5 (Pretty Dark) Facts About Composer Peter Tchaikovsky

You may know that Peter Tchaikovsky composed the music for "The Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake," but did you know he led a tormented life off stage? Professor Robert Greenberg, host of "Scandalous Overtures" on Ora.TV, shares some facts about the life and death of the master composer.
Peter Tchaikovsky Photo

A photo of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky taken in 1863 when he was approximately 23 years old. (Photo: From 'The Life & Letters of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky' [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Today would have been Peter Tchaikovsky’s 175th birthday – May 7, 1840. And if he’d been born in modern times, what a different life he might have led. Tchaikovsky was gay and living under the far-from-progressive Romanov tsars in St. Petersburg. The fear of his sexual orientation being discovered colored his entire life — and his death, as I explain in this episode of Scandalous Overtures on Ora.TV

Here are a few (pretty dark) facts we learned about the man who gave us The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

1. Tchaikovsky suffered from depression and was a notorious hypochondriac.

2.  He thought his head was going to fall off while he was conducting. Literally – he even held his head up with one hand while in front of the orchestra!

3.  Tchaikovsky went from being the cream of music elite in Russia and basking in critical acclaim to six feet under in just nine days.

4.  Tchaikovsky NEVER EVER drank unbottled water. Probably a good decision, given the cholera outbreak in Russia at the time…

5.  Tchaikovsky was actually diagnosed with cholera on November 5, 1893, and died the next day. However, there were rumors that the composer committed suicide by poisoning himself with arsenic, which mimics the symptoms of cholera. This theory has never been proven.

Learn more about Peter Tchaikovsky in Scandalous Overtures with Professor Robert Greenberg: Fear And Loathing In St. Petersburg on Ora.TV