Drama, theater, and gesture in the operas of Sergei Prokofiev

Guillaumier, C. (2020) Drama, theater, and gesture in the operas of Sergei Prokofiev. In: Rethinking Prokofiev. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 9780190670764 (hardback) 9780190670771 (paperback)


This chapter explores Prokofiev’s processes, compositional strategies, and theatrical instinct as evident in his operatic works. Each of the eight operas discussed tells a different story about Prokofiev’s context, aesthetic, and compositional procedures; in each, he explores different musical, dramaturgical, and artistic possibilities. While the soundscapes of the earlier operas are different from those of his Soviet period, his musical voice remains distinctive. He was passionate about the stage and had much to say about opera in the twentieth century, but his innovative and radical ideas were often obscured by political and social contexts. Prokofiev’s operatic vision centered on characterization, visualization, and textual emancipation. His most significant contribution to the twentieth century’s operatic stage was dramatic realism, based on what he called “theatrical rhythm,” with his use of declamation to replace set pieces and ensembles.

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