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Semyon Kotko: Comp


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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Aug. 29 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Universal Music Group
  • ASIN: B00004TL2T
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #172,273 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Semyon Kotko: Act I: Introduction
2. Semyon Kotko: Act I, Tableau 1, Scene 1: Shol soldat s fronta
3. Semyon Kotko: Act I, Tableau 1, Scene 2: Kovo nado?
4. Semyon Kotko: Act I, Tableau 2, Scene 1: Prishol soldat Semyon Kotko
5. Semyon Kotko: Act I, Tableau 2, Scene 2: Prosnulsa, odelsa
6. Semyon Kotko: Act I, Tableau 2, Scene 3: Den dobriy, tovarishchi sosedi
7. Semyon Kotko: Act I, Tableau 2, Scene 4: Ochen nam priyatno vnov uvidet vas
8. Semyon Kotko: Act I, Tableau 2, Scene 5: Shol soldat s fronta
9. Semyon Kotko: Act I, Tableau 2, Scene 6: Shto, moyo serdenko?
10. Semyon Kotko: Act I, Tableau 2, Scene 7: Zdravstvuy, soldat!
See all 23 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Semyon Kotko: Act Three, Scene 1: I snitsya mne opyat
2. Semyon Kotko: Act Three, Scene 2: Sonya! Tse ti?
3. Semyon Kotko: Act Three, Scene 3: Nu shto ti skazhesh?
4. Semyon Kotko: Act Three, Scene 4: I snitsa mne, Mikola, son
5. Semyon Kotko: Act Three, Scene 5: Rano, rano, ranenko
6. Semyon Kotko: Act Three, Scene 6: Ne slikhat...
7. Semyon Kotko: Act Three, Scene 7: Dyadya Tsaryov...dyadya Tsaryov...
8. Semyon Kotko: Act Three, Scene 8: Permettez-moi de parler francais
9. Semyon Kotko: Act Three, Scene 9: Razreshite predstavit vam
10. Semyon Kotko: Act Three, Scene 10: Net, net, to ne Vasilyok
See all 28 tracks on this disc

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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Audio CD
It was a performance of Semyon Kotko attended by a young Sviatoslav Richter that drew the admiration of the young pianist for the music of Sergei Prokofiev. Semyon Kotko is an opera with a checkered history. Prokofiev wanted the opera to be staged by the famed director Vsevold Meyerhold, a critic of the Soviet Union's control over artists, but he was arrested just after Prokofiev had completed his piano score of the opera and was never seen again. The composer hoped that this opera would be the work that would secure his reputation as a Soviet artist. Since his return to his homeland in 1936, and despite his (now renown) ballet Romeo and Juliet the only work that had received any attention was Peter and the Wolf. Ultimately, Semyon Kotko was not the success that Prokofiev had hoped for but at least he had been able to see the opera staged.
The opera is peopled with characters that are strictly good or bad and it extols the peasant-hero who is victorious over the forces that would crush the Bolshevik utopia. Prokofiev toned down the propaganda element of the story (the libretto was written by the author of the story, Valentin Katayev, that was titled "I am the son of working people"). Semyon Kotko was received with some enthusiasm when it premiered in 1940 but it was withdrawn early in 1941 and not performed until 1958. Since this opera was intended to help the composer find acceptance by the Soviet leadership it could be considered music written to show the composer's desire for acceptance, not reflecting his true desires for the opera. However, this is not the case. It is clear for the opening bars that the music of Semyon Kotko is rich in expression and drama and is connected to the tradition of Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky in treating the characters with their own vocal style.
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Format: Audio CD
If conductor Valery Gergiev were known for nothing more than bringing obscure operas to light, he would still have a place in history. His valiant advocacy of some of Prokofiev's more obscure work is a case in point, and "Semyon Kotko" must be one of the best examples. It's a shame this work hasn't been performed or recorded more often, since it has all the dramatic impact you could want, and some terrific music.
I was fortunate to see this live in the summer of 2003, performed by Gergiev and the Kirov Opera at the Lincoln Center Festival. The vivid production alone would have made an impact, but the fact is that this opera has some of Prokofiev's most striking, not to mention listenable music. In Act III, for example, when the small village in the story is destroyed, the score reaches a terrifying climax (among other memorable sequences) with a starring role for Olga Savova, who is just one standout in the committed cast.
Perhaps it's the opportunity to bring to life a seldom-done score, but everyone sings with go-for-broke intensity, and the orchestra -- wow, this orchestra -- is up to its usual high standard. The sound quality is also quite good, as are most of these in this Philips series. The libretto includes a few photographs from the Kirov production as well.
It is almost unthinkable that this score might still be lounging around in some library, waiting for a guide like Gergiev to show us that there is something valuable within. For those who love Prokofiev, unusual opera or are just admirers of the conductor's impressive output with the Kirov, this can be easily recommended.
