PHILADELPHIA –- “Rasputin,” an opera in two acts with music and libretto by Jay Reise, professor of music composition at the University of Pennsylvania, will have its Russian premiere Oct. 1-5 at the Helikon Opera in Moscow.
The stage director will be Dmitry Bertman and the musical director and conductor will be Vadimir Ponkin. “Rasputin,” commissioned by the late Beverly Sills and the New York City Opera in 1988, was described at its premiere as “a spellbinding, challenging and profoundly beautiful creation” by the Washington Times.
The opera is based on the notorious career of the so-called Mad Monk of Russia, Grigory Rasputin. Born in Siberia, Rasputin came from an underground Christian sect with rituals that included flagellation and sexual orgies. Rasputin gained the unquestioning support of the tsar and tsarina, Nicholas and Alexandra, by using hypnosis to relieve the sufferings of their hemophiliac young son, Alexei. Rasputin’s debauchery and apparent influence on the royal family helped to discredit the tsarist government and contributed to the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Reise composes in all genres. His Oscar Wilde-based ballet fairy-tale, “The Selfish Giant,” was commissioned and premiered by the Philharmonia Orchestra in London in 1997. Reise has also written three symphonies, performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra among others, as well as numerous chamber works. His violin concerto “The River Within” was premiered by Maria Bachmann and Orchestra 2001 in April 2008 and described in the Philadelphia Inquirer as “having fluidity and mastery that creates an optimum showcase for [Reise’s] attractive thematic ideas.” Reise’s music is published by Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co. Further information about his discography, compositions, articles and sound files is at www.sas.upenn.edu/~jreise/.
“Rasputin” ticket information is available at