Music: Can Tolstoy Be Sung?

When the long-awaited news finally arrived, it was a big letdown. Sergei Prokofieff's monumental opera, War and Peace (promised by Stalin to the Metropolitan Opera after a Soviet premiere) had a concert run-through last week at the Moscow Conservatory. An audience of professional musicians, squirming through the sceneryless nine scenes, vigorously applauded the classic melodies, found the unwieldy Tolstoyan libretto tough going and concluded that the opera was far from finished.

Embarrassed Composer Prokofieff explained: "I... tried to preserve the spirit of Tolstoy's . . . language." As Pravda gave the performance a...

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