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At the end of the thirties Prokofiev was distressed because his pieces didn't seem to become that popular. He thought of fixing this by composing a Soviet opera that will please the general public and composed Semyon Kotko. You can hear the composer's intentions in the music, which is very melodic and easily approachable. It lacks the dramatic effects of Fiery Angel and it really doesn't have the same quality of playfulness as Betrothal in a Monastery. And you should remember that Prokofiev isn't trying to be ironic and there are no secret messages in the style of Shostakovich. The story is quite simple and not very gripping apart from the dramatic end of the third act. The characters are one-sided, but fortunately Prokofiev's music brings life into them. Some passages still make it apparent that a great composer has composed this piece. There are some little sounds that characterize the events cleverly but I especially liked Frosya's heartbreaking sorrow song in the third act, which is magnificently interpreted by Olga Savova. Prokofiev also ingeniously develops the material introduced in the song to form a great climax for the act. Unfortunately the endings of the other acts sound very undramatic.
It is usually said that great performers can make decent pieces sound like masterpieces and this is also true of this recording. The Kirov solois are perfectly suited for their parts and I would suspect that Gergiev picked each soloist personally. The recording doesn't contain any of the Kirov-stars, but that isn't necessary for the piece to succeed, because it is a true ensemble-opera. Viktor Lutsiuk has a colourful voice. When he goes very high he sometimes sounds a bit strained but this also suits his poor character well.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
A real blast from the past - Soviet Realism exhumed Aug. 21 2000
By Julian Grant - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The story of Prokofiev's return to the Soviet Union in the 1930's is a sad and sorry one, welcomed back into the fold as a prodigal son(a great propaganda coup) he found himself at the height of Stalin's purges - in fact the intended director for the premiere of 'Semyon Kotko',Vsevolod Meyerhold, vanished just as Prokofiev finished the opera - much later it came to light he had been shot. So this is Prokofiev's attempt at an idealogically acceptable Soviet-Realist opera - a far cry in subject matter from his earlier operatic endeavours (many of which have been recorded by Gergiev and the Kirov in this superb series)- Dostoyevsky, Commedia dell'arte, Symbolist religious-sexual obsession - none of which would have stood a chance in the USSR at the time - mind you they didn't do too well in the West either. Prokofiev's operas are in fact much better than their rather patchy stage history would suggest.
So, what is this opera like? - bearing in mind that it was written in this all-pervading atmosphere of fear, and that Prokofiev badly needed an idealogical success with the authorities - 'Romeo and Juliet' written 3 years previously had failed (hard to credit!), and only 'Peter and the Wolf' had pleased. Well, the great thing about Prokofiev's music is that his personality imprints itself on every page, and while the music is uneven and at times even banal, it is always fascinating to have the chance to hear a work that has almost disappeared, by a major composer. The story concerns a demobilised soldier (Semyon Kotko - sung by tenor Viktor Lutsiuk with an appealing timbre that only occasionally shows hint of strain)returning to his village in the Ukraine after 4 years absence - this is 1918 and even though the revolutionary Red Army has made peace with Germany, there are still scattered German units that oppose the Red Army and have formed alliances with 'reactionary' Ukrainian nationalists against the communists. Semyon's fiancee, Sonya, has a father, Tkachenko - sung with a wonderful snarl and sense of character by Kirov veteran Gennady Bezzubenkov) who sides with the Germans and the opera tells the story of the conflict - involving public hangings and at the end of the third act (of five) the burning of the village by the Germans. This is why the opera disappeared so quickly: the opera was premiered in 1940 - and in WW2 the Soviets had a short-lived pact with Germany, so Semyon Kotko's anti-German bias was suddenly non acceptable.
The opera is very well paced - the first two acts are mainly a kind of village comedy - then the brutal events of the third act (much the best) change the focus to real tragedy - unfortunately the opera then goes off the rails with the Soviet partisans hiding out and effecting a contrived happy ending with the Red Army victorious. You can sense Prokofiev struggling to keep involved, particularly in the latter stages. The characters are all cardboard cut-outs, and such passages as Semyon explaining to the partisans about different types of guns, and the false uplift of revolutionary ideals at the end bring forth music so perfunctory as to make you wonder if there is an element of send up. However there is some vintage lyrical writing (redolent of Romeo and Juliet) - go to the prelude or the opening of the 3rd act - and this latter act is a tremendous achievement, including the lament of a girl driven mad by publicly witnessing her boyfriend being hanged which is obsessively harrowing and memorable. Prokofiev brings this back at the end of the act when the village burns and turns it into an epic, terrifying climax - it's really worth hearing this scene!
The recording is taken from a series of concert performances in Vienna, the sound is vivid, mellow and only occasionally a little boomy - the big climaxes of the third act are undoubtedly thrilling, both emotionally and and for sonic impact. Not all of the singing is beautiful, but that's not the point, Gergiev and his forces bring out all the drama and variety of this strange piece, and even play the obviously contrived moments to the hilt.
