RSAMD – War and Peace
In what must be their most ambitious opera project ever, the RSAMD present the premiere of the original version of Prokofiev’s opera War and Peace. Based on Tolstoy’s epic novel of the same name, the version of the opera which will be seen in Glasgow and Edinburgh is as the composer intended it to be, and, sadly, which he never saw. Indeed, even though Prokofiev made at least five versions of the opera between 1942 and his death in 1953, he died just two months before even one of these was staged in public performance.
The completion of the original score has been undertaken by renowned Prokofiev expert and former RSAMD vice principal, Dr Rita McAllister. As a research student, Prokofiev’s operas formed the basis of her PhD. ‘I was lucky to see his original manuscripts, which was very unusual in those days,’ she says, ‘so I went back to Moscow to build on what I’d done then and worked on the final version by cutting and pasting, taking out some sections and putting back others.’ Around 450 bars of Prokofiev’s discarded sections required orchestration from scratch by McAllister.
Soviet censoring and World War II were responsible for the years of changes and revision, but the original music is, says McAllister, ‘very lyrical. It doesn’t sound Soviet, but it does sound Russian. The story, which is not complicated to follow, is the same. In the first half there is peace and the second half, war. But the original version is more character based, with more named roles.’ At three hours long it is also more manageable than what would otherwise last over four hours. Numbers required remain high. No less than 230 cast, production staff, RSAMD instrumentalists, their Russian partners from Rostov on Don and the Orchestra of Scottish Opera are involved.
War and Peace, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Fri 22, Sat 23; Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 28, Sat 30