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Sergey Prokofiev’s “Semyon Kotko” – First Time in the Netherlands

The concertante Dutch premiere of the opera “Semyon Kotko” by Sergei Prokofiev on 26 November 2016 in Amsterdam will be one of the most exciting operatic events of late 2016. Soloists including Oleg Dolgov (tenor, Semyon Kotko), Irina Dolzhenko (mezzo soprano, Chivrya – Semyon’s wife) and Alexandra Durseneva (alto, Semyon’s mother) will be joined by the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, the Groot Omroepkoor and the Vlaams Radio Koor. The conductor will be Vladimir Jurowski, with the choirs directed by Klaas Stok.

In terms of style, the opera is closely related to Prokofiev’s musical language as found in his two great ballets “Romeo and Julia” and “Cinderella”. Prokofiev based the work on the short story entitled “I, a Son of the Working People” by Valentin Katayev, completing it in 1939. The world premiere of this opera, making a thoroughly intentional political statement and lasting about three and a half hours, was given on 23 June 1940 at the Artists’ Theatre in Moscow.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, Valery Gergiev made a complete recording of the opera on the Philips label with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in St. Petersburg.

Place and time of the story is 1918 in the Ukraine. The soldier Semyon Kotko returns from World War I. A friendly reception is prepared for him and he enjoys great esteem with all, especially his beloved Sofia. Following his sister’s advice, Semyon sends matchmakers to the rich Tkachenko, Sofia’s father. The former Czarist staff-sergeant does not approve of the matchmakers and, against his will, Sofia agrees to be Semyon’s wife. The engagement celebration is interrupted when a German NCO wants to extort food for himself and his people. He is made drunk, disarmed and hounded out. The chairman of the village soviet reckons with an act of revenge and goes into the forest as a partisan. The Germans take revenge in a horrible way. Tkachenko names them the Bolscheviks who have remained in the village. Ivassenko and Zaryov are hanged and Semyon can flee to the partisans with Mikolka, his sister’s friend. Semyon’s hut is burned down; Zaryov’s bride goes mad. Months later, Semyon’s sister reports the oppressions of the Germans to the partisans. She calls for Semyon to help, in order to save Sofia from the planned marriage to the landowner Klembovski. The wedding ceremony comes to an abrupt end when Semyon throws a hand grenade into the church. Klembovski is wounded by it. The Germans withdraw from the approaching partisans. The traitor Tkachenko awaits his just punishment and Semyon prepares for the continuation of the partisan struggle against the Germans.

26 November 2016
Concertgebouw, Main Hall, 12:30 PM
Dutch premiere (concertante): Sergei Prokofiev
“Semyon Kotko”. Opera in five acts
Oleg Dolgov (tenor, Semyon Kotko)
Alexandra Durseneva (alto, Semjon’s mother)
Irina Dolzhenko (mezzo-soprano, Chivrja – Semyon’s wife)
and others
Radio Filharmonisch Orkest
Groot Omroepkoor
Vlaams Radio Koor
Vladimir Jurowski (conductor)
Klaas Stok (choir direction)


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