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Friday, October 19, 2007

Russian Opera Update

First, I've added a little YouTube magic to my Borodin post, over here, just so you can see what I'm talking about when I sing the praises of Prince Igor. Our next Russian DVD adventure is Shostakovich's surprisingly obscure operetta, Cheryomushki, recently released on London/Decca DVD. I'd read somewhere (Gramophone? Opera News?) the complaint that Cheryomushki's satire of Soviet life was "toothless," and so I was pleasantly surprised by just how grim this peppy little musical actually is. Which makes sense. The implied promise of every Broadway/Hollywood musical comedy is that you will transcend your class and achieve your dreams just by being beautiful and clever and passionate. In an ostensibly classless society--the young lovers here include a bureaucrat's chauffeur and a pretty crane operatrix; nary a millionaire heiress in sight--maybe the most magical promise a musical comedy can offer is a medium-sized apartment, in a new building, with no waiting. Here's a characteristically charming glimpse of our heroes' modest ambitions:

How sad--but how cute! Although I might be a little biased by Sasha's resemblance to my own JoJo (pictured here, if you scroll down). Probably because I have so little experience with Soviet musicals (I understand Stalin was a big fan?), seeing this kind of filmic and musical glitter sprinkled over such a bleak and humble way of life makes Cheryomushki, for me, all the more touching, and a little refreshing.

1 comment:

JB said...

Some Soviet musicals are very interesting, I think.
Even in the excerpt you posted on youtube, you can see how they can
surprise you and move you deeply.
Generally speaking, I am a fan of all kind of Soviet movies and animated pictures
(things like this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF1H3J-8H2A
or this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3n2GPvKdxU
or a masterpiece like Babochka http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ealSI4dNk9M)
I'm trying to do some researches on them, maybe even subtitle them.

In order to answer your question,
I know that Stalin really liked some musicals, but not all of them.
During his leadership there were made many musical movies, the most interesting I think is 1936's"Zirk"
Soviet people used to like them too, and their first actors became very famous.

Two more annotations on post:
"The implied promise of every Broadway/Hollywood musical comedy is that you will transcend your class and achieve your dreams just by being beautiful and clever and passionate."
A correct analysis (yours),
but a sad lie (not yours).
Paradoxically (for some people) it's more realist the soviet version of this story.

"the complaint that Cheryomushki's satire of Soviet life was "toothless"
some guys are just insatiable.
What the fuck did they want from Shostakovich?
He had just come out from a troubled period, so he wouldn't like to make heavy satire without a good reason.
Plus,I really think this operetta is related to the new apartment houses mass-building policy in Khruschev period, in order to solve the Soviet housing problem
so much quoted in western movies (Ninochka is the first we could think), and I can imagine Dmitry S. was happy with this and dinn't want to make a satire of it.
There is a good page about K.here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikita_Khrushchev
but sadly there's no mention of the housing project.

Well, I hope I satisfied some of your curiosities.
Tell me what you think of the pictures when you want it
John B