Prokofiev's The Gambler is being broadcast on BBC Radio 3 tonight, 1800 London time.Online and international. Great production shots, synopsis etc.
Listen to it because audio only, it's easier to appreciate the opera for what it is. It's difficult to stage because Prokofiev was trying to turn what is essentailly a symphonic poem into a drama. He's also expressing his own complex feelings about Russia at the time of great upheaval. Yet he's got to mesh it with the original story. First act introduces the characters at length, but action happens in the Third Act. In theory you could save time by listening to the Third Act's dramatic music, but understanding the context is important. The people the opera depicts are a shallow, superficial bunch, you're meant to dislike, not identify with. This again isn't operatic convention, which makes the drama seem oddly inert. But The Gambler can't be judged like more mature, conventional operas, which is why it confused the critics earlier this year. Still, it's interesting enough heard on its own terms. In fact it will probably be better appreciated next time round, when people get their heads around it. Certainly, I'm planning to go to the revival in 2011. This is what I wrote about the premiere earlier this year. Incidentally, John Tomlinson was very proactive creating his role, a lot of the ideas are his.