Voices from Russia

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Golden Age of Soviet Songs

Georg Ots (1920-75), People’s Artist of the USSR


Я люблю тебя, жизнь! (I love you, life!)


Moscow’s Helikon Opera opened its new season with a musical revue of Soviet songs. Its brand new production Back in the USSR, titled after a popular Beatles song, is set to become the highlight of the season. The idea of creating a revue with setting and costumes based on Soviet songs occurred to the opera company’s leadership after the theatre hosted an evening of Soviet songs and the audience enjoyed every minute of it. The resulting set designs incorporate a public phone booth of the 1960s, a park fence, and a bench provided with video installations in the form of parks, starry skies, and rain. There’s also footage from old beloved Soviet films.


Valentina Tolkunova (1946-2010),  People’s Artist of the RSFSR


Я не могу иначе (I can’t do anything else)


The theatre’s artistic director, Dmitri Bertman, spoke to our VOR correspondent, “Currently, old Soviet songs are more than welcome, as people are nostalgic for them. The Soviet time, even though it was a time of the absurd, was saturated with spirituality and honesty. Soviet values appealed to the heart. That’s why we opted for such a production and judging by the reaction of the public, we were right in our choice”.


Muslim Magomayev (1942-2008), People’s Artist of the USSR… THE BOSS


Мелодия (A melody)


Indeed, the performance earned long-lasting applause from the audience and the house exploded with storms of applause in the course of the play. Auditor Irina Schukina shared her opinion with VOR, “The performance was full of good humour and good songs. At first, I didn’t want to go because I thought it would be boring but I was wrong”. Student Yuliya Korotkaya commented, “Fantastic! So full of energy and positive emotions. I’ll come to see it again!”


The contemporary group Serebro sings Журавли (The white cranes)


Dmitri Khvorovstovsky (1962- ), People’s Artist of Russia, sings Как Молоды мы Были (How Young We Were)


Ilya Ilyin, the producer of Back in the USSR, told VOR that the songs picked for the performance showed both positive and negative aspects of the Soviet era, saying, “Music is different. It can sound beautiful, horrible, tragic, joyful. I was born and lived in the Soviet Union, and I highly revere the songs that we sang as children and are currently singing in the theatre. The more you immerse in these songs, the more you realise what a powerful ideological machine was built in the Soviet days to ensure loyalty to the Soviet ideology. The cream of Soviet composers, including Dunayevsky, wrote for this machine. The genius of Dunayevsky coincided with the goals that these songs pursued”.

1 October 2012

Natalia Viktorova

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

Most decent and real Russian people love Soviet songs, as they’re usually positive in tone and damned good music. The people who want to remove the Soviet period from Russian history and the Russian soul have to go and soak their heads in a bucket of ice until the good sense returns. There was much good and much bad in that period. What makes it so difficult is that so much good stood cheek-by-jowl with much evil. On the hand, yes, there was the GULag, the dictatorship, the oppressive hand of the Party apparat, but on the other hand, there was the space programme, the Great Victory, the mass literacy and health campaigns, and the highest living standards that Russia had known (shared rather more equally than at present, I might add).

There must be repentance for the evil… and a celebration of the achievements, both, in the same way, and in equal measure. Lenin must be laid to rest next to his mother in Piter, but his tomb in Moscow must be kept as a reminder of that time… both of its evil and of its grandeur. After all, Lenin wasn’t corrupt or greedy… history tells us that his needs and personal manners were modest and he didn’t enrich himself or his family (quite unlike some American politicians I could name). Today’s Russia would be the lesser without it…

Soviet song lived… Soviet song lives… Soviet song shall live!


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