to thereafter become a standard part of Russian repertory theater with each new generation taking their own shot at putting a unique stamp upon its timeless themes of romantic entanglements stimulated by boredom and apathy and the subsequent motivation to reclaim lost honor in a society becoming increasingly more affected by the temptations of greed.
A large cast of well-developed characters tempting actors with opportunities to put a little more sparkle into their star potential has kept A Month in the Country in the public eye not only with regular revivals on the stage, but at least ten versions written for the screen. In addition, the play has been adapted into both a ballet and an opera as well as numerous unofficial interpretations under alternate titles.
The great irony at work here is Turgenev was very committed to establishing himself as a playwright before he was denied the right to produce A Month in the Country in 1850. That experience essentially soured him on the medium and he sharpened his focus toward producing prose. The near-universal critical view toward the play since then is that it foreshadows all the qualities found in the works of Russia’s most celebrated playwright who was not yet even born when Turgenev completed his drama: Anton Chekhov.