“Moscow, Cheryomushki”. Operetta
Moscow Operetta Theatre. Conductor G. Stolyarov. Director V. Kandelaki.
1986. D. Shostakovich, Collected Works, Vol. 24, Moscow.
The hand-written score and piano score are in the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art (Stack 2048, Inv. 3, Item 22).
Libretto by V. Mass and M. Chervinsky.
Premiere: Moscow Operetta Theatre. January 24, 1959. Conductor G. Stolyarov. Director: V. Kandelaki.
The same year “Moscow, Cheremushki” was staged in Rostov-on-Don, Odessa, Sverdlovsk, Bratislava and Prague.
“It used to seem strange to me how the music of Johann Strauss or Offenbach could appeal to a serious musician. Sollertinsky helped me throw off this snobbish attitude to art and now I relish music of all genres, as long as it is real music”.
“ ’Moscow, Cheremushki’ is my first and, I hope, not my last experiment in this appealing genre. I worked on it with real enthusiasm and lively interest. It seems to me that as a result of our joint efforts...a cheerful, merry show will come into being.”
“I regularly attend rehearsals of my operetta. I’m overcome with shame. If you are planning to come to the premiere, I advise you to think again. It’s not worth wasting time to relish my disgrace. It’s boring, feeble and stupid. That’s all I can tell you in confidence.”
The press first drew attention to the upcoming staging of Shostakovich’s musical comedy in the Moscow Operetta Theatre in May 1957, when the theatre’s principal director Vladimir Kandelaki mentioned it among the theatre’s forthcoming performances. As director with a three-year standing, he, along with Grigori Stolyarov, the theatre’s new chief conductor, was on course for establishing a contemporary repertoire of “Soviet musical comedy”. Nineteen of the 25 premieres held during the ten years these two men directed the theatre featured works by Soviet composers. Though those invited by Kandelaki and Stolyarov to work with the theatre at that time included such well-known composers as Dmitri Kabalevsky and Tikhon Khrennikov, the name of the most prominent symphonist and the acknowledged classic looked highly intriguing in the context of the “light” genre. Shostakovich stopped working with music theatres in the mid-1930s, after the notorious anti-formalist campaign that disparaged his operas and ballets. The appearance of a new musical-theatrical score by an indubitable leader of the Soviet composition school and, what is more, his debut in the operetta genre had the potential of becoming a real sensation. The interest in the future premiere definitely increased after the composer was awarded the Lenin Prize in the spring of 1958.
The music comedy Moscow, Cheryomushki was written in 1957-1958 for the Moscow Operetta Theatre.
The initiative to involve Shostakovich in real cooperation with the theater belonged to Stolyarov, who since 1954 became the chief conductor of the Moscow Operetta Theater.
According to Isaac Glikman, the composer agreed reluctantly to write the music based on Vladimir Mass and Mikhail Chervinsky’s libretto Moscow, Cheryomushki and only at Stolyarov’s ‘nsistent and unrelenting request’, since the proposed topic ‘in no way pleased him’.
Shostakovich began composing in the autumn of 1957. In contrast to other instances of Shostakovich’s cooperation with theatres, individual items of the new work were submitted to the theatre (to Stolyarov) as soon as they were written, before the entire score was finished. In order to accelerate the work, the copyists made copies of Shostakovich’s author’s manuscript, with which it was possible to begin practicing with the singers, choir, and orchestra.
Soon the composer became so busy he had to stop work. Shostakovich did not return to this project until the spring of 1958.
When working on the score, Shostakovich made various changes to the original text of the piano score relating to tessitura of the voice; parts, transposing some items taking into account the vocal possibilities of specific performers or offering alternatives (ossia), composed new fragments, clarified agogic indications, and so on. Significant changes were also made to the libretto.
The whole thing was composed in a little more than a year: approximately between the end of September 1957 and October 1958.
In the process, the genre of the composition was ultimately defined: Shostakovich himself usually called this opus an operetta; on the title page of the handwritten piano score, which is kept in the Production Combine of the Music Foundation, it says: ‘Operetta;Revue in Three Acts’; in the lifetime edition of the piano score, the genre of the work is defined as a music comedy.
The premiere of the operetta Moscow, Cheryomushki was held on 24 January 1959 at the Moscow Operetta Theatre staged by directors Vladimir Kandelaki and Aron Zaks, along with conductor Grigori Stolyarov,designer Grigori Kigel’ and ballet master Galina Shakhovskaya. The roles were performed by Tatyana Shmyga and Alla Yelanskaya (Lidochka), Nikolay Ruban and Yuri Bogdanov (Boris Koretsky), Anna Kotova and Irina Mushtakova (Lyusya), Aleksandr Tkachenko and Vasiliy Zarubeyev (Drebednyov), Nonna Kuralesina and Zoya Belaya (Masha), Anatoli Pinevich and Vladimir Chekalov (Sasha Bubentsov), Nelli Krylova (Vava), Alexey Steputenko (Sergei Glushkov) and Mikhail Kachalov (Baburov).
“Shostakovich sat in the fourth row…,” recalled Yaron, “and I could see by his expression that he was internally playing all the roles himself, singing all the parts and dancing all the dances. During the intermissions, when the lights went on in the hall and the audience applauded him, he stood up and bashfully (as always) bowed.”
A review of the musical and theatrical events of the past season in the national newspaper Izvestia described the premiere of the first operetta of the Lenin prize-winner composer as a major achievement. Dramatist Leonid Malyugin wrote: “…It [the performance] was noteworthy because Dmitri Shostakovich, one of today’s greatest composers, as well as an artist in whose oeuvre dramatic and even tragic motifs prevail, has turned to the operetta genre. And this is a good sign of our optimistic times!..”
- Pimlico Opera Orchestra, Soloists: Platt I., Davies M., Tibbels N., Barkan A., Hancock P. Conductor: Kani W. 1994 // BBC MM132, 1995
- Orchestra and choir of the Moscow Operetta Theater. Soloists: T. Shmyga, N. Ruban, N. Kuralesina, V. Chekalov, V. Alchevsky and others. Conductor: G. Stolyarov. 1959 // Melodiya Д-11043-4, 1962