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2012 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III - Session IV

The Balance of Power in Soviet Russia as Reflected in the Creation and Reception of Shostakovich’s 'The Nose' and 'Lady MacBeth of the Mtsensk District'

This paper explores the power balance in Soviet Russia as reflected in the creation and reception of Shostakovich’s The Nose and Lady MacBeth of the Mtsensk District. Although separated by only a few years, Shostakovich’s two completed operas are the work of an ever-maturing composer, one whose general story is legendary but whose details are revelatory. By analyzing the rapidly changing societal structures starting with the 1917 Revolution, through the rise of the Bolsheviks, Lenin, and Stalin, the paper points to not only a shift in the stated goals of Soviet society but also in the means employed to attain them. Placing on top of this historical background the importance of the arts (and in particular opera) to the fledgling Soviet society, one gains greater understanding of the role of the Soviet artist. Finally, after an analysis of the irrational, almost manic reception histories of both Shostakovich’s operas, coupled with clues to his own personal political views, the paper paints a nuanced portrait of the Shostakovich of the 1920s-30s, and the nature of the world in which he lived and worked. That there still is no consensus among scholars as to the motivations of Shostakovich nor the government during these years is a testament to the enduring fascination with the story, and perhaps the perennial relevance of the concept of the artist’s role in society and the true nature of power.

Presenter: Patrick Valentino (Ithaca College) --
Topic: Humanities/Music Studies
Location: 214 Hartwell
Time: 3:15 pm (Session IV)