Masterpiece that fell victim to Stalin finds US audience

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They are three of Russia's most towering cultural figures: the national poet Alexander Pushkin, the composer Sergei Prokofiev, and Vsevolod Meyerhold, the visionary theatrical director who was imprisoned and executed during Stalin's purges.

Now after a delay of 70 years, the fruit of their collective genius will be unveiled in a world premiere of a new version of Pushkin's verse masterpiece, Boris Godunov. But the performance will not take place on a Moscow or St Petersburg stage, but more than 4,000 miles away at Princeton University, in New Jersey.

The story of the lost Boris Godunov and how the work made its way from a long-closed Russian state archive to an Ivy League campus in America, begins in the mid-1930s, when Prokofiev and Meyerhold joined forces to produce their own version of the Pushkin classic - a bleak tale of tyranny, war, betrayal and murder based on the life of the 16th century regent and tsar.

The story of Godunov, and the "Time of Troubles" that his reign ushered in, has always been a touchy subject for Russia's rulers and their censors. Pushkin's original work, written in 1825, was not published until 1831 and not performed until 1866. A century later the work was as sensitive to the Communists as it had been to the tsars. Although Prokofiev had written 24 musical pieces - one for each of the play's scenes - and Meyerhold had started rehearsals, the project was shelved in 1937, by which time "Socialist Realism" had become the only permitted style....

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