Opera Scotland

War and Peace Voina i mir

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Sergey Prokofiev (born Sontsovka, Ukraine, 23 April 1891; died Moscow, 5 March 1953)

The composer and Mira Mendelson (his second wife)

Novel (completed 1869) by Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) recounting Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.


First performance: Moscow, 16 October 1944 (incomplete, in concert).
First UK performance: Leeds (Town Hall), 19 April 1967 (concert).
First performance in Scotland Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 22 January 2010.
Scottish Opera première: N/A (Orchestra & technical support for above production).



War and Peace is the most ambitious of Prokofiev’s operas, and he never saw it performed satisfactorily. The main period of composition was 1941-43, and he continued to revise it until his death. It was supremely topical, with Hitler repeating Napoleon’s attempt at a massive invasion. It is undoubtedly one of the great 20th century operas, covering a vast canvas with general success. It attained prominence when it was chosen as the first production to open the Sydney opera house. English National Opera gave it a successful UK stage premiere in 1972 and took that staging to the New York Met.

The music is generally in two styles. The peace scenes are full of melody reminiscent of his great ballet scores such as Romeo and Juliet. The war scenes contain echoes of the memorable music composed for the epic Eisenstein films such as Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible.

The cast contains dozens of named roles for individual characters, Russian civilians as well as French and Russian officers. Most of the prominent characters are listed below.


Main Characters
Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (baritone)
Count Pyotr Bezukhov (Pierre), friend to Andrei and the Rostovs (tenor)
Count Ilya Rostov (baritone)
Natasha Rostova, his daughter (soprano)
Sonya, her cousin (mezzo-soprano)
Hélène Bezukhova, Pierre’s wife (mezzo-soprano)
Prince Anatole Kuragin, Hélène’s brother (tenor)
Field Marshal Prince Kutuzov, commander of the Russian army (bass)
Napoleon Bonaparte (baritone)


Plot Summary
The peace scenes are dominated by the meeting and engagement of Andrei and Natasha. He is still young but recently widowed and melancholic. She is younger and beautiful, but immature. She takes offence at her unfriendly reception by Andrei’s relations and allows herself to be seduced by Anatol.

When the invasion starts, Andrei returns to the army as a staff officer under Kutuzov. He is mortally wounded at Borodino. Amid the chaos of war, as Kutuzov abandons Moscow and it is set ablaze, the scenes focus on the triumph of the Russian people. Natasha and Andrei are reconciled before he dies. Natasha eventually marries Pierre, who has remained a staunch friend and helpless observer of all these events.

The Cast

 a troika driver
Capt Ramballe
Count Pierre Bezukhov
Count Rostov
 Natasha's father
Davout's Adjutant
 Anatole's friend, an army officer
Dr Métivier
 Natasha's maid
Field-Marshall Kutuzov
 Prince Mikhail Kutuzov
First Aide
 Aide-de-Camp to General Compans
First French Officer
First Madman
First Russian Staff Officer
French Abbé
 a partisan
 butler to Maria Akhrosimova
General Belliard
General de Caulaincourt
General Wolzogen
 second Prussian General
Hélène Bezukhova
 Pierre's wife
 at the Bolkonsky mansion
 a servant
 Kutuzov's Adjutant
 first Prussian General
 a peasant woman
Lt Bonnet
 a French officer
Lt Colonel Vassily Denisov
 'Vasska' a friend of the Rostovs
Lt Gérard
 a French officer
Lt Jacquot
 a French officer
Maria Akhrosimova
Marshall Berthier
Marshall Davout
 a gypsy
Mavra Kuzminichna
Mlle Bourienne
 a governess
Monsieur de Beausset
Napoleon Bonaparte
 Emperor of France
Napoleon's Aide-de-Camp
Natasha Rostova
Old Footman
 at the Bolkonsky mansion
Old Grenadier
 to Prince Andrei
Platon Karatayev
 a prisoner of war
Prince Anatole Kuragin
 Hélène's brother
Prince Andrei Bolkonsky
Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky
 father of Andrei and Marya
Princess Marya Bolkonskaya
 Andrei's sister
Second Aide
 Aide-de-Camp to Marshall Murat
Second French Officer
Second Madman
Second Russian Staff Officer
 Natasha's cousin
Third Aide
 Aide-de-Camp to Prince Eugene
Third Madman
Tikhon Shcherbaty
 a partisan
 a peasant woman
 to old Prince Bolkonsky
 a peasant woman
Young Grenadier
Young Worker

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