Hamlet’s Soviet Operatic Afterlife: Between Individuality and Allegory

Michelle Assay

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


From their first engagement with Hamlet in the mid-eighteenth century to the present day, Russians have constantly re-invented the play. As with so many of their artistic endeavours, Russian Hamlet has always been “more than Hamlet,” and several of their most iconic productions have been enhanced by musical scores from the most prominent composers of the time (Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev, among others), which provided an additional layer of semantic commentary.

Particularly interesting examples of musical meta-text are to be found in the field of opera, where the composer has the role of initiator and, in effect, producer. This paper examines three Hamlet operas composed in the Soviet Union or post-Soviet Russia – by the Georgian Alexi Machavariani (1965-68), Leningrad/Petersburg-based Sergey Slonimsky (1991), and Yekaterinburgian Vladimir Kobekin (2001, subtitled “a Russian comedy”). Each of the three operas has a distinct socio-political angle and meta-musical commentary, embodied both in its libretto and in its musical score, and features respectively a nationalist sub-text, an allegory of a society in decline, and an absurdist reconceptualization of individuality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Shakespearean International Yearbook 18
Subtitle of host publicationSpecial Section: Soviet Shakespeare
EditorsTom Bishop, Alexa Alice Joubin, Natalia Khomenko
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781003048763
ISBN (Print)9780367442989
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2020

Publication series

NameThe Shakespearean International Yearbook


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