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Prokofiev: Semyon Kotko Import

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, May 31, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

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The Kirov Opera has done a great service by making Sergei Prokofiev's operas accessible to Western audiences whose familiarity with that aspect of the composer's career is sadly limited. Semyon Kotko won't crowd La Bohème off the boards, but it should please Prokofiev buffs. It's not without problems. The story wavers between village comedy and wartime brutality, and the plot line's political correctness is pitched to succeed in Stalin's Soviet Union. But the melodies come easy, even when sung by cardboard characters, and the orchestration is compelling. In Act III, Prokofiev transcended his material, writing a moving love duet and tense, forward-moving dramatic scenes. A topnotch cast, dynamic conducting and orchestral playing, and Philips's best sound in its Kirov Opera series should tempt those even vaguely interested in mid-century Russian music. --Dan Davis

Stream Prokofiev: Semyon Kotko (2 CDs) by Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre and Orchestra of the Kirov Opera, St. Petersburg and Valery Gergiev and Various Artists and tens of millions of other songs on all your devices with Amazon Music Unlimited. Exclusive discount for Prime members.
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Kirov Opera & Orchestra
  • Conductor: Valery Gergiev
  • Composer: S. Prokofiev
  • Audio CD (May 31, 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Philips Import
  • ASIN: B00004TL2T
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,117 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Julian Grant on August 21, 2000
Format: Audio CD
The story of Prokofiev's return to the Soviet Union in the 1930's is a sad and sorry one, welcomed back into the fold as a prodigal son(a great propaganda coup) he found himself at the height of Stalin's purges - in fact the intended director for the premiere of 'Semyon Kotko',Vsevolod Meyerhold, vanished just as Prokofiev finished the opera - much later it came to light he had been shot. So this is Prokofiev's attempt at an idealogically acceptable Soviet-Realist opera - a far cry in subject matter from his earlier operatic endeavours (many of which have been recorded by Gergiev and the Kirov in this superb series)- Dostoyevsky, Commedia dell'arte, Symbolist religious-sexual obsession - none of which would have stood a chance in the USSR at the time - mind you they didn't do too well in the West either. Prokofiev's operas are in fact much better than their rather patchy stage history would suggest.
So, what is this opera like? - bearing in mind that it was written in this all-pervading atmosphere of fear, and that Prokofiev badly needed an idealogical success with the authorities - 'Romeo and Juliet' written 3 years previously had failed (hard to credit!), and only 'Peter and the Wolf' had pleased. Well, the great thing about Prokofiev's music is that his personality imprints itself on every page, and while the music is uneven and at times even banal, it is always fascinating to have the chance to hear a work that has almost disappeared, by a major composer.
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Format: Audio CD
It was a performance of Semyon Kotko attended by a young Sviatoslav Richter that drew the admiration of the young pianist for the music of Sergei Prokofiev. Semyon Kotko is an opera with a checkered history. Prokofiev wanted the opera to be staged by the famed director Vsevold Meyerhold, a critic of the Soviet Union's control over artists, but he was arrested just after Prokofiev had completed his piano score of the opera and was never seen again. The composer hoped that this opera would be the work that would secure his reputation as a Soviet artist. Since his return to his homeland in 1936, and despite his (now renown) ballet Romeo and Juliet the only work that had received any attention was Peter and the Wolf. Ultimately, Semyon Kotko was not the success that Prokofiev had hoped for but at least he had been able to see the opera staged.
The opera is peopled with characters that are strictly good or bad and it extols the peasant-hero who is victorious over the forces that would crush the Bolshevik utopia. Prokofiev toned down the propaganda element of the story (the libretto was written by the author of the story, Valentin Katayev, that was titled "I am the son of working people"). Semyon Kotko was received with some enthusiasm when it premiered in 1940 but it was withdrawn early in 1941 and not performed until 1958. Since this opera was intended to help the composer find acceptance by the Soviet leadership it could be considered music written to show the composer's desire for acceptance, not reflecting his true desires for the opera. However, this is not the case. It is clear for the opening bars that the music of Semyon Kotko is rich in expression and drama and is connected to the tradition of Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky in treating the characters with their own vocal style.
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Format: Audio CD
If conductor Valery Gergiev were known for nothing more than bringing obscure operas to light, he would still have a place in history. His valiant advocacy of some of Prokofiev's more obscure work is a case in point, and "Semyon Kotko" must be one of the best examples. It's a shame this work hasn't been performed or recorded more often, since it has all the dramatic impact you could want, and some terrific music.
I was fortunate to see this live in the summer of 2003, performed by Gergiev and the Kirov Opera at the Lincoln Center Festival. The vivid production alone would have made an impact, but the fact is that this opera has some of Prokofiev's most striking, not to mention listenable music. In Act III, for example, when the small village in the story is destroyed, the score reaches a terrifying climax (among other memorable sequences) with a starring role for Olga Savova, who is just one standout in the committed cast.
Perhaps it's the opportunity to bring to life a seldom-done score, but everyone sings with go-for-broke intensity, and the orchestra -- wow, this orchestra -- is up to its usual high standard. The sound quality is also quite good, as are most of these in this Philips series. The libretto includes a few photographs from the Kirov production as well.
It is almost unthinkable that this score might still be lounging around in some library, waiting for a guide like Gergiev to show us that there is something valuable within. For those who love Prokofiev, unusual opera or are just admirers of the conductor's impressive output with the Kirov, this can be easily recommended.
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