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date: 26 January 2020

Decembrists, The [ Dekabristï ]locked

  • Stephen Johnson

Extract

[ Dekabristï ]

Opera in four acts by Yury Alexandrovich Shaporin to a libretto by Vsevolod Rozhdestvensky after Alexey Tolstoy; Moscow, Bol’shoy Theatre, 23 June 1953.

The story of the Decembrist uprising in St Petersburg occupied Shaporin for most of his career, and he made several attempts at an opera on this theme. The first version, based on an idea by Alexey Tolstoy and begun in 1920, was named Polina Gyobel’ (‘Paulina Goebbel’) after the revolutionary sympathizer who married the Decembrist Annenkov and went with him into exile. Its première was given in Leningrad in 1925, on the 100th anniversary of the uprising. Shaporin continued to work on the opera, however, seeking advice from several writers, particularly the musicologist and composer Boris Asaf′yev. In 1935 a commission from the Moscow Bol’shoy spurred him to intensify his efforts, and some scenes were tried out in Moscow soon afterwards, but the dramatic shape and emphasis continued to change right up to the première in ...

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