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4 - Magic and Realism in Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel, 1955

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 August 2018

Harriet Boyd-Bennett
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
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Summary

By the time Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel was premiered in Venice in 1955, it was no longer new but was mostly unknown. Composed and revised on and off between 1919 and 1927, the opera had long languished unperformed. Questions reverberated after the opening night as audiences grappled with now passé symbolism. Critics have continued to revisit these questions to this day: some have sought to philosophise the opera’s concerns, others have dismissed its plot as religious and erotic hysteria. Rather than attempt to resolve these issues – as many have sought to do –this chapter resituates The Fiery Angel at the moment of its premiere, to unearth the values laden in its production and reception within an Italian context. The premiere prompted a new definition of magic realism in opera, a definition forged in relation to emergent debates on modern magical thinking that were occurring at the same time in Italian intellectual circles.
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Opera in Postwar Venice
Cultural Politics and the Avant-Garde
, pp. 119 - 153
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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