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The Stars of the White Nights 2024
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17 December 2023 (Sun), 19:00 World famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera - Mariinsky II (New Theatre) - Stars of the Stars  Conducted by Maestro Gergiev Opera "Dead Souls" Rodion Shchedrin (operatic scenes in three acts)

Running time: 3 hours 10 minutes (till 22:10)

The performance has 2 intermissions

Schedule for "Dead Souls" Rodion Shchedrin (operatic scenes in three acts) 2022

Conductor: Maestro Valery Gergiev

Composer: Rodion Shchedrin
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko
Musical Director: Maestro Valery Gergiev
Musical Preparation: Marina Mishuk
Set Designer: Zinovy Margolin
Lighting Designer: Damir Ismagilov
Conductor: Pavel Smelkov
Costume Designer: Maria Danilova
Principal Chorus Master: Pavel Petrenko
Stage Director: Vasily Barkhatov

Orchestra: Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra
Opera company: Mariinsky (Kirov) Opera

Opera in 3 acts

Performed in Russian, with synchronised English supertitles

World premiere: 7 June 1977, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
Premiere in Russia: 23 December 1978 Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre (Mariinsky Theatre), Leningrad, Russia
Premiere of this production: 18 March 2011, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia

Reviewing Shchedrin’s ballet score for Anna Karenina (7/96) DN reminded us that Yuri Temirkanov has described Dead Souls as the greatest opera of the twentieth century. Truth to tell, it is far from that. But it certainly is a fascinating, intermittently even a compelling work, and it’s easy to see how it could inspire such a hyperbolic reaction. Dead Souls was the big talking-point of the Bolshoi’s 1977 season and, as with so many major events in Soviet music, the circumstances surrounding it gave the participants plenty to tell the grandchildren. According to the composer, Temirkanov travelled from Leningrad to Moscow 32 times to conduct it for no fee apart from his train fare; one of the 30 or so minor soloists, who had been the lover of Brezhnev’s daughter, somehow fell foul of the authorities and disappeared off the face of the earth, so that his name had to be expunged from credits for the Melodiya LPs; almost as bizarrely, since perestroika Alexander Voroshilo (the phenomenal baritone in the main role of Chichikov) has given up singing and gone into business manufacturing spicy sausages. Shchedrin worked on Dead Souls for ten years, apparently without heed to the practicalities of staging. I should stress apparently, because unlike Schnittke, Gubaidulina and their associates, Shchedrin was at pains to keep his liberalism within the bounds of official acceptability. The success of his opera was not clouded by official displeasure. His score is an exercise in musical mayhem – frankly sensationalist, and from moment to moment rather enjoyable. It is always talented, often effective, yet in the long run irksome. At times its main aim seems to be to live up to the infamous Pravda “Muddle instead of Music” article on Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth (“the music quacks, grunts, growls and suffocates itself... ”); except that the pretext here is not sex and violence but a grotesquerie bordering on the Theatre of the Absurd. The story is of Chichikov’s attempts to gain social status by buying up the names of dead peasants, and of his consequential encounters with a succession of more or less barmy serf-owning gentry. As such it has been a favourite with the Russian intelligentsia, on the one hand for its observations of the eternal vanities and foibles of provincial Russians, on the other for its virtuosic use of language. Shchedrin’s setting stands in a direct line from the other great Gogol operas – Shostakovich’s The Nose and before that Mussorgsky’s The Marriage and Sorochintsky Fair – without rising to their level of subtlety and control. One of his best ideas is to graft on a kind of anti-running-commentary in the shape of pseudo-folksongs, sung in ethnic open-throated manner by two female soloists supported by chamber choir who take the place of the violins in the orchestra pit. There is a certain psychedelic frisson when this music periodically intervenes, setting off Chichikov’s various encounters with a level of far from self-explanatory allegory. From a literary point of view, the opera was criticized after the premiere for having added a layer of gratuitous optimism to Gogol’s tale. I have to say it’s difficult to see where anyone could have heard such a thing (maybe the original staging had something to do with it). A far greater obstacle to the opera’s staying power, it seems to me, is the diminishing returns of its relentless casual extremism. That impression is heightened by a recording which was high on impact even on the 1982 Melodiya LPs, and which in its digitally remastered form is now even more overpowering. Every detail of the virtuosically intense performance comes across. Apart from the daunting vocal range negotiated with apparent ease by Voroshilo’s Chichikov, you can savour Boris Morozov’s Sobakevich, with a basso profundo sounding rather like an articulated burp, and a cameo for two horrendously bitchy ‘pleasant ladies’, during which the Bolshoi’s principal bassoonist also does a star turn. Temirkanov’s evident belief in the opera helps to make this recording an extraordinary document. Savour it by all means, but don’t expect a masterpiece.'

