Celtic Cossack Connections
War and Peace
The idea of reconstructing the original version of Prokofiev’s opera War and Peace resulted from the opportunities provided by Celtic-Cossack Connections: to collaborate in the performance of a work which neither of the two Conservatoires would be likely to tackle on their own, which needed the participation of native Russian singers, which would present a challenge, and which would make an international creative impact.
The opera has a long and tangled history: first conceived in the late 1930s, it was started in the months before the Second World War – which gave it contemporary relevance and political backing – and in its first form was completed in the spring of 1942. This initial version failed to find approval with the Soviet authorities, however, and the opera was subjected to continual revision in the eleven years until Prokofiev’s death in 1953. By this time it had grown to 13 scenes, lasting about four hours. It has been performed in many edited versions since then, but the original has remained amongst the composer’s manuscripts in Moscow.
No musical material has had to be invented for the reconstruction; the sections discarded in the revision process have been orchestrated, as far as possible in keeping with Prokofiev’s distinctive style. The outcome reveals a work much closer to the ideals of Tolstoy, with greater emphasis on the personal and intimate and less focus on the national and tableauesque.