Music of the 20th century in the April playbill
The St. Petersburg Opera is distinguished by a unique repertoire program, the range of which covers musical works created in different genres and countries over many centuries. Music of the 20th century is presented in it with striking titles, many of which are currently shown only on our stage.
On April 16, the play “Not Only Love” by R. Shchedrin will be shown. Several years ago, the premiere of the opera became a landmark event in cultural life of St. Petersburg. Rodion Shchedrin himself noted that this is the best production of his work.
On April 23, the production “Betrothal in a Monastery” by S. Prokofiev: a lyric-comic opera was composed by Prokofiev in 1940 on the eve of World War II. It is based on the plot of “English Beaumarchais” by Richard Sheridan. The composer created 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. In the opera, the lyrical and comic beginnings coexist on equal terms. 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 little songs.
On April 24, for the second time in this theatrical season, the public will have the opportunity to hear B. Britten's masterpiece “The Rape of Lucretia”. Britten's music combined the classical and the modern, the traditional and the innovative, the personal and the universal… But from the very first, youthful opuses to the last compositions, he remained flesh and blood a national artist, the son of his country.
Referring to the ancient plot in the opera “The Rape of Lucretia” (the suicide of the noble Roman woman Lucretia dishonored by the king's son Tarquinius), Benjamin Britten created the image of his era, being impressed by the horrors of the World War II.
The director Yuri Alexandrov acts in a similar way, addressing to contemporaries in his production.
He and She are commentators of old events, personification of male and female choirs in the ancient theatre. But, in addition, they are both refugees, thrown out of their homes by the cruelty of the modern world. Their bitter fate echoes what is happening in the depths of the stage and in the mists of time.
The sophistication of the metaphors combined with the strict beauty of the music makes this performance an exclusive property of the St. Petersburg Opera Theatre.
On April 25, the third premiere of the play “I know of no other such country…” will take place. The theatrical fantasy of the People's Artist of Russia Yuri Alexandrov was based on two vocal cycles – “From Jewish Folk Poetry” by Dmitry Shostakovich and “Russian Notebook” by Valery Gavrilin. “Valery Gavrilin is widely known primarily as a composer of the Russian theme - folklore, deep-national origins, both poetic and musical, completely dominate his multifaceted work. The combination of these two folklore principles in the performance has built an amazing arch. The figurative world of two so different peoples of our country is shown, whose fates have been intertwined over the centuries, welded into a kind of amazing cultural symbiosis ...”, writes music critic Alexander Matusevich in a review for the newspaper “Culture”.
On April 28, another premiere of the 34th theatrical season will be presented - the opera “Elektra” by R. Strauss. This gripping musical drama, a striking example of expressionism that filled the repertoire in December 2020.
Strauss and playwright Hugo von Hoffmannsthal took the tragedy of Sophocles as the basis for the libretto, but as representatives of the 20th century coming into its own, they focused on portraying the dark sides of the human psyche.
Hoffmannsthal's adaptation is close to the image of Sophocles: his Elektra is full of anger and is driven by only one thought - revenge. But, of course, Hoffmannsthal is reworking the ancient legend in his own spirit. In his interpretation, the nobility of ancient times disappears, he tears apart the shell under which passions boil, he shouts where Sophocles speaks in an even tone, he narrows the broad gaze of the Greek poet, turned to God ... The role of fate is diminishing. The role of insanity is growing ... Hoffmannsthal's “Elektra” can practically be called a retelling, or rather, a translation into modern language.
Is it possible to treat “Elektra” with indifference? No. She can either repel or arouse admiration, but it is just as impossible to feel indifference to her, as it is impossible to ignore the approaching storm.
As Evgeny Khaknazarov noted in his review for the newspaper “Kultura” (English: “Culture”): “There is absolutely nothing to compare the new performance of Yuri Alexandrov with - as far as I know, now on the Russian opera stage one cannot find such a spectacle. The closest staging in style (but not in temperament) is "The Rape of Lucretia" in this particular theatre. I advise music lovers of Saint Petersburg not to miss this event ...”.