Only a genius could risk composing music on the subject of Leo Tolstoy’s novel – Sergei Prokofiev proved to be the one who dared. Tolstoy’s creative works were always the subject of excitement for Prokofiev. Having dismissed the idea of composing music on the subject of the novel “Resurrection” he became enthusiastic about “War and Peace”. The events of 1941 – the intrusion of the Nazi troops on the territory of the Soviet Union in June – stirred his aspiration. According to Prokofiev’s words, particularly at that time the idea about Tolstoy’s opera “took its final shape”.
The scope of work didn’t seem embarrassing for the composer. Eleven of thirteen scenes were written within the year. Putting aside plenty (according to his opinion) of minor details the composer concentrated his attention on two main subject lines – lyrical and psychological connected with Natasha’s image and the patriotic one devoted to the ordeal of the Russian people in the Patriotic war of 1812.
The conductor Samuel Samosud played rather important role in the destiny of the opera. He was a prominent person in the operatic art of the Soviet period. The opera survived re-birthing due to his support: first on the stage of the Bolshoi Hall of Moscow Conservatoire in 1945, then with Mali Opera Theatre Company in Leningrad. It was Samosud who suggested adding of two more scenes – “The Hut in Fili” and “The Ball at Nobleman’s”.
The division into two parts is obvious in the integral structure of the opera. The lyrical scenes connected with Natasha’s destiny are remarkable for their psychological depth. The solo episodes such as romances, arioso and recitative, prevail. The heroes are characterized by subtle and pointed descriptions; the genre background is skillfully depicted.
The second half of the opera is rich in choral episodes that feature it as an oratorio. All courage and power of the Russian people who are capable of defending their Motherland is personified in Kutuzov’s image. The climax of the patriotic line is his aria “Stately, bathing in the sunshine, Mother of all Russian cities” that is devoted to Moscow.
Being the last work of Prokofiev in the opera genre “War and Peace” combines the best features of the composer’s music talent. “I am sure that “”War and Peace” is “Eugene Onegin” of our days”, wrote Alexander Gauk to the author after the first night. Listeners would confirm the truthfulness of these words. (melody. su)