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Opera War and Peace by Prokofiev - live from the Bavarian Opera in Munich

Monday, 6 March 2023 , ora 11.00

Sergei Prokofiev's opera War and Peace(1946) has never been performed in Munich before, which means that this Sunday is a double premiere night - the premiere of the show staged by director Dmitri Tcherniakov and the local premiere of the creation.

This is the largest opera ever written in the Russian language, its performance lasting about four hours and bringing together on stage about 80 artists. The libretto, structured in 13 tables, belongs to the composer himself, who worked on it together with his second wife, Mira Prokofieva. The text brings together fragments of the huge masterpiece of the same name by Leo Tolstoy - who, ironically, disliked the work because of the artificiality of the way the characters' emotions were expressed on stage. Exceptions were, from the perspective of the great writer, the works Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, Freischutz and some works by Rossini. Tolstoy was indifferent to Russian composers; he once praised the final chorus in Glinka's Ivan Susanin and showed some interest in Tchaikovsky, but that was about it.

The opera, like the novel, describes historical events - before and during the war with Napoleon. The show is a co-production of the Bavarian State Opera with the Liceu Theater in Barcelona, recommended for people over 16 years of age due to violent episodes.

Directed by Vladimir Jurowski, an artist born in Moscow, educated in his native country but also his adopted country, Germany. He is currently the General Music Director of the famous opera house in Munich. The cast brings together numerous lyrical artists on stage, most of whom are native speakers of the Russian language; many of them play multiple roles in this show. We have the opportunity to listen to soprano Olga Kulchynska (Natasha Rostova), tenor Eric Cutler (Pierre Bezukhov), baritone Andrei Zhilikhovski (Andrei Bolkonski), as well as bass Dmitri Ulyanov (Field Marshal Kutuzov), mezzo-sopranos Alexandra Yangel (Sonya) and Violeta Urmana (Akhrosimova) and baritone Sergei Leiferkus (Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky).

Given the current context, the general director of the Bavarian Opera, Serge Dorny, felt the need for a public clarification, which can be found on the website of the Munich Opera. In this text, Dorny recounts that plans for staging Prokofiev's work date back to late 2018, when planning was done for the current Bavarian Opera season. "(...) Russia's war of aggression was still a long way off. I agreed that Sergei Prokofiev's monumental score for Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace was a masterpiece, which had never before been performed in Munich. Tolstoy's classic pacifist novel is indisputably among the masterpieces of world literature and opens up (as Prokofiev also saw) a whole panorama of themes, composed of incidents and events that happened outside the actual theater of war - the glory of Russia at the beginning of the 19th century, serfdom, the liberation of the people, freemasonry, the everyday life of the aristocracy, the absence of a culture that would provide a sense of identity in the upper Russian social classes, and much, much more. For readers of his novel, Tolstoy allows a broad vision of individual and collective phenomena and themes of Russian culture". - writes Serge Dorny, who continues: "Russia's attack on Ukraine suddenly changed our world, everyone's, and for our production team of the show "War and Peace" it also meant a big step back in terms of preparations his. Should we or should we not stage Russian operas? - this is the question that has divided public opinion since the beginning of the war. Of course, by no means is Russian art and culture itself responsible for the political actions of a regime. The great operas transcend borders and address global issues. Michelangelo is an Italian artist, but he speaks to us all. Picasso - was he just a Spaniard? We should not limit art to the nationality of those who create it. Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky - are all composers who gave works that belong to humanity.(...) There are no easy answers to these questions. However, Vladimir Jurowski, Dmitri Tcherniakov and I decided that we wanted to put in s "War and Peace" dinner - especially now. Especially in the difficult times we live in, the relevance of art must be constantly reiterated. The topicality of this work, especially directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov, will demonstrate the social importance that the work has in today's world. Tolstoy and Prokofiev did not omit anything from the cruelties of war in "War and Peace". And in our setup, many things will make us ask ourselves questions. Prokofiev embeds the failed love story in world history, inextricably mixing individuality and society, which relativizes the individual and overvalues the collective. Everyone is a victim of the war, there are only dead, wounded, disabled - everyone loses something." - also writes, in his justification, the general director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

I invite you to listen together to this masterpiece rarely present on European stages on Sunday, March 5th, from 18.00, live.

Irina Cristina Vasilescu
Translated by Georgiana-Carmen Rădulescu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu