About Russian rock opera

The phrase probably sounds attractive. It attracts with unusualness, unusualness, dissimilarity. These are his internal messages. Maybe this is due to the concepts of rock music, rock culture, which immediately set one up for a “protest wave.”

But if you suddenly have to plunge into the depths and essence of the issue of rock opera, then it suddenly turns out that there is not much information and music itself, but on the contrary there is enough uncertainty and fog.

In the top five

The term itself first appeared in the 60s of the 20th century in Europe, and is associated with Pete Townsen (England), leader of the rock group The Who. On the cover of the album “Tommy” were written the words – rock opera.

In fact, another British group used this phrase before. But since The Who’s album was a good commercial success, Townsen was given authorship.

Then there was “Jesus Christ Superstar” by E. Webber, another rock opera album by The Who, and already in 1975. The USSR performed its own rock opera “Orpheus and Eurydice” by A. Zhurbin.

True, A. Zhurbin defined the genre of his work as zong-opera (song-opera), but this is solely because the word rock was banned in the USSR. Those were the times. But the fact remains: the fourth rock opera was born here. And the top five world rock operas are closed by the famous “The Wall” by Pink Floyd.

Through the hedgehog and through the narrow…

Let’s remember the funny riddle: what happens if you cross… The situation with rock opera is approximately the same. Because by the 60-70s, the musical history of the opera genre totaled 370 years, and rock music as a style hardly existed for more than 20.

But apparently, rock musicians were very brave guys, and took into their own hands everything that sounded good. Now the turn has come to the most conservative and academic genre: opera. Because more distant musical phenomena than opera and rock music are difficult to find.

Let’s compare, in an opera a symphony orchestra plays, a choir sings, sometimes there is a ballet, singers on stage perform some kind of stage performance, and all this happens in the opera house.

And in rock music there is a completely different type of vocal (not academic). Electronic (microphone) sound, electric guitars, bass guitar (invention of rock musicians), electronic keys (organs) and a large drum kit. And all rock music is designed for large, often open spaces.

Indeed, genres are difficult to connect and therefore difficulties persist to this day.

Do you remember how it all started?

Composer A. Zhurbin has many academic works (operas, ballets, symphonies), but in 1974-75 the 30-year-old musician was actively searching for himself and decided to try his hand at a completely new genre.

This is how the rock opera “Orpheus and Eurydice” appeared, staged in the opera studio at the Leningrad Conservatory. The performers were the ensemble “Singing Guitars” and soloists A. Asadullin and I. Ponarovskaya.

The plot is based on the ancient Greek myth about the legendary singer Orpheus and his beloved Eurydice. It should be immediately noted that a serious plot basis and high-quality literary text will become characteristic features of future Soviet and Russian rock operas.

A. Rybnikov and A. Gradsky dedicated their works in this genre to the tragic events in Chile in 1973. These are “The Star and Death of Joaquin Murieta” (poems by P. Neruda in translations by P. Grushko) and “Stadium” – about the fate of the Chilean singer Victor Jara.

“Star” exists in the form of a vinyl album, it was in the repertoire of Lenkom M. Zakharov for a long time, a musical film was shot. “Stadium” by A. Gradsky was also recorded as an album on two CDs.

What’s happening to Russian rock opera?

Again we need to remember about the “hedgehog and the snake” and state the fact that creating a repertoire rock opera turns out to be very difficult and requires, among other things, great talent from the author of the music.

That is why today “old” Soviet rock operas are performed on theater stages, including “Juno and Avos” by A. Rybnikov, which can be called one of the best Russian (Soviet) rock operas.

What’s the matter here? Rock operas have been composed since the 90s. Almost 20 of them appeared, but again, the composer’s talent must somehow manifest itself in music. But this is not happening yet.

"Юнона и Авось"(2002г) Аллилуйя

There are attempts to create a rock opera based on the literary genre of fantasy, but fantasy culture is aimed at a limited circle of listeners, and there are questions about the quality of the music.

In this regard, an anecdotal rock fact is indicative: in 1995. the Gaza Strip group composed and recorded a 40-minute rock-punk opera “Kashchei the Immortal”. And since all the musical numbers (except one) are cover versions of famous rock compositions, then in combination with a decent level of recording and the performer’s characteristically unique vocals, the composition arouses some interest. But if it weren’t for street vocabulary…

About the works of the masters

E. Artemyev is a composer with an excellent academic school; electronic music, and then rock music, are constantly in his area of ​​interest. For more than 30 years he worked on the rock opera “Crime and Punishment” (based on F. Dostoevsky). The opera was completed in 2007, but you can only get acquainted with it on the Internet on music sites. It never got to the point of production.

A. Gradsky finally finished the large-scale rock opera “The Master and Margarita” (based on M. Bulgakov). The opera has almost 60 characters, and an audio recording was made. But then it’s just a detective story: everyone knows that the opera is finished, the names of the performers are known (many very famous musical people), there are reviews of the music (but very stingy), and on the Internet “by day with fire” you can’t even find a fragment of the composition.

Music lovers claim that the recording of “The Master…” can be purchased, but personally from maestro Gradsky and under conditions that do not contribute to the popularization of the work.

Summing up, and a little about music records

A rock opera is often confused with a musical, but they are not the same thing. In a musical there are usually dialogues and the dance (choreographic) beginning is very important. In a rock opera, the main elements are vocal and vocal-ensemble in combination with stage action. In other words, it is necessary for the heroes to sing and act (do something).

In Russia today there is the only Rock Opera theater in St. Petersburg, but it still does not have its own premises. The repertoire is based on rock opera classics: “Orpheus”, “Juno”, “Jesus”, 2 musicals by A. Petrov and works by V. Calle, the theater’s musical director. Judging by the titles, musicals predominate in the theater’s repertoire.

There are interesting music records associated with rock opera:

  • “Orpheus and Eurydice” was included in the Guinness Book of Records as a stage work performed the maximum number of times by one group;
  • B. Vivcharovsky (St. Petersburg) is the only Honored Artist of the Russian Federation who received this title for his work in a rock opera;
  • “The Star and Death of Joaquin Murrieta” is the only rock opera in Russia that exists in three forms accepted in world practice: album, performance, film;
  • in honor of the Lenkom play “Juno and Avos” in 2011. A 1 New Zealand dollar commemorative silver coin was issued.

It turns out that creating and staging a rock opera today is a very difficult task, and therefore Russian fans of this genre do not have much choice. For now, it remains to admit that there are 5 Russian (Soviet) examples of rock opera, and then we have to wait and hope.

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