Prokofiev [Prokof’yev; Prokofieff], Sergey (opera) [Serge] (Sergeyevich)
- Richard Taruskin
(b Sontsovka, Bakhmut district, Yekaterinoslav gubeniya [now Krasnoye, Selidovsky district, Donetsk region, Ukraine], 15/April 27, 1891; d Moscow, March 5, 1953). Russian composer .
Prokofiev’s operatic career began at the age of eight (with Velikan, ‘The Giant’, a 12-page opera in three acts), and he always saw himself first and foremost as a composer of music for the lyric stage. If this seems surprising, it is not only because of Prokofiev’s great success in the realm of instrumental concert music but also because of the singularly unlucky fate of his operas. Of the seven he completed, he saw only four produced; of the four, only two survived their initial production; and of the two, only one really entered the repertory. As usual in such cases, the victim has been blamed: ‘Through all his writings about opera there runs a streak of loose thinking and naivety’, wrote one critic, ‘and it runs through the works, too’. That – plus a revolution, a world war and a repressive totalitarian regime whose unfathomable vagaries the composer could never second-guess – indeed made for a frustrating career. Yet time has begun to vindicate some of those long-suffering works, and we may be glad that despite everything (and unlike Shostakovich) Prokofiev persisted as an operatic composer practically to the end....