War and Peace
December 28, 2007
The penultimate performance of Prokofiev's War and Peace this season at the Met is tonight, and how I wish I could go, if only to see the enormous sparkly red chicken puppet again. Also, I read in the Financial Times that the production features 4 live chickens, in addition to a horse, a dog, and a goat, not to mention the 170 singers. It is idle talk on my part, as I have not yet finished reading Tolstoy's work. It took 557 pages, but War and Peace does have an opera scene in Volume II, Part Five, VIII-X. I especially like the description of Natasha's initial impressions of the opera in Chapter IX:
After her life in the country, and in her present serious mood, all this seemed grotesque and amazing to Natasha. She could not follow the opera nor even listen to the music; she saw only the painted cardboard and the queerly dressed men and women who moved, spoke, and sang so strangely in that brilliant light. She knew what it was all meant to represent, but it was so pretentiously false and unnatural that she first felt ashamed for the actors and then amused at them. She looked at the faces of the audience, seeking in them the same sense of ridicule and perplexity she herself experienced, but they all seemed attentive to what was happening on the stage, and expressed delight which to Natasha seemed feigned. "I suppose it has to be like this!" she thought. She kept looking round in turn at the rows of pomaded heads in the stalls and then at the seminude women in the boxes, especially at Helene in the next box, who- apparently quite unclothed- sat with a quiet tranquil smile, not taking her eyes off the stage. And feeling the bright light that flooded the whole place and the warm air heated by the crowd, Natasha little by little began to pass into a state of intoxication she had not experienced for a long while. She did not realize who and where she was, nor what was going on before her. As she looked and thought, the strangest fancies unexpectedly and disconnectedly passed through her mind: the idea occurred to her of jumping onto the edge of the box and singing the air the actress was singing, then she wished to touch with her fan an old gentleman sitting not far from her, then to lean over to Helene and tickle her.