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Prokofiev: The Love for Three Oranges

Painting "Three Oranges in Shadow" by Paul Hutchinson
Paul Hutchinson
"Three Oranges in Shadow" by Paul Hutchinson*

Continuing this month's series of "deep dive" operas with a story part fairy tale, part farce, and all satire: Prokofiev's "The Love for Three Oranges!"

Sergei Prokofiev: The Love for Three Oranges  (L'amour des trois oranges)

Le Roi de Trèfle/Le Héraut: Gabriel Bacquier
Le Prince: Jean-Luc Viala
La Princesse Clarice: Hélène Perraguin
Léandre: Vincent Le Texier
Trouffaldino: Georges Gautier
Pantalon/Farfarello/Le Maître de cérémonies: Didier Henry
Tchélio: Gregory Reinhart
Fata Morgana: Michèle LaGrange
Linette: Consuelo Caroli
Nicolette: Brigitte Fournier
Ninette: Catherine Dubosc
La Cuisinière: Jules Bastin
Sméraldine: Béatrice Uria Monzon

Lyon Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Kent Nagano, conductor

The early 20th century was a tumultuous time politically, socially, and musically. The Bolshevik Revolution ushered in the world's first Communist nation.  World War I tore apart the known world order in Europe, leaving family-oriented monarchies behind, and giving way to elected democratic governments. It was into this world that Serge Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges was born.

Prokofiev started sketching the opera in 1917 in St. Petersburg, Russia as a satirical buffer to the popularity of "realism" in the theatrical arts (referred to as verismo in opera, and naturalism in theater). The "realism" trend valued the portrayal of everyday events over fanciful ones, and it was a trend which Prokofiev disliked, finding it old-fashioned and stiff.

In 1918, the October Revolution freshly in the rearview mirror, Prokofiev received permission to travel to the United States. He eventually landed in Chicago, where he found that his work was very popular. Soon after a successful performance of his First Symphony, Prokofiev was commissioned to compose an opera. Conveniently, he had a sketch of The Love for Three Oranges already. The opera premiered at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago in 1921. 

Today, this opera is the most frequently performed of Prokofiev's output, but is by no means part of the standard repertoire of most opera houses. The most famous music is the "March" from the orchestral suite Prokofiev's created of The Love of Three Oranges.

Very much looking forward to sharing this opera deep dive with you, Sunday night at 9!

Read a full synopsis.


WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART: "Abendempfindung an Laura" K. 523
 Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano / Peter Serkin, piano
Album: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson: Recital at Ravinia

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN: Fantasia in C minor, Op. 80 "The Choral Fantasy"
      Menachem Pressler, piano
      Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
      Mid-German Radio Choir
      Kurt Masur, conductor 
Album: Beethoven: Triple Concerto - Choral Fantasy / Beaux Arts Trio - Gewandhausorchester - Masur

CLAUDE DEBUSSY: Trois chanson des Bilitis
      Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano / Peter Serkin, piano
Album: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson: Recital at Ravinia

ALESSANDRO SCARLATTI: The Cecilian Vespers - Antiphons "Valerianus" & "Cecilia, famula" / Psalm 121 & 122 "Laetatus sum"
      Susanne Rydén, Dominique Labelle (sopranos)
      Ryland Angel (countertenor)
      Michael Slattery (tenor)
      Neal Davies (baritone & cantor)
      Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra / Philharmonia Choral
      Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Album: Alessandro Scarlatti: The Cecilian Vespers / Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra - Nicholas McGegan

XAVIER MONTSALVATGE: Madrigal on "Song of the Birds"
      Elina Garanca, mezzo-soprano
      Staatskapelle Dresden
      Fabio Luisi, conductor
Album: Elina Garanca: Aria Cantilena / Staatskapelle Dresden - Fabio Luisi

*About the art: "Three Oranges in Shadow," painted by New Zealand artist Paul Hutchinson. See more of his work at his website, and at his blog.  

Chris Voss is the Weekday Afternoon Host and a Producer for CRB.