Work of the Week - Rodion Shchedrin: Cleopatra and the Snake
The focus of this year’s Salzburg Whitsun Festival is the last female pharaoh, Cleopatra, and as part of four days of performances Rodion Shchedrin has been commissioned to write a new monodrama for soprano and orchestra. Originally Anna Netrebko was set to join St Petersburg's orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre conducted by the great Valery Gergiev but in a last minute change due to illness, Mojca Erdmann (with just two days notice) will now step up to perform the world premiere of Cleopatra and the Snake on 28th May.
Cleopatra and her mysterious death, rumoured to be suicide with the aid of a cobra, has been the source for many musical and literary works over the years. The libretto for Shchedrin’s new work is inspired by Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra and a Russian translation of the final scene created by Boris Pasternak provides the text for the dramatic scene in which the audience experience the moments before the ruler’s death. Describing his work the composer writes:
The final scene from Shakespeare’s tragedy provides a lot of very fruitful material for a composer. The conflict of life, death, love and the drug of power are the reasons for the fatal decision of the legendary beauty - the Egyptian Queen. (Rodion Shchedrin)
Two concert performances of the new work are planned to take place in Switzerland and Mischa Maisky (cello) and Martha Argerich (piano) will perform Schedrin’s new Double Concerto in both Lugano on 27th June and Verbier on 30th July.