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Libretto by Nikolai Aseyev (R)

Scoring

S,4T,Bar,3B; SATB chorus
2.picc.2.corA.2.Ebcl.ssax.2.dbn-4.3.3.1-timp.perc:tgl/wdbl/SD/cyms/BD/gong/glsp/xyl/flexatone-harp-
strings

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
2/11/1981
Leningrad Conservatory Bolshoi Hall, Leningrad
Conductor: Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Company: Leningrad Conservatory

Roles

MAYOFEL, a Soviet delegate Baritone
SEMYON, a Soviet delegate Bass
YEGOR, a Soviet delegate Tenor
ARCHITECT Tenor
HOTEL MANAGER Bass
TOMMY Tenor
OLD WOMAN Soprano
VOICE FROM THE MEGAPHONE Bass
Time and Place

A Western city during the Soviet era

Synopsis

In a grand hotel in an unnamed capitalist country, cleaning staff, urged on by an officious supervisor, are making ready for the arrival of a deputation from the USSR at a trade fair. An architect tells them what to expect when these ‘Bolsheviks’ arrive. An American makes his appearance with a lively dance, after which another delegate Mayofel boasts how easily his ‘Silver Bullet’ racing-cars can beat American cars. Semyon, a Soviet delegate, tries to phone the Soviet embassy but keeps getting put through to wrong numbers: first to a chiropodist, then to an aluminium plant. He and his friend Yegor sing with patriotic fervour of how they will overcome the ‘hostile lilliputians’ of the capitalist world. The scene then changes to a fashion-parade….. And with this the unfinished score ends.

Repertoire Note

Popular music was always a big part of Shostakovich's work. In 1932 he decided to try his hand at operetta. The project was abanadoned shortly after he started and all that survives are these nine numbers from the first act. They are enough to show us that 'The Great Lightning' would have been a sparkling and satirical piece about the visit of a Soviet delegation to a corrupt Western capitalist country.


This surviving music shows the young Shostakovich in his most light-hearted mood. It is full of deft parodies and catchy tunes that vividly evoke the popular songs and dances of the 1920s and '30s. The final item is a purely instrumental number, a lively procession of dancing models down the catwalk in a fashion show. The whole sequence lasts only just over a quarter of an hour, and would make a charming addition to a concert of light-music favourites.


Note by Gerard McBurney

Moods

Comic

Subjects

Ethics, History, Politics, Society

Recommended Recording
cd_cover

Vsevolod Grivnov/Dmitry Fadeyev/Oleg Dolgov/Andrei Baturkin/Tatiana Sharova/Anatoly Safiulin/Russian State Symphony Orchestra and Cappella/Valery Polyansky
Chandos CHAN 9522

Click here to purchase this CD set from Amazon




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