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October 1917–18: Out of Chaos

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 April 2013

Marina Frolova-Walker
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

We shall begin with two stories of the October Revolution, as recalled by Russian musicians then at the peak of their careers. The first was provided by Fyodor Chaliapin, who was on stage as King Philip II in a performance of Don Carlos at the moment when a great thunderclap threw singers and audience alike into disarray. As all present later understood, this was the shot fired by the battleship Aurora, the designated signal for the insurrection to begin. Reliving the moment, Chaliapin reports:

From the cathedral steps, I see that my people have lost their nerve. The third and fourth shots, one after another. My square began to empty. Choir members and extras started moving towards the wings and, forgetting about the heretics, began to discuss which way they should run. The Spanish king, Philip II, had much trouble persuading his timid subjects that there was nowhere to run, since it was quite impossible to determine where the shells might fall. After a minute, several people came in from outside the theatre, and told us that the shells are flying in the opposite direction and we have nothing to fear. We remained on stage and the action continued. The audience also stayed put, not knowing where to run either and deciding to remain in their seats. […] By the end of the performance, the guns had fallen silent […]

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2012

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