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Cheryomushki is a wonderful high rise white-washed suburban Elysium.
The promise of a new life for young couples, a secure flat for an elderly
widower, profits for the chief executive and party glory for the politician
in charge of the project are all sources of a witty, hard-hitting English
text by David Pountney (a vigorous advocate for new operatic repertoire)
who makes notable capital with clever dialogue and catchy lyrics.
Shostakovitch wrote only three stage works -- this was the third. Maybe
he felt it appropriate that having suffered critical indignities with his
first two operas (The Nose and Lady Macbeth), a musical about
a high-rise housing estate ('... in every room, on every floor, municipal
happiness ...') would be another way of spitting at them all. He wrote it
in two weeks during the autumn of 1958. The previous year he had completed
a second Piano Concerto for his 18-year-old son Maxim, and a year later
he wrote the energetic and economic Cello Concerto No 1. Both concertos
are as sardonic as Cheryomushki, using the suggestive rhythms of
familiar folksongs, known to have alternative, politically satirical and
often indecent words.
35 years later Gerald McBurney, the British composer and arranger with
a particular interest in Shostakovitch, was commissioned to revise and reorchestrate
the neglected score for Pimlico Opera's 1994 revival, and it is this, with
some further additions by Opera North's head of music, Jim Holmes, that
is now exuberantly launched.
Copyright © 10 May 2001
Patric Standford, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK
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