THE FATE OF THE HUMAN
Opera in three parts
Libretto by I. I. Dzerzhinsky
Andrei Sokolov, Sergeant of the Soviet Army
Irina, his wife
Anatoly, their son
Soviet officer, representative of the command
Mueller, the commandant of the prisoner of war camp
Zinka, captive girl
The girl in the dance
Vanya, a homeless boy
From the author
Soviet soldiers and officers, German soldiers and officers, Soviet people released from German captivity on Victory Day.
Time for action: The Great Patriotic War.
HISTORY OF CREATION
December 31, 1956 and January 1, 1957 in the newspaper Pravda, was published the story of Mikhail Sholokhov (born in 1905), “The Fate of Man.” This story excited Soviet people, who, like his hero, endured much suffering in the harsh war years. Dzerzhinsky, who had long been attracted to Sholokhov’s work, immediately became interested in “The Destiny of Man” as a possible plot for the opera. The composer himself wrote a libretto, making small changes in the story. He omitted some episodes of the hero’s detailed narrative, introduced a new episodic character – Zink. In addition, the text of the libretto included excerpts from poems by E. Karetnikova, D. Osin, A. Prokofiev, A. Fatyanov, A. Churkin.
The compositional solution of
In 1959, the opera was completed in piano. Vocal and instrumental numbers in it alternated with spoken text, as Dzerzhinsky decided to abandon the recitative. Three opera theaters of the Soviet Union – in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev – adopted the “Fate of Man” for the production, wishing to coincide with the historic event in the life of our country – the opening of the 22nd Congress of the CPSU. In the Bolshoi Theater of the USSR, the opera was orchestrated by A. Melik-Pashayev, in the Kiev Theater – B. Yarovinoky, at the S. Kirov Theater in Leningrad – V. Saiko. In the Leningrad production, in addition, the text was replaced by recitative (written by the concertmaster of the theater I. Chelishchev), changes were made to individual scenes, their order was changed. By virtue of this, the Leningrad editorial board proved to be the most successful.
The premiere of “The Fate of Man” in Leningrad and Moscow took place on the opening day of the 22nd Congress – October 17, 1961.
The steppe, the bank of the river. A man walks from a distance, leads a boy by the hand. He is tired and sits down at the ferry to rest and smoke. The boy runs away, and the person, after talking with the casual interlocutor, begins to tell him about his life, his difficult fate.
Railroad station. The echelon is leaving for the front. The soldiers are escorted by women – mothers, wives, sisters. Andrei Sokolov says goodbye to his wife and children.
The church in the territory occupied by the Germans. The fascists turned it into a prisoner of war prisoners. The Tatar prays away from everyone. The military man walks around the church carefully, figuring out if there are any wounded. He gives Andrey a dislocated hand. The exhausted Andrew falls into oblivion. Before his mind’s eye, his wife Irina and his son Anatoly appeared. The automatic turn returns it to reality: it was shot one of the prisoners of war. And again Andrew is half-wretched. Before him, images of the past emerge. Here he takes care of Irina. Her friends are leading a dance. But again cruel reality drives vision. A voice is heard nearby: “You, a platoon, do not hide… I do not intend to answer for you, I’ll point first at you…” This Kryzhnev threatens to extradite his commander to the fascists. Saving the platoon, Sokolov strangled the traitor.
Camp of prisoners of war. Behind the barbed wire prisoners are built to lead to work. Andrei loudly resents the unbearable norm: “Give them four cubic meters, and we are on the grave and one – for the eyes!” Such impudence should be punished: Andrew leads to the commandant of the prisoner of war, SS Müller.
In the curfew the fascists are drinking. They demand that Zina sang to them. The guards are introducing Sokolov. Muller threatens him with execution. And then Zinka sings. She sings a song about her native Russian land. This song gives Andrei new strength. Müller offers him to drink before the death for the victory of German weapons, but Sokolov refuses. “Then,” the fascist mocks, “can a Russian drink for his own doom?” Andrei drinks a glass of vodka. Seeing the firmness and dignity of the prisoner, Mueller suddenly changes the decision: he not only will not shoot Sokolov, but will make him his personal chauffeur.
