War and Peace stunned audiences last Autumn. On a scale as epic as the novel itself – with sets and costumes to the over 270 people involved in the production both on stage, in the pit and behind the scenes. We could think of no better way to honour this grand opera than to take it to the majestic stage of the Royal Opera House for two special performances this summer on 23 and 24 July.
To refresh our minds on this masterpiece, Harry Ogg, Assistant Conductor for War and Peace during the Autumn Season, talks through the music and the inspiration behind it.
‘There's quite a huge polarity between Prokofiev's more dissonant expressionist music, as found in the first two piano concertos, and the more melodically rich neo-romantic style of Peter and the Wolf and his Symphony No.1. Of course the dichotomy inherent between the concepts of ‘Peace’ and ‘War’ within this opera creates a natural platform for this stylistic contrast.'
‘A major influence on this opera was the Soviet regime itself, who were keen to inspire their citizens against the Nazi invasion, which commenced in 1941 whilst this opera was still being written. The Soviet Union’s Committee on the Arts encouraged Prokofiev to include more triumphal marches and rousing choruses and the result is fascinating - the apparently simple music of these additions is still underpinned by brilliantly rich harmonic writing which makes the music so much more than what it first appears to be on the surface. It's breath-taking, complex and full of suffering.'
‘We are using a new edition of the opera based on Prokofiev’s original by musicologists Katya Ermolaeva and Rita McAllister, with additions from the composer’s later revisions. The result is something of a bespoke opera. It attempts to create a version of the opera which is both practical to perform and gives as good an impression of Prokofiev's original intentions before the influence of Soviets as possible. This version also included a new English translation which I think is brilliant because it allows for the audience to experience this epic opera with a direct connection to the drama through the words.'
‘It was like working on a new opera – small changes were constantly being made, whether in the form of new suggestions for the translation or slight alterations to the cuts or structure of the music and scenes. It was a lot of work, but it was very exciting! Add to that a huge cast, orchestra and a brilliant opera - I think everyone involved had to give 110% to get the project off the ground. It was a huge undertaking but wonderful to see it fly!'
Harry Ogg, Assistant Conductor for War and Peace
Priority booking for War and Peacewill be available for WNO Friends and Partners from 9am, 19 February 2019.