“The Gamblers”. Unfinished Opera
The concert premiere of the opera was held in Leningrad on 18 September 1978. It was performed by soloists from the Moscow Chamber Music Theatre. The Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky.
Sovetskiy kompozitor Publishers, Moscow, 1981
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Archive—rec. gr. 1, section 1, f. 1
- As a concert performance in G. Rozhdestvensky's version - September 18, 1978 in the Great Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonia.
Performed by the troupe of the Moscow Chamber Music Theatre and the symphony orchestra of the Leningrad State Philharmonia. Conductor G. Rozhdestvensky.
- June 12, 1983 in the opera theatre of the town of Wuppertal (West Germany) the premiere of the stage version of the opera "The Gamblers" was presented in the version of the Polish composer K. Meyer, who had completed the music.
First Edition: Score. D. Shostakovich, Collected Works, Vol. 23, Moscow, 1986. Score and piano score, "Sovietsky kompozitor" Publishers, 1981.
"I started to write this opera in the wrong way. I decided to use Gogol's text without altering it, keeping in every single word. When I had written about ten pages of Gogol's text, it turned out that I already had fifty minutes of music... and there were at least another thirty pages to go!"
Unfinished Opera Based on Nikolai Gogol’s
Play of the Same Name. Sans Op.
Some sources mention that Shostakovich had the idea to write an opera based on Gogol’s The Gamblers as early as 1938.There is no documental confirmation of this; the date “28 V 1942” written at the top of the first page of the sketch of The Gamblers gives reason to assume that workon the opera began at a later time.
It appears that Shostakovich first mentioned this work in a letter to Vissarion Shebalin on
10 June 1942: “I am writing the opera The Gamblers. The words are complete and unchanged (sic!).” A letter to the same person on 11 November 1942 reads: “I am writing the unlikely opera The Gamblers little by little. I call it unlikely because of its unlikelihood: I have already written 30 (sic!) minutes of music, and this is approximately one seventh of the entire opera. It is too long. But I am finding this work entertaining and pleasurable.” And in a letter to the same correspondent on 27 December 1942, Shostakovich says: “I have stopped working on the composition I showed you when I was in Moscow (The Gamblers) due to the entire pointlessness of this endeavour.” He wrote the same thing in a letter to Isaak Glikman on 1 March 1943: “I made great strides in composing the opera The Gamblers, but I am not shouting from the rooftops about it since I have already stopped writing it.” And in a letter to Marietta Shaginyan dated the same day, he wrote: “…I’ve given up writing … the opera, although I spent about a year on it.” So Shostakovich worked on The Gamblers for most of 1942.
After the war, Shostakovich gave the author’s manuscript of the score of The Gamblers to his student
Galina Ustvolskaya, but in the winter of 1974, he took it back20 in order to include music from the opera in the Viola Sonata, Op. 147—his last work finished in the summer of 1975.
The concert premiere of the opera was held in Leningrad on 18 September 1978. It was performed by
soloists from the Moscow Chamber Music Theatre: Vladimir Rybasenko (Aleksei), Boris Tarkhov (Ikharev), Valeri Belykh (Gavryushka), Nikolai Kurpe (Krugel), Ashot Sarkisov (Shvokhnev) and Yaroslav Radionik (Uteshitelny). The Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, and Valeri Sudak performed the bass balalaika solo. The recording of the premiere performance was issued by Melodiya in 1979 and reissued on a compact disc in 1998 (along with the opera The Nose conducted by Rozhdestvensky, Melodiya).
Shostakovich’s biographer, the Polish composer and outstanding master of stylisation, Krzysztof
Meyer, made a successful attempt to finish The Gamblers.
- Symphony Orchestra of the Leningrad State Philharmonic. Soloists: V. Rybasenko, B. Tarkhov, V. Belykh, N. Kurpe, A. Sarkisov, Y. Radivonik. Conductor: G. Rozhdestvensky. 1978 // Melodia Eurodisc 200 370-405, 1979
- Symphony Orchestra of the Leningrad State Philharmonic. Soloists: V. Rybasenko, B. Tarkhov, V. Belykh, N. Kurpe, A. Sarkisov, Y. Radivonik. Conductor: G. Rozhdestvensky. 1978 // Melodia C 10-11599-600, 1979