9. Prokofiev

Two (very!) contrasted operas by Sergei Prokofiev: The Love of Three Oranges, a fantastic satire/comedy based on a commedia dell’arte play by Carlo Gozzi; and War and Peace, drawn from Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel of Russia at the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

The Love of Three Oranges was commissioned by the Chicago Opera Association during a concert tour by the composer/pianist of the United States, and had its first performance – to a rather mixed reception – in that city in 1921. Because it was felt that the Russian language would have been unintelligible to the majority of an American audience; and since the composer himself had, at this stage, very little English, the work was originally set and performed in French (L’Amour des trois oranges).

War and Peace was written just over twenty years later when Prokofiev was a rather(?) unwilling fixture in Stalin’s Russia. It was composed, appropriately, during the Second World War and, in its final version (there are a few), has 13 scenes of which the first seven deal with peace while scene eight starts the war section with the preparations for the Battle of Borodino.

This is Opera North’s very jolly English language production (complete with scratch-and-sniff cards for the audience!) of the The Love of (for?) Three Oranges:

Introduction: 00:00
Act I : 02:50
Act II: 33:15
Act III: 58:35
Act IV: 1:42:48

Vocal score (Russian & French)

… and here’s the Paris Opera production of War and Peace. It has to be viewed on YouTube (embedding not allowed!)

War & Peace

If you only want to sample the work, these are a few of the generally acknowledged highlights:

Arioso: Andrei, Bright spring sky, 02:00
Aria: Natasha, I won’t I can’t sleep, 5:12
Waltz: Natasha 26:02
Recitative: Andrei 31:29
Arioso: Natasha, Maybe he will come today, 40:50
Anatole’s Waltz-seduction: 48:42
Arioso: Natasha, I am the worst, the worst, 01:20:50
Aria: Kutuzova, In the sun, 02:25:00
Monologue: Andrei, Only once, 02:57:00
Finale: 03:19:23

Lastly, if your eyes are much sharper than mine and you’re determined to follow the (full) score, here it is, divided (by Shostakovich, its editor, I assume) into three acts – Act 1 | Act 2 | Act 3