WNO Artistic Director David Pountney says: “After the intellectual and artistic euphoria that led to an explosion of creativity immediately post the revolution, the brutal realities of Lenin’s and Stalin’s regimes meant that putting pen to paper became an increasingly dangerous act. The result is that though there was an enormous amount of musical activity in Soviet Russia, there are no significant operas about the revolution itself. Our approach has been to present three works that in very different ways illustrate the enduring character of Russians and Russian society.
“The most endearing is Russia the romantic, as illustrated by Eugene Onegin, an unbearably touching story in which Pushkin’s Mozartian sense of irony is overlaid by Tchaikovsky’s unrestrained passion. The most telling politically is Khovanshchina which deals with the interplay between sadly familiar forces: over mighty war lords or oligarchs (Khovansky), religious fundamentalists (Dosifei), Westernizing liberals (Galitsin), an out-of-control militarised secret police force (The Streltsy), and, in the distance, the trumpets herald the arrival of the legendary reformer, Peter the Great. Watching all this are the bewildered and ever stoical Russian people. Finally, Janáček’s setting of Dostoevsky’s autobiographical account of his experiences in a Siberian prison remind us that violence and the suppression of freedom have remained one of the essential levers of Russian government.
“This season perhaps sounds like hard work, but believe it or not these are three of the finest operas ever written: suffering makes great opera!”