Sunday 6 December 2009

War and Peace

Prokofiev wrote War and Peace in 1942, but there followed over a decade of changes before he could get the opera performed. Even when he submitted it to the Soviet Authorities in 1941/1942 he was forced to make changes. Now Dr. Rita McAllister has gone back to the original manuscripts, notably the composer's piano score, to reconstruct Prokofiev's first thoughts, his original setting of the opera in 11 scenes. This has included McAllister having to orchestrate some 450 bars of music. Dr McAllister's article about her new edition can be read here. From the first Prokofiev had to re-work the War scenes to comply with the Soviet authorities desire to make them more patriotic. The 10 year process of re-working emphasised the public, patriotic at the expense of the personal in the opera.

Now a collaboration between the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and the Rostov State Rakhmaninov Conservatoire is bringing this first version of the opera to the stage in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It will be fascinating to see Prokofiev's first thoughts. War and Peace is one of those operas which has no definitive version; many of Prokofiev's revisions were done at the behest of others and take on an increasingly desperate nature as he tried to get the opera performed. Having a good edition of his first thoughts (previously hidden in the Soviet Archives) will enable us to make more informed decisions about what to include (and to miss out) of future performances.

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