Libretto by Vladimir Mass and Mikhail Chervinsky (R)
Major roles: 2S,M,T,3Bar,B,singing actress and actor
Minor roles: 4S,3M,2T,2B; chorus; ballet
This work is represented by Boosey & Hawkes in the UK, British Commonwealth (excluding Canada), Republic of Ireland, mainland China, Korea and Taiwan
All his life Shostakovich had a fondness for light-music, operetta and musicals. In the late 1950s a friend became conductor at the Moscow Operetta Theatre and this gave the composer a chance to try out the genre for himself, working with two leading popular writers of the day.
The result was a highly entertaining satirical romp, mocking the corruption and idealism of the USSR in the post-Stalin era and poking particular fun at Khrushchev’s notoriously overambitious plan to rehouse almost the entire population in hastily built and splendidly up-to-date apartment blocks, complete with fridges, lifts and all mod cons. The plot concerns a group of happy and enthusiastic young Muscovites who look forward to being rehoused in the smart new high-rise estate of Cheryomushki but find that practicalities are a more complicated than they first imagined. Local officials have their own dastardly plans for what they want to do with these new flats and are greedily trying to take bribes or keep the apartments for themselves. Naturally, after some ups and downs, good wins out.
The score bursts with energy and catchy tunes, not to mention some wonderful parodies of perennial favourites like Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ and Lehar’s ‘The Merry Widow’. In its original it is scored for a large orchestra, handled with tremendous verve and colour. More recently, in modern cut-down versions for chamber ensembles, it has found a new life as a delightful addition to the repertoire for smaller-scale opera companies. In 1962, with some changes to the music and a simplified title, ‘Cheryomushki’, this operetta was turned into an ebulliantly vulgar film, which will appeal to anyone with a taste for mid-20th-century kitsch.
Note by Gerard McBurney
"A fascinating work in which Shostakovich pokes gentle fun at the problems of suburban expansion in the Russian capital. Composed during the Krushchev era, it is full of subversive undercurrents, disguised by the innocence of the music which contains parodies of Offenbach and several Russian composers."
BBC Music Magazine