Fallen from the Sky

Sergey Prokofiev
Libretto by S. Prokofiev and M. Mendelson-Prokofieva

Stage Director - Dmitry Bertman
Music Director - Vladimir Ponkin
Set and Costume Designers - Igor Nezhny and Tatiana Tulubieva
Light Designer - Denis Ismagilov
Choir master - Denis Kirpanev
Premiere: May 9, 2005

In the year of 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War “Helikon-Opera” turned to S. Prokofiev’s opera “Story of a Real Man”. The last score of the great composer had been being created from autumn 1947 till summer 1948. Libretto was written by S. Prokofiev and M. Mendelson-Prokofieva, wife of a composer, after the same name story of B. Polevoy. Pieces of the text of the story were used. The destiny of this opera was not easy, it was rejected by authorities. At the Composers Union Plenum opera was criticized for discordance, lack of melodiousness and for “distorted image” of soviet people.

How “The Story of a Real Man” could sound these times? Music of Prokofiev suggests many interesting decisions to the producer of the performance. First of all, the score in which barcarole and rumba are standing together provokes to go out the traditional “opera frames”.  Prokofiev included in his opera five folk songs and two own ones, written by him in 1930-ies.  Opera exists in several variants: in author’s, in G. Rozhdestvenskiy's and G. Ansimov's editions, however, as usual, the interpretation of “Helikon-Opera’s” artistic director Dmitry Bertman surprises the spectator.

“By this production we are making an attempt to apologize to our grandfathers, who managed to have preserved RUSSIA on the world’s map, and who possessed this unique feature – the patriotism. They have leaded us through the fiery abyss of our history… This opera of Sergey Prokofiev, a great Russian citizen, has been the last one made under Stalin’s oppression. Despite of all, Prokofiev has remained a genius dramatist. However the libretto has inspired many people to create comic legends around the opera… The version we propose  belongs to the beginning of the 21st century – the tragedy of those fallen from the sky…” (Dmitry Bertman).

SYNOPSIS
...The pilot Alexey Meresiev was brought down by four German fighters; his aircraft fell in backwoods, 30 kilometers beyond the front line. His legs were seriously injured, however, he had been creeping through the winter woods for eighteen days to reach the Soviet troops. Finally some peasants from a burned Plavni village picked him up. After the amputation of both legs, Alexey managed to return to Fighter Command and took part in the Kursk battle. Abandoned by the severe life circumstances, he overcame everything and returned to life as a real man... Many years passed. We watch Alexey as an ordinary veteran in the regular hospital. His mind is a mixture of reality and reminiscences of war. We witness scenes of real life alongside with the episodes, produced by his imagination. The central episode according to Prokofiev is the one of delirium after the surgery: Alexey "sees" three surgeons, his mother, his bride Olga, his friend Andrey Degtyarenko...

There are two other veterans in this hospital. They are Commissar Vorobiev and pilot Kukushkin (the last one seems to Alexey sometimes a grand-dad Mikhailo, who had found him in a wood and took care of him).

Alexey recollects his youth, optimistic pre-war agitation (" Get up, you Russian people"), and "women's domain" in a poor Plavni village. He recollects rumba, which he once danced on the prosthetic legs to prove to physicians that he was able to be a pilot again. He also recollects the happiest moments of his life, when he could fly again, when he met Olga again... We return to nowdays. The only person who comes to see a veteran in the hospital is a German journalist - he seems the only one who is excited about the story of his heroic life...

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