Prokofiev, The Fiery Angel, 1927
phrases repeated so often that the words begin to take on a purely rhythmic power….“The Fiery Angel” is unlikely to become a regular fixture on opera stages. Its vocal demands are extraordinary: Renata’s part has been likened to that of Wagner’s Isolde in difficulty. (NY Times review of a Barrie Kosky production in Munich, 2015).

Sergei Prokofiev, 1891-1953

Prokofiev left Russia at the revolution (1918), for the US and Paris, returning in 1936 to Stalinist controls.  The Zhdanov resolution of 1948 denounced him along with Shostakovich and Khachaturian for the crime of "formalism", described as a "renunciation of the basic principles of classical music" in favour of "muddled, nerve-racking" sounds that "turned music into cacophony". He died, aged 61, on the same day as Stalin.  He was less settled abroad and less successful in the world of opera than Stravinsky.  Hearing just the first act of Love of three Oranges Stravinsky accused Prokofiev of "wasting time composing operas", Prokofiev retorted that Stravinsky "was in no position to lay down a general artistic direction, since he is himself not immune to error". Stravinsky later described Prokofiev as the greatest Russian composer of his day, after himself!  (biography here)

Quick Links

History & Synopsis
We will look at Fiery Angel and Love of three Oranges. The latter premiered in Chicago in 1921 and then in the Marinsky in 1927 when Prokofiev made his first return to the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, he had discovered the tragic, dark novel of Fiery Angel at ‘one of the only times of his life in which religion was considered for his works’ and in 1927 the opera was finished to be produced - unsuccessfully - in Berlin. He never saw it performed. Parts of the music then made it into his Third Symphony. And Prokofiev, converted to Christian Science, now preferred what he called a "new simplicity", which he believed more sincere than the "contrivances and complexities" of so much modern music of the 1920s. (More from Wikipedia)

The Fiery Angel

Occultism and masochistic obsession; demons, orgies and writhing nuns. These were some of the topics Prokofiev was wrestling with in 1923 when, deep into work on his opera “The Fiery Angel,” he married his first wife, Lina, in southern Bavaria. You have to wonder about their honeymoon….Amid the startlingly modern elements of Prokofiev’s score is his occasional use of the voices as mere texture, with some

The Fiery Angel - Our Production

Renata - Galina Gorchakova, Ruprecht - Sergei Leiferkus. Designer - David Roger, Kirov Opera & Royal Opera House co-production, Chorus, Acrobatic troupe & Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre. conductor - Valery Gergiev, 1993. Arthaus/Musik DVD, live from the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, 1993. Read the hair-raising story of when Gergiev brought it to Melbourne in 2001.
Prokofiev by Matisse, 1921