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Encyclopedia > Semyon Kotko

Semyon Kotko (Семён Котко in Russian) is an opera in five acts by Sergei Prokofiev to a libretto by Sergei Prokofiev and Valentin Katayev based on Valentin Katayev's 1937 novel I Am The Son Of Working People. Prokofiev's only opera on a Soviet subject, Semyon Kotko was composed between the summers of 1938 and 1939 and received its premiere on 23 June 1940 at the Stanislavsky Opera Theatre in Moscow. The reception was moderately enthusiastic, but at that time ideology took precedence over all other considerations, and discussions in the press focused exclusively around Semyon Kotko's importance as a “Soviet Opera”. The ingenious value of music was simply ignored. Semyon Kotko was immediately withdrawn early in 1941, and the opera was not staged again until 1958 at Brno in Czechoslovakia. It finally entered the repertory of the Bolshoy in Moscow in 1970, and it is now one of the main repertory of Kirov Opera at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg led by renowned Prokofiev interpreter Valery Gergiev. The foyer of Charles Garniers Opéra, Paris, opened 1875 Opera refers to a dramatic art form, originating in Europe, in which the emotional content is conveyed to the audience as much through music, both vocal and instrumental, as it is through the lyrics. ... Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (Russian: , Sergej Sergejevič Prokofev, 15/April 271, 1891 – March 5, 1953) was a Ukrainian-born Russian composer who mastered numerous musical genres and came to be admired as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. ... Katayev, Valentin (Petrovich) (b. ... Soviet redirects here. ... Moscow (Russian: Москва́, Moskva, IPA: (help· info)) is the capital of Russia and the countrys principal political, economic, financial, educational and transportation center, located on the river Moskva. ... The Maryinsky (or Mariinsky) Theatre (or Theater), is the St Petersburg theatre where the Mariinsky Ballet is located. ... Saint Petersburg (Russian: Санкт-Петербу́рг, English transliteration: Sankt-Peterburg), colloquially known as Питер (transliterated Piter), formerly known as Leningrad (Ленингра́д, 1924–1991) and Petrograd (Петрогра́д, 1914–1924), is a city located in Northwestern Russia on the delta of the river Neva at the east end of the Gulf of Finland... Valery Gergiev Valery Gergiev (born 1953) is a Russian conductor and director of the Mariinsky Theatre, whose name is also associated with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera and the London Symphony Orchestra. ...

From the beginning, it was intended that the opera would be produced by the brilliant director and a great friend of Prokofiev, Vsevolod Meyerhold, who was at that time the director of the Stanislavsky Opera Theatre. Both Prokofiev and Meyerhold had tried to plan productions of several of Prokofiev's operas in the past, but all of them had failed. However, on 20 June 1939, just a week before Prokofiev completed the piano score of Semyon Kotko, Meyerhold was arrested and nothing would be heard about his fate from then on; many years later it came out that he was shot in February 1940. The whole production fell into jeopardy. An actress in the name of Serafima Birman replaced Meyerhold's spot, but the result was dissatisfying. Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold (born Karl Kazimir Theodor Meyerhold) (1874 - 1940) was a Russian theatrical director, actor and theorist. ...

Although many critics have argued that Semyon Kotko is too complicated, unmelodic, and hard to understand, the opera has been rediscovered and appreciated by the audience nowadays. The famous pianist Sviatoslav Richter said, "The evening that I heard Semyon Kotko for the first time, I understood that Prokofiev was a great composer." Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter (Святосла́в Теофи́лович Ри́хтер) (March 20, 1915 – August 1, 1997) was a Soviet pianist of German extraction. ...


  • Semyon Kotko, a demobilized soldier who loves Sofya
  • Semyon's mother
  • Frosya, Semyon's sister who loves Mikola
  • Remeniuk, chairman of the village Soviet and commander of a partisan unit
  • Tkachenko, a former sergeant-major and Sofya's father
  • Sofya, Tkachenko's daughter who loves Semyon
  • Tsaryov, a sailor and one of the friends of Semyon who gets hanged by the Germans
  • Lyubka, Tsaryov's fiancée
  • Mikola, a young lad who loves Frosya
  • Ivasenko, an old man and the other one of the friends of Semyon who gets hanged by the Germans
  • Workman (the former landowner in the name of Klembovsky)
  • Von Wierhof, lieutenant in the German army
  • German NCO, German sergeant
  • German interpreter, two old men, three village women, two villagers, young man, Bandura player, two Haydamaks, peasants, partisans, Red Army soldiers, Germans, Haydamaks


The story takes place in Ukraine in 1918. The newly-established Bolshevik government has reached peace with the Germans, but some of their forces still occupy the territory. The advancing Red Army is hampered by Ukrainian nationalists and the remaining Germans. Semyon, a demobilized soldier and prominent young man in his village, is hoping to marry Sofya, daughter of the wealthy Tkachenko. The latter hopes to restore the old order and plots with loyalist elements and Germans to undermine the revolution and to thwart Semyon's marital intentions. In the end, Semyon, after Tkachenko's intrigues have cost the lives of two friends, is reunited with Sofya, and Tkachenko is arrested and executed leaving behind the merry chorus of the Red Army.


  • Philips 464 605-2: Valery Gergiev/Kirov Chorus and Orchestra; Valery Borisov, Chorus Master; Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
  • CHANDOS 10053: "Chandos Historical"; USSR State Radio Symphony Orchestra; USSR Radio Choir

  Results from FactBites:
Prokofiev: Semyon Kotko (1357 words)
It was a performance of Semyon Kotko attended by a young Sviatoslav Richter that drew the admiration of the young pianist for the music of Sergei Prokofiev.
Semyon Kotko was received with some enthusiasm when it premiered in 1940 but it was withdrawn early in 1941 and not performed until 1958.
It is clear for the opening bars that the music of Semyon Kotko is rich in expression and drama and is connected to the tradition of Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky in treating the characters with their own vocal style.
  More results at FactBites »



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