A new sorrow at the wife of Sokolov Irina. Only she led her to the front of her husband, as it was her turn to go to fight her enemies. She remains with two daughters. But unsuccessfully Andrew once put his house: too close to a large factory. Direct hit of a bomb, and on a place of the house the deep funnel gap.
Sleeping Muller Sokolov carries through the front line to the location of Soviet troops. Both sides are firing at the car, but Andrei is safely getting to his own. He falls to his native land and reverently kisses her.
Victory Day in conquered Berlin. Everywhere reigns joy. Only Andrei is unhappy. He learned about the death of the family. One comforts the soldier: his son bravely fights with enemies, avenges the fascists for the sorrow brought by them. Andrei dreams of a peaceful life, that he can still be happy with the happiness of his son, nurse his grandchildren. These dreams are severely cut short. He was informed that Anatoly was killed by the German sniper.
On the ruins of his house, Andrei mentally bids farewell to Irina and her daughters. His attention is attracted by a boy digging nearby in a pile of garbage. It turns out that Vanya’s father was killed at the front, and his mother was killed by a bomb. Andrew decides to take a boy. “I am your father,” he says to Vanya. With a joyful cry, he throws himself on his neck.
Again the steppe. Andrei Sokolov ends his story. Taking Vanyushka in his arms, he leaves the place of an occasional halt.
“The fate of man” is an opera monologue. At the center of her collective image of Andrei Sokolov, the embodiment of the perseverance and spiritual nobility of the Russian people. The composer showed it not only in action, but also in meditation, in lyrical memories. The main place in the opera is occupied by songs, mostly solo. Mass scenes play the role of background. Instead of traditional acts, the opera breaks up into three parts: in each of them, many smaller pictures are replaced by influxes, just as it happens in movies.
Overture is built on the musical themes that characterize Andrei Sokolov.
The first part is multi-faceted. Mass scenes alternate with solos, images of people’s grief – with happy memories. Andrei’s monologue “And for what, you, life, has crippled me so” begins thoughtfully, in the spirit of a folk song. Then the melody passes into the orchestra, and jerky recitative phrases are superimposed on it.
The second picture is framed by a chorus of waving women “It’s time to dashing.” At the center of her scene is Andrew’s farewell to the family (“Well, take yourself in hand, Irinka mine”), accompanied by mournful lamentations in the orchestra.
In the third picture, the gloomy concentrated male chorus (without words) is replaced by the mournful prayer of the Tatar. The subsequent recitative scene of Andrei with the doctor is agitated and unsettled. The duet of Irina and Anatoly is lyrical. Sharply contrasts with the episode of the murder of a prisoner. The women’s choir “Come to the dance”, which brings Andrew back to his memories, sounds merry and carefree. The duet of Irina and Andrei “In the open field is throbbing” is distinguished by a popular-stocked warehouse.
The second part of the opera opens with a mass stage in the concentration camp (the first picture).
At the beginning of the second picture – drunken officers deliberately falsely and stupidly shatter the distorted motive “Songs about the shark” from the “Threepenny Opera” by the German composer K. Weil. Zinka’s song “I’ll sing about the forests” is written in the spirit of a violent romance.
Irina’s song in the third picture repeats the melody of Andrei’s farewell to the family from the first part.
Orchestral episode (Sokolov breaks through to his own) is based on one of the overture themes. Andrei’s song “Forgive me, my native land” is wide-spread and excited.
The third part begins with the sonorous fanfare of a vigorous marching march. Andrei’s monologue “Here and Me flashed happiness” is full of hope and joy. A song-requiem is imbued with sorrow and warmth.
In the final picture of the opera, the intonations of Soviet mass songs prevail. Lyrical chant of accompaniment, serving as a backdrop for Vanya’s words: “Folder, dear, I knew, I knew that you would find me, I waited so long for you to find me…” – goes to the apotheosis, the final opera.
1 The presentation of the plot and the description of music are given according to the Leningrad edition.