Whether you can dissociate all this from the very suspect idealogy is another matter. One may smile at the naivete of the piece, but this smile is wiped right off when the historical truth of what the Soviets did to the Ukraine (hopelessly whitewashed in the opera - though it is unlikely that the creators knew any of this) is revealed - read the excellent notes accompanying this recording. However you do wonder if we would be listening to this piece now if it were the work of a German composer returning to his homeland to be of use to the state in the 1930's..........
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Great Music - A Stunning Performance Feb. 3 2004
By David A. Wend - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
It was a performance of Semyon Kotko attended by a young Sviatoslav Richter that drew the admiration of the young pianist for the music of Sergei Prokofiev. Semyon Kotko is an opera with a checkered history. Prokofiev wanted the opera to be staged by the famed director Vsevold Meyerhold, a critic of the Soviet Union's control over artists, but he was arrested just after Prokofiev had completed his piano score of the opera and was never seen again. The composer hoped that this opera would be the work that would secure his reputation as a Soviet artist. Since his return to his homeland in 1936, and despite his (now renown) ballet Romeo and Juliet the only work that had received any attention was Peter and the Wolf. Ultimately, Semyon Kotko was not the success that Prokofiev had hoped for but at least he had been able to see the opera staged.
The opera is peopled with characters that are strictly good or bad and it extols the peasant-hero who is victorious over the forces that would crush the Bolshevik utopia. Prokofiev toned down the propaganda element of the story (the libretto was written by the author of the story, Valentin Katayev, that was titled "I am the son of working people"). Semyon Kotko was received with some enthusiasm when it premiered in 1940 but it was withdrawn early in 1941 and not performed until 1958. Since this opera was intended to help the composer find acceptance by the Soviet leadership it could be considered music written to show the composer's desire for acceptance, not reflecting his true desires for the opera. However, this is not the case. It is clear for the opening bars that the music of Semyon Kotko is rich in expression and drama and is connected to the tradition of Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky in treating the characters with their own vocal style. Until the mid-second act, the story is concerned with young love instead of the tragedy of war. Semyon Kotko has returned from war to resume his old life and marry his sweetheart Sofya. Sofya's father, Tkachenko, a rich peasant or kulak, early on, is more like the opera buffa's reluctant father than the sinister figure he becomes later.
The entry of the German army in the story moves the action into the political realm as the German soldiers seek to round up the Communists in Semyon's village and are abetted by Tkachenko who believes the Russian revolution will fail and the Tsar will be restored to power. The German's hang three of the townspeople and burn a part of the village. Eventually, the partisans re-take the village, Semyon and Sofya are reunited and Tkachenko goes off to his execution. The music is some of the finest by Prokofiev. The lyricism of the first act wonderfully describes the relationship between Semyon and Sofya while the burning of the village and hanging of the Bolsheviks in act three is vividly expressed. This is an opera of lyricism and drama that the Kirov has effectively brought to life in this recording, and which they performed at the Met in 2003. This music deserves to be considered among Prokofiev's great works, with the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and Cinderella, rather than be relegated as a purely political piece written to curry favor.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A rarity unearthed by Gergiev Dec 5 2003
By Bruce Hodges - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
If conductor Valery Gergiev were known for nothing more than bringing obscure operas to light, he would still have a place in history. His valiant advocacy of some of Prokofiev's more obscure work is a case in point, and "Semyon Kotko" must be one of the best examples. It's a shame this work hasn't been performed or recorded more often, since it has all the dramatic impact you could want, and some terrific music.
I was fortunate to see this live in the summer of 2003, performed by Gergiev and the Kirov Opera at the Lincoln Center Festival. The vivid production alone would have made an impact, but the fact is that this opera has some of Prokofiev's most striking, not to mention listenable music. In Act III, for example, when the small village in the story is destroyed, the score reaches a terrifying climax (among other memorable sequences) with a starring role for Olga Savova, who is just one standout in the committed cast.
Perhaps it's the opportunity to bring to life a seldom-done score, but everyone sings with go-for-broke intensity, and the orchestra -- wow, this orchestra -- is up to its usual high standard. The sound quality is also quite good, as are most of these in this Philips series. The libretto includes a few photographs from the Kirov production as well.
It is almost unthinkable that this score might still be lounging around in some library, waiting for a guide like Gergiev to show us that there is something valuable within. For those who love Prokofiev, unusual opera or are just admirers of the conductor's impressive output with the Kirov, this can be easily recommended.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Period Piece Feb. 24 2007
By W. Jamison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I found myself contrasting this opera with "War and Peace" finding much similar. Between the two Voina i Mir is my favorite but I can't tell if it is because of familiarity or what. This performance is fantastic. If that is one consideration, my recording of the other is much older and technology has clearly come a long way. I would not suggest this as a first experience for students. One needs an ear for Prokofiev to enjoy this.

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