Dedicated to the 130th Anniversary of the Birth of Sergei Prokofiev
April 23 marks the 130th anniversary of the birth of one of the most significant composers of the 20th century, Sergei Prokofiev. On this day, the playbill of the St. Petersburg Opera Theatre includes the lyric-comic opera “Betrothal in a Monastery”.
The work was created by Prokofiev on the eve of World War II, in 1940, based on the plot of the “English Beaumarchais” by Richard Sheridan. The composer wrote the libretto himself, strengthening the lyrical component of the play and emphasizing the strength of the feelings of young lovers who will certainly triumph over any plans of the practical and serious older generation.
Like many of Prokofiev's works, “Betrothal in a Monastery” is part of the golden musical fund of the 20th century. Sparkling humor, which inevitably makes you remember Rossini (especially since the action of “The Duenna” takes place in Seville), is adjacent here with gentle melody, arias are interspersed with songs.
As always, the director Yuri Alexandrov is looking for answers to the artistic and moral questions of modern life in the score. The plot of Sheridan's play is interpreted as a funny story about the eternal conflict of generations of fathers and children, academism and innovation.
“We are transferring the operatic action to the educational institution - perhaps my beloved Theater Academy on Mokhovaya. Theatricality and real life interact there especially organically. At first, a kind of acting sketches as a form of existence. And then, a feast of theatricality, which gradually draws in all reality. This performance will require from the actors-singers virtuoso plasticity, the ability to dance, fencing - as close as possible to the skill of the actors of the drama theatre ...”, - says Yuri Alexandrov.
For Prokofiev, living meant composing music. And to compose was always to create something new. “The cardinal merit (or, if you like, the disadvantage) of my life,” wrote the composer, “has always been the search for my original musical language. I hate imitation, I hate hackneyed tricks”
Prokofiev believed that in art only that is valuable that arises as a result of the artist's sensitive listening to the rhythms and intonations of the surrounding life. This is the basis of Prokofiev's innovation.
An inexhaustible melodic gift, an unlimited ability for artistic transformation, the ability to recreate the very spirit of the depicted life allowed Prokofiev to embrace the large, complex world of our reality. Suffice it to name such works of his as the operas "Semyon Kotko" (based on the story by Valentin Kataev) and "The Story of a Real Man" (based on the work of the same name by Boris Polevoy), the oratorio "On Guard for Peace" and the suite "Winter Bonfire" on poems by S. Marshak or the epic Fifth Symphony, performed in 1945, the idea and design of which Prokofiev himself defined as "A Symphony of the Greatness of the Human Spirit.”
“He knew how to listen to the time,” Ilya Ehrenburg said about him. But even when the composer turned to distant history, he remained deeply modern. Therefore, Prokofiev's patriotic lyrics and the fearless power of folk scenes in the music for the film “Ivan the Terrible”, the picture “Borodino” in the opera “War and Peace” based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy, the invocative “Arise, Russian people!” and the captivating, in Glinka-style chanting “There is no enemy in native Russia” in the cantata "Alexander Nevsky".