opera scenes in three acts after the poem by N.V. Gogol

Music by Rodion Shchedrin
Libretto by the composer

Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre (Mariinsky Theatre): 23 December 1978
Premiere of this production: 18 March 2011, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg


Act I
Scene 1. Introduction.
We hear the song The Snow Is not White, performed in the Russian folk style.
Scene 2. Lunch at the Procurator’s.
The dignitaries of the town of N are giving a lunch in honour of Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, attended by Manilov, Sobakevich, Nozdryov, Mizhuev, the Governor, the Procurator, the Chairman of the Chamber, the Chief of Police and the Post Master. “Vivat, Pavel Ivanovich,” the town’s dignitaries proclaim in chorus, in turn treating Chichikov and speaking of their admiration for him. In turn, Chichikov lavishes compliments on the “town fathers”.
Scene 3. The Road.
britzka makes its way along the road. Selifan is sitting on the coach-box, while Chichikov is in the carriage. Selifan sings the song Hey-Hey, My Hearties! He asks two approaching peasants “Is it far to Zamanilovka?” They reply that it is one verst to Manilovka, and that there is no such place as Zamanilovka. The britzka travels onwards.
Scene 4. Manilov.
The hospitable Manilov and his wife welcome Chichikov. “May Day... The name day of the heart…” Manilov sings tenderly, and croons an arioso in praise of his guest. Taking Manilov to one side, Chichikov offers to sell him dead souls. Manilov is taken aback and expresses doubt: “Will not such trade be at odds with Russia’s prospects?” But Chichikov easily explains that the opposite is the case. The Manilovs and their guest dream of the joys of life aloud. Suddenly Manilov notices that Chichikov has already disappeared. He stops and ponders: “Dead souls?”
Scene 5. A Pot-Holed Road.
On the road again. Selifan complains of the infernal darkness, Chichikov suggests looking to determine if the village can be seen. Bring, oh God, a Thunderous Cloud, sings the chorus.
Scene 6. Korobochka.
A room in the house of Korobochka. Korobochka laments the “poor harvests and losses”, telling Chichikov what wonderful workers have died recently. Suddenly Chichikov makes his offer: “Release them to me.” Initially Korobochka cannot make head or tail of what he is talking about: the deal is tempting, but unusual. The dialogue becomes increasingly tense. Both speak faster and faster, and in the end their words cannot be made out. A pantomime scene follows. At its height, Korobochka submits: “Why are you so glum? Allow me, I will give you them for fifteen assignations.” Chichikov disappears and Korobochka is left alone with her thoughts: “Why are dead souls walking today?”
Scene 7. Songs.
We hear the songs Don’t Cry, Don’t Cry, Beautiful Maiden, The Snow Is not White and You Are Wormwood, Wormwood Plant.
Scene 8. Nozdryov.
Nozdryov has just returned from the market – “unlucky at cards”. He sits down with Chichikov to a game of draughts. During the game, the dead souls are traded. Nozdryov tries to foist a puppy and a barrel-organ onto his partner... Chichikov accuses Nozdryov of cheating. A quarrel ensues, which slowly escalates into an unimaginable scandal. Suddenly the Captain Chief of Police appears: “Mr Nozdryov, you are under arrest... You are accused of causing personal abuse to the landowner Maximov with the birch whilst drunk...”

