Opera Scotland

Rothschild's Violin Skripka Rotshil'da

Music

Veniamin Fleishman (born Bezhetsk, 20 July 1913; died Leningrad, 14 September 1941)

Text

The composer.

Source

Short story by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904)

 

Premieres

Completed by Dmitri Shostakovich 1944.

First Performance (concert): Moscow (Central House of Composers), 20 June 1960.

First Performance (staged): Leningrad (Conservatoire), 24 April 1968.

First Performance in UK (semi-staged): London (Queen Elizabeth Hall), 23 November 1997.

First Performance in UK (staged): London (Covent Garden Studio), May 2007.

First Performance in Scotland (semi-staged): Glasgow (Cottier's Theatre), 8 June 2014.

 

Background

While studying under Dmitri Shostakovich at the Leningrad Conservatoire (1939 to 1941), Veniamin Fleishman began a one-act opera Rothschild's Violin based on Anton Chekhov's short story. On the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Fleishman joined the People's Volunteer Guard, devoted to the defence of Leningrad. He was killed before he could complete the work.  From his own safe refuge in the Urals, Shostakovich was able to recover the unfinished manuscript from Leningrad. He completed the work and by 1944 had orchestrated it. The first performance was given in 1960.

The first Scottish performance was in an adaptation for smaller orchestral forces (a band of eleven) by Jünemann.

 

Characters

Yakov Ivanov, an elderly coffin-maker and violinist, known as Bronza (bass)

Marfa, his wife (mezzo-soprano)

Rothschild, a poor flautist (tenor)

Chakhkes, a gravedigger (tenor)

 

Plot Summary

The story concerns events in a Jewish village community in the late 19th century. Bronza, though successful, is a miserable, humourless old man. He pays no attention to his wife and despises his fellow villagers. Despite this, his only pleasure is playing his violin in the village band. Through the events of the opera, notably the death of his wife, he learns what is truly important, and passes the treasured violin on to Rothschild, one of the poor villagers he had previously despised, so that his beloved instrument will continue to sing after his death.

The illustration, of Shostakovich with his pupils, shows Fleishman at the bottom right.

The Cast

Chakhkes
 a gravedigger
Marfa
 Yakov's wife
Rothschild
 a poor flute player
Yakov Matveyevich Ivanov 'Bronza'
 a coffin maker and amateur fiddler

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