Following last week’s Guillaume Tell, Trove Thursday turns to another epic opera in which the personal and the political intertwine: Prokofiev’s War and Peace in a 1965 Bolshoi broadcast with an enormous cast led by Galina Vishnevskaya as Natasha and conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky.
These days, I listen to opera but I watch movies, and Film at Lincoln Center, my favorite local cinema organization, recently published a fascinating list suggesting arty loooong flicks to fill your days.
Included, of course, is Sergei Bondarchuk’s lavish seven-hour-plus 1967 adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Long unseen, it was recently treated to a 2K restoration which played in theaters briefly last summer. I missed it then so I was excited when the invaluable Criterion Collection announced a home video release.
Even before Governor Cuomo ordered us to stay home, the Blu-ray version was slowly inching its way up my reserve queue at the New York Public Library. However, that institution closed before I got my chance to watch it. So, Prokofiev’s sprawling opera at a mere three hours plus change has had to serve my Napoleonic needs in the meantime.
By the way, Bondarchuk (who, by the way, cast himself as Pierre Buzukhov in War and Peace) a decade later wrote and directed an adaptation of Pushkin’s Boris Godunov.
Fingers crossed that we’ll get yet another Prokofiev opera at the Met this fall: The Fiery Angel in Barrie Kosky’s first production for the company.
If I may point out another entry in FLC’s list of demanding yet rewarding lengthy films, I enthusiastically recommend maybe the very longest: Mariano Llinás’s 2018 La Flor which clocks in at 14 hours, 28 minutes. I caught this amazing folly which consists of six discreet sections shot over a decade and featuring the same spellbinding quartet of actresses in four screenings over 11 days at FLC’s Walter Reade theater last August.
Despite some inevitable longeurs it proved the most memorable film experience I had in 2019. Happily, one can now either rent or purchase a digital copy of the complete La Flor!
Prokofiev: Voyna I Mir (War and Peace)
9 November 1965
Natasha Rostova — Galina Vishnevskaya
Hélène Bezukhova — Kira Leonova
Maria Dmitrievna Akhrosimova — Larissa Avdeyeva
Madame Peronskaya — Evgheniya Smolenskaya
Princess Maria Bolkonskaya — Maria Mityukova
Sonya — Valentina Klepatskaya
Matryosha — Glafira Korolyova
Dunyasha — Nadezhda Kositsina
Prince Andrey Bolkonsky — Evgheny Kibkalo
Count Pierre Bezukhov — Vladimir Petrov
Count Ilya Rostov — Artur Eizen
Prince Anatol Kuragin — Aleksey Maslennikov
Prince Mikhail Kutuzov — Alexander Vedernikov
Napoleon Bonaparte — Aleksey Bolshakov
Dolokhov — Gheorgy Pankov
Colonel Vasska Denisov — Mikhail Kiselyov
Platon Karataev — Alexander Laptev
Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky — Nicolai Ushakov
Balaga — Aleksey Gheleva
Gavrila — Leonid Ktitorov
Metivier — Yuri Galkin
Raevsky — Vladimir Valaitis
Conductor — Gennady Rozhdestvensky
War and Peace can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.
The archive listing all Trove Thursday offerings in alphabetical order by composer has been recently updated.