THE MUSIC HERITAGE SOCIETY
SLEEVE IS IN GOOD CONDITION, LPS ARE IN EXCELLENT CONDITION
RARE VINTAGE CLASSICAL OPERA by SERGEI PROKOFIEV's
In breathing new life into the symphony, sonata, and concerto, Sergey Prokofiev emerged as one of the truly original musical voices of the twentieth century. Bridging the worlds of pre-revolutionary Russia and the Stalinist Soviet Union, Prokofiev enjoyed a successful worldwide career as composer and pianist. As in the case of most other Soviet-era composers, his creative life and his music came to suffer under the duress of official Party strictures. Still, despite the detrimental personal and professional effects of such outside influences, Prokofiev continued until the end of his career to produce music marked by a singular skill, inventiveness, and Ã©lan.
As an only child (his sisters had died in infancy), Prokofiev lived a comfortable, privileged life, which gave him a heightened sense of self-worth and an indifference to criticism, an attitude that would change as he matured. His mother taught him piano, and he began composing around the age of five. He eventually took piano, theory, and composition lessons from Reyngol'd Gliere, then enrolled at the St. Petersburg Conservatory when he was 13. He took theory with Lyadov, orchestration with Rimsky-Korsakov, and became lifelong friends with Nicolai Myaskovsky. After graduating, he began performing in St. Petersburg and in Moscow, then in Western Europe, all the while writing more and more music. Prokofiev's earliest renown, therefore, came as a result of both his formidable pianistic technique and the works he wrote to exploit it. He sprang onto the Russian musical scene with works like the Sarcasms, Op. 17 (1912-1914), and Visions fugitives, Op. 22 (1915-1917), and his first few piano sonatas. He also wrote orchestral works, concertos, and operas, and met with Diaghilev about producing ballets. The years immediately after the Revolution were spent in the U.S., where Prokofiev tried to follow Rachmaninov's lead and make his way as a pianist/composer. His commission for The Love for Three Oranges came from the Chicago Opera in 1919, but overall Prokofiev was disappointed by his American reception, and he returned to Europe in 1922. He married singer Lina Llubera in 1923, and the couple moved to Paris. He continued to compose on commission, meeting with mixed success from both critics and the public. He had maintained contact with the Soviet Union, even toured there in 1927. The Love for Three Oranges was part of the repertory there, and the government commissioned the music for the film Lieutenant KijÃ© and other pieces from him. In 1936, he decided to return to the Soviet Union with his wife and two sons. Most of his compositions from just after his return, including many for children, were written with the political atmosphere in mind. One work which wasn't, was the 1936 ballet Romeo and Juliet, which became an international success. He attempted another opera in 1939, Semyon Kotko, but was met with hostility from cultural ideologues. During World War II, Prokofiev and other artists were evacuated from Moscow. He spent the time in various places within the U.S.S.R. and produced propaganda music, but also violin sonatas, his "War Sonatas" for piano, the String Quartet No. 2, the opera War and Peace, and the ballet Cinderella. In 1948, with the resolution that criticized almost all Soviet composers, several of Prokofiev's works were banned from performance. His health declined and he became more insecure. The composer's last creative efforts were directed largely toward the production of "patriotic" and "national" works, typified by the cantata Flourish, Mighty Homeland (1947), and yet Prokofiev also continued to produce worthy if lesser-known works like the underrated ballet The Stone Flower (1943). In a rather bitter coincidence, Prokofiev died on March 5, 1953, the same day as Joseph Stalin.
The Love for Three Oranges, opera, Op. 33
In 1917, with his opera The Gambler in rehearsals for a St. Petersburg production, Prokofiev, already recognized as one of the leading modernist composers in his country, was looking for a new subject for his next operatic effort. The composer found his inspiration in a magazine published by theatrical producer Vsevolod Meyerhold in 1914-16, called The Love for Three Oranges, after the comedy by Carlo Gozzi.
Following his arrival in Chicago in 1918, Prokofiev attempted to interest the Chicago Opera Company in a production of The Gambler, whose staging was canceled owing to the Bolshevik Revolution. The director, Cleofonte Campanini, turned him down, but did offer to do the new opera he suggested, The Love for Three Oranges. Prokofiev, a fast worker, completed the work in October that year, and it was premiered on December 30, 1921, in Chicago. Productions in New York (1922), Cologne (1925), Berlin (1926), and Leningrad (1926) followed, each helping to advance the cause of the composer, but meeting with little actual success. Yet, by the 1940s the music in the opera became widely known, mainly because of the often-played Suite adapted from it and use of its March as the theme of a popular radio show in America called "Your FBI in Peace and War." Throughout most of the twentieth century, The Love for Three Oranges opera had achieved more performances than any other Prokofiev opera.
The Love for Three Oranges begins with a prologue in which the supporters of tragedy, comedy, eccentricity and other forms of drama watch the story, not only commenting on it, but affecting the outcome of certain events. The story they watch centers on the hypochondriac Prince, who is cursed by the witch, Fata Morgana, to fall madly in love with three oranges and obsessively pursue them.
There is much humor and joy in Prokofiev's score. Some see the opera as a clever, updated Offenbach-like creation, full of slapstick and silliness. It is hard to dispute this view, though Prokofiev's occasional acid and handling of the story line perhaps place the work in a somewhat different arena, where farce and fun mix menace and mayhem in a sometimes cruel way. Just as the duck gets swallowed alive by the wolf in Prokofiev's children's classic, Peter and the Wolf, characters here can die or disappear as if quite dispensable: two of the three princesses who emerge from the oranges die immediately of thirst, the third being saved by the Eccentrics who intervene to give her water. However one interprets the opera, it is generally agreed that it is masterpiece of the twentieth century stage.
Viktor Ribinsky, Bass
Vladimir Makhov, Tenor
Boris Dobrin, Baritone
Lyutsia Raskovets, Mezzo-soprano
Ivan Budrin, Baritone
Yuri Yelnikov, Tenor
Gennady Troitsky, Bass
Nina Polyyakova, Soprano
Nina Postavnicheva, Mezzo-soprano
Georgy Abramov, Hoarse Bass
Yuri Yakushev, Bass
Tamara Medvedeva, Mezzo-soprano
Miroslav Markov, Bass
and Ivan Kartavenko, Tenor
with the Chorus and Orchestra of the Moscow Radio
directed by DZHEMAL DALGAT