Sergei Prokofiev: Unfulfilled Ideas of the 1920s

Elena G. Poldiaeva


This article deals with the artistic plans that Sergei Prokofiev had for the 1920s, but failed to implement. In particular, the article focuses on the project of a musical drama Human / Automatic Sun, based on the text by Pyotr Suvchinsky, a friend of Prokofiev’s. In detailed correspondence, they discuss the relationship between the word, music and drama. Prokofiev also shares his reflections in his diary. The article cites both sources. At that time, the composer’s focus was on the art of melodeclamation. It may seem unexpected, yet, it was a follow-up to his quest in the field of opera. Melodeclamation was associated with the idea of a “new form of musical drama”, which the composer had been carefully considering for a long time.

The article also explores the unfulfilled ideas that Prokofiev discussed with Sergei Diaghilev, the impresario of the Ballets Russes. In particular, the opera Tambov Treasurer based on Mikhail Lermontov’s works, Gas Factory by Jules Verne, the ballet-pantomime with recitatives from Semiramis for I. Rubinstein’s ballet group that was never performed, the opera Fear, based on a Soviet plot and the libretto by A. Afinogenov. The article analyses some features of the compositions written “on commission” and independently. As regards the composer’s method, the article also focuses on the stylistic changes of the mid-1920s that had long-term consequences for his works, e.g., the opera The Fiery Angel.

In conclusion, the article outlines some of the reasons why numerous ideas have remained unfulfilled. It also draws parallels with later works that echo earlier ideas, e.g., Human / Automatic Sun, which unexpectedly manifested itself in Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution.

Keywords: Sergei Prokofiev, 1920s, unwritten compositions, Pyotr Suvchinsky, Sergei Diaghilev

For citation: Poldiaeva E. G. Sergei Prokofiev: Unfulfilled Ideas of the 1920s [Electronic source]. In: Sovremennye problemy muzykoznaniya / Contemporary Musicology, 2020, No. 3, pp. 111–140. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.56620/2587-9731-2020-3-111-140




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