Opera in the 20th Century

November 12, 2004

November 12: Opera in Russia

Posted by Charles T. Downey at 1:19 AM | Link to this post

Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953) composed more than ten operas, not all of them completed.

Ljubowk k trjom Apelsinam [The Love of Three Oranges] (Chicago, 1921), with libretto by the composer, after Gozzi.

War and Peace (composed 1941-1952) was begun after Prokofiev's return to the Soviet Union. The work was first premiered in an incomplete concert version (eight scenes of first version), on October 16, 1944, by the Ensemble of Soviet Opera of the All-Union Theatrical Society, conducted by Konstantin Popov with piano accompaniment. After a second incomplete concert performance (with nine scenes, on June 7, 1945, by the USSR State Symphony, conducted by Samuel Samosud), Prokofiev continued to revise the opera. After his death, the work was finally staged, in the finished revised version (March 31, 1955, at the Leningrad State Academy Maly Opera Theater, conducted by Eduard Grikurov) and in a restored 13-scene version (November 8, 1957, in the Stanislavsky Operat Theater, Moscow, conducted by Alexander Shaverdov).

Alex Ross, in his review (Prokofiev's War and Peace, The New Yorker, March 4, 2002) of the recent production at the Metropolitan Opera in New York (a coproduction with the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, with some pictures available here), called it "the most visually compelling opera production that I have seen in New York in many years." That production was also reviewed by Anthony Tommasini ('War and Peace' Opens; Mishap Raises Concerns, February 16, 2002) for the New York Times.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (premiered at the Leningrad Opera, January 22, 1934), with libretto by Dmitri Shostakovich and Alexander Preys.

Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998), Life with an Idiot (Amsterdam, 1992), first of three operas by this composer: Gesualdo (Vienna, 1995) and Historia von D. Johann Fausten (Hamburg, 1995).