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Operatic Agitation: The Crimean Annexation and the Politics of Performance in Post-Soviet Russia

Date: 4:00pm PST November 13 Location: Miller Hall, Room 102

  • Leah Goldman, Visiting Assistant ProfessorCore Program
    Leah Goldman, Visiting Assistant Professor
    Core Program
    Photo credit: Nina Johnson

Miller Hall, Room 102

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 shocked the global community but generated robust approval for Vladimir Putin at home. Amidst this wave of support, experimental director Iurii Aleksandrov undertook an unusual project: a revival of Soviet composer Marian Koval’s long-forgotten opera Sevastopol’tsy in radically revised form. While Koval focused on WWII, Aleksandrov’s new production, Opera-Political Meeting Crimea, extended the storyline back to the Crimean War and forward to current events, creating a musical argument that Crimea always had and always would belong to Russia. Using Opera-Political Meeting Crimea as its lens, this lecture will explore the use of the performing arts as a means of political speech in contemporary Russia. It will establish that Russians continue to conceptualize the performing arts as a powerful tool for asserting political identity, a clear legacy of Soviet cultural policy. Further, it will analyze the mediated landscape of post-Soviet Russia and theorize why Aleksandrov’s performance failed to generate much response, while others—most notably Pussy Riot’s “Punk Prayer”—have had greater impact.

Leah Goldman is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Core Curriculum at Lewis & Clark College and a Visiting Scholar in History at Reed College. She is currently writing a monograph titled Creative Comrades: Censorship and Collaboration in Late-Stalinist Music, which examines the interplay of cultural production and state authority during the late-Stalinist repression of the intelligentsia.

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