Opera in one act
Music Director: Jan Latham-Koenig
Conductor: Valery Kritskov
Stage Director: Alexey Veiro
Set and Costume Designer: Etel Ioshpa
Choirmaster: Yulia Senyukova
Lighting Designer: Sergey Skornetsky
Running time: 0 hours 50 minutes with no intermission
Premiered on 4 May 2016
Recommended for 16+
To commemorate the 125th anniversary of the birth of Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953),the Novaya Opera Theatre presented one of the composer’s earliest and most mystical works.
The process of writing this opera is mentioned in Prokofiev’s autobiography:
In the summer of 1911, I wrote a one-act opera, Maddalena, based on Baron Lieven’s play of the same name. Baron Lieven turned out to be a young fine lady, who was more attractive than talented. Nevertheless, there is a conflict, love, adultery, and a murder in this play which is set in Venice in the 15th century.
Most of Prokofiev’s esthetical features were conceived in this opera.
In the composer’s operatic legacy there is hardly a piece with a more mysterious destiny than Maddalena. In 1911 and 1913 Prokofiev wrote two different scores of the opera, but its premiere, planned for the 1913/14 season, in the Moscow Free Theatre, never took place, and all subsequent attempts to perform it were a failure. In the mid-1930s, the composer had to part with Maddalena for good. Its hand-written score appeared in Paris in the archive of the Russian music publishing house and later became a property of the British Boosey& Hawkes firm. In the early 1970s, Prokofiev’s score was found by the renowned English conductor and composer Edward Downes. Having decided to revive the opera, he completed the score very tactfully and with great taste in Prokofiev’s style. On March 25, 1979, the opera was first broadcast on the BBC radio station, and its first stage production was premiered at the festival in Graz (Austria) in 1981. The opera’s story in Russia was resumed only 75 years after the creation of the piece: the conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky recorded the first phonorecord of Maddalena, and in September of 1987 this recording was broadcast on the All-Union radio station.
The Novaya Opera first staged the opera in 1991, when the whole world was celebrating the centenary of the composer's birth. In late September the Novaya Opera’s soloists, choir and orchestra performed Maddalena at the Sagra Musicale Umbra Festival in Perugia (Italy) and on December 29 at the Svyatoslav Richter December Evenings Festival in Moscow. Both concerts were conducted by Evgeny Kolobov.
The action is set in Venice in the early 15th century. The beautiful Maddalena waits for her husband, the artist Genaro, to come home. Their happy reunion is interrupted by the appearance of Genaro’s friend, the alchemist Stenio. He tells the artist about his lover, a mysterious, evil beauty, who has taken his freedom and conquered his will. Tortured with jealousy and uncertainty, loving and hating, Stenio is anxious to find her at all costs. A flash of lightning illuminates Maddalena who hides behind the curtain, and Stenio recognizes his tormentress. The two friends take out their daggers, to execute fair justice on the cheater. But Maddalena ingeniously pits one against the other. They kill each other. In the rays of the rising sun Maddalena farewells them. Then she opens the window and calls out for help: "A stranger came to Genaro! They got into fight! Genaro is dead!"
Alexey Veiro, stage director:
The plot centers on a woman’s nature, which cannot be fully understood by menas it is elusive. Two characters try to understand it, each in his own way: a painter does it through shapes, reproducing it in pencil sketches, oil portraits, stone and bronze sculptures… The other one (originally an alchemist) is closer to the present time: he is a researcher of human souls, a psychologist. He goes through its depths, unconscious and sexual elements. When fortune throws together all of them in one space, they try to assemble her image from two sides: you’re like this - no, you are like that! And they perishby this, while the woman stays free.
The name Maddalena refers to the biblical story of a sinner who became a saint, and this transformation can in principle be shown in music. But the director decides against following this beaten track: his heroine remains an untransformed sinner, not like the restless Salome, but rather like the hedonistic Carmen, who wasat first bored, like Katerina Ismailova, but then (for this once) had a stroke of luck.<…>
Stage director Alexey Veiro does not overuse upstanding arias, close-up scenes or intricate poses — all of this is there, but in moderation, just enough to avoid fuss and bore. The director, however, is not willing to label the characters, letting the public do this.
May 16, 2016
The sets take the spectators to the 1920s-1930s, with Constructivism prevailing in architecture: the characters suffer and die in a white wood-framed house assembled of numerous rectangular plates. Impenetrable darkness shrouds the sets, and vague figures dressed in black are circling around. Contrast is made by a red lighthouse and Maddalena’s scarlet skirt. The depressing atmosphere is accentuated by the heroine’s phrase “I’m sick and bored”.
May 4, 2016