Works

Rasputin

opera in two acts. (120') 1988



"Rasputin," an opera with music and libretto by music professor Jay Reise received its Russian premiere in 2008 at the Helikon Opera in Moscow. Rasputin received its French premiere at Opéra Massy in Paris in 2010.  The opera is scheduled for the Saaremaa Festival in Estonia in July 2012.  

Described at its New York premiere by the Washington Times as “a spellbinding, challenging and profoundly beautiful creation," “Rasputin” was commissioned by the late Beverly Sills and the New York City Opera in 1988 as the Soviet Union was nearing its end. Now twenty years after, Dmitry Bertman has produced and directed the opera in Moscow translating its lyrics into Russian (Reise's preferred original choice). Bertman has wanted to stage the opera since its American premiere but only now, curiously enough coinciding with the legal rehabilitation of the tsar, has he been able to do so.

The opera is based on the notorious career of the so-called Mad Monk of Russia, Grigory Rasputin. Born in Siberia, Rasputin came from an underground Christian sect with rituals that included flagellation and orgies. Rasputin gained the unquestioning support of the tsar and tsarina, Nicholas and Alexandra, by using hypnosis to relieve the sufferings of their hemophiliac young son, Alexei. Rasputin’s debauchery and apparent influence on the royal family helped to discredit the tsarist government and contributed to the Russian Revolution in 1917.

The Moscow Times said, "Reise's score ... underline[s] and reinforce[s] the dramatic events on stage. Especially effective is Reise's use of traditional tonality -- including quotes from Pyotr Tchaikovsky's ballet "Swan Lake" and the Russian imperial hymn -- for the music of Nicholas and Alexandra, as well as atonal dissonance to conjure up what he calls, in a program note, "the brutal and chaotic new world of the 20th century."