Act II
Scene 9. Sobakevich.
Chichikov is in Sobakevich’s study. Sobakevich abuses the town fathers to the last degree. Chichikov tries to carry on society small talk and refers to the “non-existent” souls. “You need dead souls?” asks Sobakevich, puzzled, naming an astronomical price – one hundred roubles per soul. The lengthy bartering process begins. From time to time during the talk, there are retorts from the portraits of Greek commanders justifying the fairness of Sobakevich’s arguments. In the end, the two sides come to an agreement.
Scene 10. Selifan the Coachman.
Endless road once again, and Chichikov’s britzka continues its journey. Selifan is singing a mournful song. “Is it far to Plyushkin’s?” he asks the peasants he passes, but he receives no reply.
Scene 11. Plyushkin.
Plyushkin complains about life and tells Chichikov that the damned fever took “a healthy number of peasants” from him. Chichikov appears as benefactor, proposing to buy all one hundred and twenty souls.
Scene 12. The Soldier’s Wife’s Lament.
A peasant woman laments her fate, having lost her son who was taken from her as a soldier.
Scene 13. The Governor’s Ball.
The guests are animatedly discussing Chichikov’s merits and wealth. The Governor’s daughter stands out among the dancers. Chichikov appears. All welcome him, congratulating him on his purchase of the peasants, not suspecting that it is a scam through which he hopes to obtain a mortgage on non-existent peasant property. The Governor’s wife presents the “millionaire” to her daughter. Suddenly Nozdryov bursts in and reveals the trickery of Chichikov’s deals: “I won’t leave you until I know why you have bought dead souls.” All are taken aback. But Korobochka appears, having come to town to find out “why dead souls are walking today.” This serves to increase the confusion of all...

Scene 14. Introduction.
Again we hear the song The Snow Is not White.
Scene 15. Chichikov.
The opera’s protagonist is in a hotel room. His entire cunning plot has collapsed in ruins.
Scene 16. Two Ladies.
Anna Grigorievna, “a pleasant woman in the fullest sense of the word”, and Sofia Ivanovna, “simply a pleasant woman”, have met to discuss the latest gossip. Anna Grigorievna confirms that with Nozdryov’s assistance Chichikov plans to flee with the Governor’s daughter.
Scene 17. Crowds in the Town.
The action unfolds in turns at the Chief of Police’s in drawing rooms and on the streets. All the characters in the opera are discussing the case of Chichikov. New and yet newer proposals are put forward. The Postmaster confirms that “Chichikov is none other than Captain Kopeikin...” “And isn’t Chichikov Napoleon dressed up?” asks the Procurator. Nozdryov relates that Chichikov is a spy, a fiscal inspector and a “man of State assignations”. Nozdryov then freely confirms that he has agreed to help Chichikov to flee with the Governor’s daughter. The anxiety grows. Unexpectedly it is announced that, due to the shock, the Procurator has died. The crowd is suppressed.
Scene 18. Mourning the Procurator.
A funereal procession led by the priest heads towards the graveyard. Chichikov is in his hotel room, continuing his interrupted monologue.
Scene 19. Finale.
Nozdryov tells Chichikov that he is thought to be a robber and a spy, “intent on spiriting away the Governor’s daughter”. Chichikov is frightened – it is time to flee. He calls for Selifan and orders the britzka be got ready. And once again the endless road, with Chichikov’s britzka trundling along incognito. Selifan is singing his song. A peasant with his goat and another bearded peasant are standing by the roadside. They chime in: “You see what a wheel! What do you think, will that wheel make it, should the chance arise, to Moscow or not?” “It’ll make it.” “As for Kazan, I don’t think it’ll make it that far…” “It won’t make it to Kazan.” And their song continues to resound...

Schedule for "Dead Souls" Rodion Shchedrin (operatic scenes in three acts) 2022

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