Prokofiev's "War and Peace" original critical hit

Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:24am EST
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By Ian MacKenzie

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - An original version of Sergei Prokofiev's opera "War and Peace," brought to the stage in a joint Scottish-Russian collaboration, has had its world premiere to critical acclaim in Scotland.

Prokofiev, born in the Ukraine in 1891, wrote the opera in the early days of Germany's 1941 assault on the Soviet Union, basing the work on Leo Tolstoy's epic novel about the 1812 French invasion of Russia.

The composer, who also wrote the script with his second partner Mira Mendelson, had projected a lyrical production with a stress on characterization and the interaction of relationships and the human face of a people at war.

But the state censors, reflecting the desire of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin for strident wartime heroism and the need for a strong leader, demanded numerous revisions over a period of years.

Students from the Glasgow-based Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) and Russia's Rostov State Rachmaninov Conservatoire in Rostov-on-Don, together with the Scottish National Opera, collaborated to bring the original three-hour epic to the stage.

Two performances were scheduled in Glasgow and two in Edinburgh, with the last performance to be performed in the capital's Festival Theater on Saturday.

A gala Russian premiere will be held at Rostov in March, with a group of RSAMD students participating.

The Times newspaper headlined its review of the work: "Thrilling result as Stalin is purged from Napoleonic saga."   Continued...