Based on a synopsis created by Adrian Piotrovsky (who first suggested the subject to Prokofiev) and Sergey Radlov, the ballet was composed by Prokofiev in September 1935 to their scenario which followed the precepts of “drambalet” (dramatised ballet, officially promoted at the Kirov Ballet to replace works based primarily on choreographic display and innovation). Following Radlov’s acrimonious resignation from the Kirov in June 1934, a new agreement was signed with the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on the understanding that Piotrovsky would remain involved. However, the ballet’s original happy ending (contrary to Shakespeare) provoked controversy among Soviet cultural officials; the ballet’s production was then postponed indefinitely when the staff of the Bolshoi was overhauled at the behest of the chairman of the Committee on Arts Affairs, Platon Kerzhentsev.
The ballet’s failure to be produced within Soviet Russia until 1940 may also have been due to the increased fear and caution in the musical and theatrical community in the aftermath of the two notorious Pravda editorials criticising Shostakovich and other “degenerate modernists” including Piotrovsky. The conductor Yuri Fayer met with Prokofiev frequently during the writing of the music, and he strongly urged the composer to revert to the traditional ending. Fayer went on to conduct the first performance of the ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre.
|ACT I, Scene 1: The market place, Verona. Romeo, son of Montague, tries unsuccessfully to declare his love for Rosaline and is consoled by his friends Mercutio and Benvolio. As day breaks and the townspeople meet in the market, a quarrel develops between Tybalt, a nephew of Capulet, and Romeo and his friends. The Capulets and Montagues are sworn enemies, and a fight soon begins. The Lords Montague and Capulet join the fray, which is stopped by the appearance of the Prince of Verona, who commands the families to end their feud.
Scene 2: Juliet’s anteroom in the Capulet house. Juliet, playing with her nurse, is interrupted by her parents, Lord and Lady Capulet. They present her to Paris, a wealthy young nobleman who has asked for her hand in marriage.
Scene 3: Outside the Capulet house. Guests arrive for a ball at the Capulet house. Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio, disguised in masks, decide to go in pursuit of Rosaline.
Scene 4: The Ballroom. Romeo and his friends arrive at the height of the festivities. The guests watch Juliet dance; Mercutio, seeing that Romeo is entranced by her, decides to distract attention from him. Tybalt recognizes Romeo and orders him to leave, but Capulet intervenes and welcomes him as a guest in his house.
Scene 5: Outside the Capulet house. As the guests leave the ball, Capulet restrains Tybalt from pursuing Romeo.
Scene 6: Juliet’s balcony. Unable to sleep, Juliet comes out onto her balcony and is thinking of Romeo, when suddenly he appears in the garden. They confess their love for each other.
ACT II, Scene 1: The market place. Romeo can think only of Juliet, and, as a wedding procession passes, he dreams of the day when he will marry her. In the meantime, Juliet’s nurse pushes her way through the crowds in search of Romeo to give him a letter from Juliet. He reads that Juliet has consented to be his wife.
ACT III, Scene 1: The bedroom. At dawn the next morning, the household is stirring, and Romeo must go. He embraces Juliet and leaves as her parents enter with Paris. Juliet refuses to marry Paris, and, hurt by her rebuff, he leaves. Juliet’s parents are angry and threaten to disown her. Juliet rushes to see Friar Laurence.
It is generally thought that the 1881 revision of Simon Boccanegra improved the work by adding some light to the general gloom and giving further prominence to Boccanegra himself. It is the revised version that is usually performed. The prologue provides Fiesco with his moving Il lacerato spirito (The tortured spirit). In the first act dawn breaks in the Grimaldi palace garden, leading to Amelia’s In quest’ora bruna (In this dark hour), while the more spectacular second scene, in the Council Chamber, brings Boccanegra’s effective Plebe! Patrizi! (Plebeians! Nobles!) that quells incipient disturbance. Gabriele Adorno has his own particular moment of jealous anger in Sento avvampar nell’anima (I feel burning in my soul).
The following opera has been requested and due to its length it will be split into two sections… probably Part 1 around 10:00 am – Lunch – Part 2 around 2:00 pm.
This opera is NOT for all tastes… but feel free to give it a shot. I am working with two folks to schedule this. Let me know if you are interested and I’ll ensure you are part of the scheduling discussion…