Litvinenko

From the composer

THE LIFE & DEATH OF ALEXANDER LITVINENKO

A world première

Next summer we stage the world première of The Life & Death of Alexander Litvinenko, a story with all the classic ingredients for an opera: power, politics, betrayal, love, jeopardy.

Composed by Anthony Bolton to a libretto by Kit Hesketh-Harvey, this real-life story is told through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards covering events in Russia that lead Litvinenko to seek exile and his family’s life in Muswell Hill. Extensive use is made of historic film footage.

Compositional style

Bolton’s musical language is contemporary and incorporates the lyrical tradition of the Russian masters Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich. The opera includes some direct quotes. For example, the Act 2 Blenheim Palace ballroom scene quotes Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Elsewhere Bolton uses an army marching song, a Moscow football team anthem and the Chechen national anthem.

Litvinenko
Litvinenko

Presentational style

Sasha’s life story is told through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards covering his life in Russia, the events that led him to seek exile and his family’s new life in London. Substantial use is made of historic film footage.

 

From the composer

“In 2012 I bought the opera rights to Litvinenko’s biography Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB written by his widow, Marina, and family friend Alex Goldfarb. I can’t remember when and why I read the book, but I was totally engrossed. Then I had a flash of inspiration: it had all the classic ingredients for an opera – power, politics, betrayal, love, jeopardy.

At a public event with Chechen dissident speakers, I met Marina Litvinenko for the first time and I also began a conversation with film director Don Boyd who became my confidant and advisor. I couldn’t properly attack this vast project until I had retired from my work in finance which happened in April 2014. Then, with much help from director Stephen Medcalf and librettist Kit Hesketh-Harvey, the work took shape.

However, what was crucially missing from the narrative was the killer’s identity. A Public Enquiry into Litvinenko’s death opened in February 2015 and a year later named Andrei Lugovoy as assassin.

The final piece of the jigsaw was in place. I could compose in earnest.”

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