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date: 18 October 2019

War and Peace [Voyna i mir]locked

  • Richard Taruskin

Extract

[Voyna i mir]

Opera in 13 ‘lyrico-dramatic scenes’ and a choral epigraph by Sergey Prokofiev to a libretto by the composer and Mira Alexandrovna Mendelson (Prokof’ yeva) after Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy’s novel (1869); for premières see Table 2.

Prokofiev’s operatic masterpiece and one of the tiny handful of post-1945 operas to achieve repertory status, War and Peace had an exceptionally complicated creative history that reflected not only the composer’s artistic decisions and those of his close advisers, but also the extremely difficult circumstances that attended the opera’s gestation. Five separate authorial versions can be distinguished, of which four have been the basis of staged performances and three exist in discrete written form.

First version: According to Prokofiev’s widow Lina, as early as 1935 the composer, then living abroad, referred to an opera on Tolstoy’s War and Peace as a plan of long standing, awaiting only the opportunity for long and concentrated work without interruption. It has been discovered, moreover, that the first theme of the overture (associated in the opera with Kutuzov) was first jotted down in a notebook dating from the early months of ...

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