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Prokofiev’s opera “War and Peace” in Geneva

Prokoviev wanted his opera War and Peace, based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel, neither to focus on war scenes nor mass scenes. When, in the middle of the Second World War in 1941, he began work on it, he was planning a quite intimate drama, indeed ‘lyrical scenes’ in the spirit of Tchaikovsky. But what emerged was an opulent work that - unabridged - fills two evenings of performances and demands a large cast. 

On September 13, 2021, a new production of “War and Peace” by Catalan director Calixto Bieito premiered at the Grand Théâtre de Genève. The work will be sung in Russian with Aleja Perez as its musical director. 

Prokofiev always claimed Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel “War and Peace” to be one of his favourite books. The novel is set in tsarist Russia at the beginning of the 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars.

Despite the unusual scale involved in a work of music theatre by Prokofiev, the stylistic conception of the opera was consistent in its continuation of his operatic successes, following on from “The Love for Three Oranges”, “The Fiery Angel” and “Betrothal in the Monastery.” He uses leitmotifs and commemorative motifs, predominantly dispenses with traditional aria or duet parts, and strings together many short sections of action like film scenes.

On the spectacular new production the Grand Théâtre de Genève writes:

“According to some Prokofiev’s posthumous opera ‘War and Peace’ should be called ‘Peace and War’. Inspired in part by the invasion of the USSR by Nazi Germany, Sergei Prokofiev tackled Leo Tolstoy’s colossus to create this work of monumental mismatch. It was not until 1959, six years after the composer died one day before Stalin, that the opera was premiered in its entirety. Prokofiev did his best to compose the intimate scenes of peace and had no choice but to do the same while flattering Stalin’s ego in his glorification of Russian generals at war. Nevertheless, in this fragmented fresco of individuals lost in the masses, Prokofiev combines individual adventure with popular struggle and tells a grand story of love and death, perhaps even with true nationalist feeling. Star director Calixto Bieito, expert at crowd scenes, comes to the Geneva opera stage for the first time, his emotional intensity perfectly reciprocated by the passionate young Argentine conductor Alejo Pérez.”

Sergej Prokofiev, opera “War and Peace” (Russian)
Opéra de Genève 
Director: Calixto Bieito          
Conductor.: Alejo Pérez
- a co-production with the Hungarian State Opera Budapest -

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