Prokofiev festival has a York flavour

In the half-century since his death, the reputation of Sergei Prokofiev has continued to grow, as admiration for the music he created has spread worldwide. His 1919 opera, L’Amour des Trois Oranges (A Love of Three Oranges), is today recognized as one of the undoubted theatrical masterpieces of the 20th century.

Right: Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev

Written in Russian by Prokofiev, while his native land was wracked by revolution and civil war, the libretto is based on a comic fantasy by Carlo Gozzi, as reinterpreted by Russian theatrical modernist, Vsevolod Meyerhold. The opera finally received its first performances in America, by the Chicago Opera in 1921 – but only after it had been translated into French.

Opera in Concert, based in Toronto, is offering a single performance of this unique work, again sung in French, on Sunday, Feb. 6, at 2:30pm at the Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St. East in Toronto.

Musical direction for the production of L’Amour des Trois Oranges has been entrusted to Raisa Nakhmanovich, a part-time faculty member in the Department of Music. Nakhmanovich will perform the orchestral parts, assisted at the second piano by Russian pianist Eugenia Yesmanovich.

Left: Raisa Nakhmanovich

The Toronto premiere of L’Amour des Trois Oranges on Feb. 6 is part of a series of special cultural events honouring Prokofiev. The festival, organized by York Professor Emeritus Sterling Beckwith, runs from Feb. 3 to 7. The Prokofiev Festival 2005 was organized in collaboration with the Centre for Russian & East European Studies and the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, and York University’s Graduate Program in Dance in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Right: Sterling Beckwith

The festival includes a number of exciting concerts and lectures. A concert of Prokofiev chamber music by outstanding faculty artists on Feb. 4, and a revealing open seminar about Prokofiev’s daring 1920s ballet Le pas d’acier on Feb. 7 – part of an ongoing series on Dance and Modernism directed by York dance Professor Selma Odom – are among the other events. Prokofiev biographer Simon Morrison, a Canadian musicologist who teaches at Princeton University, will open the festival on Feb. 3 with his public lecture titled, “Sergei Prokofiev: A Story of a Real Composer.” The lecture will include information about Morrison‘s recent archival research in Moscow which has uncovered many new facts about the composer’s struggle with Soviet authorities.

The public is invited to attend and take part in a multimedia symposium at the University of Toronto on Feb. 5 titled, “Prokofiev Onstage: New Light on a Modern Master”. As part of the symposium, there will be a live demonstration of Prokofiev choreography by James Kudelka with dancers from the National Ballet of Canada. There will also be a screening of excerpts from unreleased Soviet films scored by the composer. Prokofiev scholars and critics from the US, Britain, Israel and Canada will also discuss aspects of his work in opera, ballet, and concert music, and report on new discoveries about his career under Soviet rule.

Visit the Prokofiev Festival 2005 Web site for more information about the festival and for a full schedule of events.