Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 – 1975)
Pimlico Opera, 1994
It seems surprising that Shostakovich wrote a musical. Not only did he write a musical but it is one of the longest works he wrote.
Cheryomushki is a light-hearted take on housing problems in the 1950s Soviet Union.A group of friends and acquaintances have been granted new apartments in a residential development called Cheryomushki. They are torn between their love of the latest appliances and their love of old Moscow.
Cheryomushki covers a bewildering array of styles, from Sleeping Beauty and Prince Igor to popular styles, immediately recognisable to the audience.
Operetta in three acts
Music: Dmitri Shostakovich
Libretto: Vladimir Mass & Mikhail Chervinsky
First performance: 24 January 1959, Moscow Operetta Theatre
UK première: 20 October 1994, Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith
Shostakovich became deeply disillusioned and embarrassed by it. Just days before the premiere he wrote to a friend I am burning with shame. If you have any thoughts of coming to the first night, I advise you to think again. It is not worth spending time to feast your eyes and ears on my disgrace. Boring, unimaginative, stupid. This is, in confidence, all I have to tell you.
Listen to the individual tracks by clicking the links below. All the tracks can be found on the right.
SASHA, a museum guide ∙ MEURIG DAVIES
MASHA, his wife, living apart from her husband ∙ NICOLE TIBBELS
BORIS, an explosives expert ∙ IAN PLATT
LIDOCHKA, an intellectual ∙ ANNA BARKAN
BABUROV, her old father ∙ BRIAN LIPSON
LUSYA. a construction worker ∙ REBECCA GALE
SERGEI, her boyfriend, chauffeur to the obnoxious bureaucrat ∙ GARETH LLOYD
BARABASHKIN, the corrupt estate manager ∙ RICHARD STUART
DREBYEDNYETSOV, an obnoxious bureaucrat ∙ ROGER BRYSON
VAVA, his new wife ∙ JANET FULLERLOVE
DIRECTOR ∙ LUCY BAILEY
DESIGNER ∙ PAUL ANDREWS
MOVEMENT ∙ CAROLINE POPE
LIGHTING DESIGN ∙ DAVID LAWRENCE
CONDUCTOR ∙ WASFI KANI
Lusya is a construction worker building the new housing estate, Cheryomushki. She is waiting for Sergei Even the watch man starts to snooze. He is late and Lusya storms off.
Boris is an explosive’s expert and has come to Moscow to blow up the old. He hails his old friend Sergei.
Sasha is showing some visitors the construction plans for the New Moscow Now this is the Moscow our ancestors knew. Masha his wife arrives. Though married, they must live apart; because of the housing crisis. They lament this terrible situation I stroll down Moscow’s winding lanes and dream of having a place of their own.
At the Museum café, Boris & Sergei chat; Boris explains that he is lacking purpose I don’t know if I really exist or not. He wants to marry but choosing is difficult when you find every woman attractive De dum de dum. When Boris sees Lidochka, a museum guide, he is smitten. There is a sharp exchange and she is left tongue-tied regretting that her schooling provided a thorough intellectual armoury but has not taught her how to deal with men As a schoolgirl with plaits neatly knotted.
Baburov, her father, bursts in with the news that their roof has collapsed. They are homeless . . . and so are the other residents, including Sasha.
It is a catastrophe, and yet . . . it means they will all be rehoused in the new estate Cheryomushki. They are overjoyed. Boris tells Sergei to drive them there in his boss’ car. Since we’ve time at our disposal. The obnoxious Drebyednyetsov and his new wife have also been allocated a flat at Cheryomushki. My darling I love you for ever. They are waiting for their driver who never turns up.
The others, however, arrive in great style.
The new tenants are waiting for their keys. They have misgivings about this new place and reminisce about their old Moscow. Lusya dismisses this nostalgia: the new estate is a paradise where all their dreams will come true Cheryomushki, Cheryomushki.
At last the Barabashkin arrives and faces a barrage from the furious tenants It’s the foreman.
Boris tries to tell Lidochka his feelings Everyone else in the world knows their proper place but she runs away. Boris recognises his old girlfriend Vava. He teases her: if her new husband is so important, why is their flat so small?
Angry tenants still demanding their keys It’s not fit for habitation. Vava reappears to announce that she now has four rooms.
Barabashkin reflects on his miserable lot Just as long as people need you.
Since Lidochka and her old father still don’t have keys, Boris has arranged to hoist them in by crane through the window. He takes the opportunity to pay court to Lidochka Gracious lady fair, I bow to thee.
Lusya arrives at the flat to strip out all the fittings and replace them with others of higher quality. Boris helps Lidochka fetch her belongings, leaving Lusya to work We wandered through the new mown hay. Sergei is entranced.
Barabashkin bursts in to pronounce that this flat now belongs to Vava and Drebyednyetsov. Barabashkin has done well Now life’s a smoothly moving groove.
Lidochka, returning with her suitcases, says a firm goodbye to Boris I don’t know if I really exist or not. She is appalled to learn that her Flat 48 has been re-allocated. Lusya, determined to thwart the corruption, rallies the tenants to help Lydia We beautify the Moscow sky.
Next door, Masha and Sasha are unpacking The bell the bell, and invaded by neighbours for a house warming Welcome all. Lusya tells them of Lidochka’s plight and the neighbours unite in their fight against the wicked old men.
Lidochka dreams of receiving from Barabashkin the keys to her ex-flat. Flat 48 sings to welcome its new owners.
The Magic Garden
All the tenants are hard at work creating a magical municipal garden. Lidochka is still without a flat and is troubled by her feelings for Boris. Barabashkin does his best to dampen the communal zeal The Moon’s a boon.
Boris has enraged Drebyednyetsov by flirting with Vava. The two will divorce and Lidochka can have her flat back.
Sergei settles himself on the “bench of honesty” and manages to speak to Lusya. Boris too, sits on the bench and Lidochka joins him.
Barabashkin has new problems: he has been demoted As you see, I have been rumbled.
The tenants live happily ever after. In Cheryomushki all dreams come true.