This article examines the first opera of Prokofiev's Soviet period, Semyon Kotko (1939), in light of the disparity between two forms of melodrama, one affecting the opera's composition, the other its reception. The first is the classic melodrama, which offered the composer the foundation for a vivid, intense work that would also be suitable for a mass audience; the second is the melodrama reflecting the aesthetic norms and moral framework of socialist realism and High Stalinism. The simplicity and immediacy of Kotko avoided the directed emotionalism of the officially favoured model of Romantic opera, and the Ukrainian setting prompted references to the tradition of Gogolian comedy rather than an elevation of folk content to an epic dimension. Characters conform to archetypes of classic melodrama, and together with the opera's comic elements and the unique gestural idiom of its music and manner of performance, this detracted from the required effects of sublime heroism and nationalism. While the outlines of a socialist realist plot remain in Kotko, Prokofiev's commitment to what he considered timeless values of music and drama led to a failure, in socialist realist terms, to achieve an appropriate amplification of its moral essence.