Completed – or so he thought – at the moment of his country’s greatest peril with Hitler’s forces camped in the Moscow suburbs, Sergei Prokofiev’s operatic adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace must have seemed a powerful and patriotic artistic response to the horrors of the conflict engulfing his homeland. But it didn’t work like that in Stalin’s world.
Even in the depths of danger Soviet cultural commissars were alive to the taint of bourgeois sentiment and the composer spent more than a decade revising his score under increasing duress to please his political masters. In the end, dying as he did on the same day as Stalin in 1953, he never lived to see his work performed in its entirety.
Later this month British audiences will be treated to the world premiere of the “de-Sovietised” version of the operatic masterpiece written as Prokofiev intended it when it is performed by The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Scottish Opera at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow before moving to the Edinburgh Festival Theatre.