Yury Shaporin

Yury Shaporin displayed exceptional musical ability as a child, but chose to pursue other disciplines as a degree student, reading philology at Kiev University prior to studying law in St. Petersburg. However, music carried the day, and, in 1913, he enrolled at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where his professors included Sokolov, Shteynberg, and Tcherepnin. As an apprentice composer, Shaporin followed the nationalist lead of Rimsky-Korsakov, but after graduating, he increasingly began to associate himself with new and radical developments in drama and stage production, founding the Grand Drama Theatre with Gorky, Lunacharsky, and Blok in 1919. Shaporin was its musical director until 1928, followed by a period (until 1934) during which he worked for the Academic Drama (now PushkinTheatre. At this time, he produced a significant volume of new theater music, much of which demonstrated experimental and avant-garde features. He was also a founding member of the New Association for Contemporary Music (a group which strove to establish contacts with composers elsewhere in Europe) in 1926. Throughout the 1930s, Shaporin's productivity declined as his attention focused on fewer large-scale works and, in particular, his only opera, Dekabristi (The Decembrists), based on an idea by Alexey Tolstoy. Shaporin had contemplated it as early as 1920, but it would not be finally completed until 1953. An interim version (Polina Gyobe) was produced in 1925, when two scenes were staged in Leningrad. Shaporin moved to Moscow in 1938, having received a commission for the completed opera from the Bolshoi Theater and the offer of a teaching post at the Moscow Conservatory. Also in 1938, a new version of the opera was produced, but Shaporin was unhappy with the result, and withdrew the work. A final period of sustained effort followed during the early '50s, sparked by a new collaboration with librettist Vsevolod Rozhdestvensky. The Decembrists, Shaporin's best-known work, was eventually premiered at the Bolshoi on June 23, 1953. It remained in the Soviet repertoire throughout the Cold War years, after which it was dropped.

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