Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) is Russia's greatest poet; Sergey Prokofiev (1872-1953) arguably her greatest 20th-century composer. Both created masterpieces within well-policed states — and witnessed their work censored, unpublished, or banned. In 2007, Princeton University brought these two giants together in the realization of one unfinished collaboration from 1936-37: a production of Boris Godunov at the Berlind Theater. In February 2012, Princeton once again brought to life another unrealized project from the same period involving the same poet and composer: Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (1831).
The playscript (or "scenic projection in 14 fragments"), written in 1936 by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky for the Moscow Chamber Theater and provided with incidental music (44 numbers of dances, songs, and mood music) by Sergey Prokofiev, never passed Stalinist censorship committees. That, and the rising Terror, resulted in a cancellation of the project in December 1936, before any rehearsals or casting had begun. This unrealized stage work was creatively realized for its two-pronged world premiere on February 9-10, 2012: Tim Vasen of Princeton's Lewis Center for the Arts directed undergraduates in a full production of the play (in translation), and the Princeton Symphony Orchestra performed the full Prokofiev musical score accented with select scenes, choreographed dances, and choruses from the play.
For alumni and friends of Princeton University, Professor Caryl Emerson and Professor Simon Morrison led the Alumni Studies course, "Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin: From Words to Performance," on January 5 - February 8, 2012. This five-week Alumni Studies Course introduced the story, the music, and the Stalinist context to the local and online community. Throughout, the dynamic duo of Emerson and Morrison discussed what it took to produce a never-before produced work and what this venture has meant to contemporary performance studies.
The course included readings, online discussion moderated by the professors and live webinars with the professors. An optional in-person course wrap-up also took place on campus February 9 and February 10 that included breakfast with the director of the dramatic premiere, tickets to both the orchestral and dramatic performances, and attendance of various keynotes and lectures for the "After the End of Music History" conference. Course registration closed on January 10, 2012.