Prokofiev's 'Ivan the Terrible' -
'Vello Pähn and the orchestra make a marvellous thing of Prokofiev's score ...'
In my personal experience, Russia's Ivan IV has been the cause of surprise
rather than terror. I was enchanted to find a CD of music by him when I called
in at the Russian monastery on the holy promontory of Athos. And now I can watch
him dancing much of his history at the Paris Opera. We should not forget, though,
that Stalin was particularly fond of him, admiring his iron government, effective
repulsion of foreign threats, and above all his organisation of a ruthless secret
police. The most public of his monuments remains the riotous architecture of the
multi-coloured cathedral on Red Square dedicated to St Basil the Fool, which
Stalin thought of blowing up.
Nicolas Le Riche as Ivan IV (Act 1 Tableau 3). DVD screenshot © 2004 Opéra National de Paris
Prokofiev's magnificent music was written for Eisenstein's films on Ivan.
A series of three was originally projected, and two were made. Stalin liked
the first but not the second, which dealt with Ivan's disintegration after
the death of his beloved first wife Anastasia Romanova, when court life became
increasingly bawdy, and there was a succession of six further wives including
negotiations for a cousin of our dear Elizabeth I. According to our ambassador,
no more discreet than some of his successors, Ivan boasted of 'a thousand virgins
he had deflowered' and died at a game of chess, when he could not make his king
Copyright © 2 January 2006
Robert Anderson, London UK