On 24 January, the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre hosts the world premiere of David Krivitsky’s Doctor Zhivago after Boris Pasternak’s eponymous novel.
The love story of Yuri Zhivago and Lara set against the backdrop of social and political turbulences of 1917–1918 is relevant to this day. We continue to admire Pasternak’s writing genius: his poems Hamlet (“The murmurs ebb; onto the stage I enter…”), Winter Night (“It snowed and snowed, the whole world over…”) and others acquire special significance when they are set to music.
Doctor Zhivago, composed in 1990–1992, continues the traditions of Russian classical operas: those by Mussorgsky and Prokofiev in the well-developed folk scenes and those by Tchaikovsky in the lyric scenes. However, the score is written in a truly unique music language, distinctly cantilène and melodic.
Krivitsky wrote the libretto trying to incorporate the key plotlines and events of the novel into the traditional three-act structure. Prologue, 12 tableaux, and epilogue (Eulogy) cover the pre-Revolutionary years of Yuri Zhivago and his wife Tonya. The events are set against two major mass scenes: At the Red Square, which incorporates all the Revolutionary scenes from the novel, and Celebration in Moscow, which portrays the new socialist society. The opera also includes such events as Yuri Zhivago and Tonya’s escape to Yuriatin, Yuri meeting Lara and their life together in Varykino, Yuri Zhivago’s imprisonment at the guerilla camp, his return to Moscow, and his untimely death of a heart attack. Lara’s final Eulogy at Yuri’s casket, a touching monologue based on Pasternak’s poem Wind, crowns the opera.
Krivitsky’s music has uncannily preserved the “adventurous and melodramatic technique” (Yuri Shcheglov), which characterised Pasternak’s late works. The opera also includes salon music and Romances, boisterous chastushki, and sophisticated tone painting of Neo-Romanticism at the end of the 20th century. However, one can hear the composer’s unique tones at any given moment; it does not allow everything to turn into kitsch. Doctor Zhivago represents a dialogue between the composer and the opera genre with its 400-year history. The grand lineup – 35 soloists, triple chorus (which is divided into 64 individual parts for the most climatic episodes!), and children’s chorus – required such a vast pool of performers that only a few theatres in Russia possess. The world premiere will see the participation of all performers of the Mariinsky Academy of Young Opera Singers. According to Larisa Gergieva, People’s Artist of Russia and the premiere’s initiator and music director, the lead roles are being rehearsed by several groups of soloists: “We can do it and then choose the best ones.” The performance will be conducted by Nikolai Khondzinsky. Chorus Master: Pavel Teplov.