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Craig Raine

Poet, Playwright

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1986. The Electrification of the Soviet Union

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Raine, Craig. 'The Electrification of the Soviet Union', published in 1986 by Faber & Faber, pbk, 72pp, ISBN 0571139582. Good, clean ex-library copy, with the usual library markings. Condition: good to very good. Price: £0.75, not including p&p, which is Amazon's standard charge, currently £2.75 for UK buyers, more for overseas customers
1986, Faber & Faber
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Contents/storyline: This is a poetic drama commissioned by Glyndebourne: Nigel Osborne, the composer proposed that Craig Raine adapt Pasternak's novella 'The Last Summer' for the operatic stage. The Novella is complicated by flashback, obscurity, lack of plot and plenty of trivial event, but the Craig Raine travestied the original, retaining only those elements that appealed to him. He states that he added as much as he subtracted, producing a treatment with three acts of two scenes each. The libretto is also based on Craig Raine's poem 'Spectorsky'.

As a general guide to production, the opera is in two parts, with an epilogue that takes place some years after the main action. The libretto is conceived not as a drama, but as poetic film. The set is identical throughout, except for the epilogue: it consists of an empty stage whose back wall has two doors on either side of three plain windows onto which film is projected to create, for instance, the illusion of a train seen either from the outside (with passengers looking out) or from the inside (with a moving landscape capable of acceleration to mimic the movement of the train through space). At the front of the stage is a low catasta or plinth. It will be clear that the scenes, as in a film, are intercut: this sometimes involves a freeze of action on one section of stage while other action takes place in a different area; sometimes there is a black-out of one stage area. There is a table at downstage right, where Pasternak sits, writing the action that the audience sees.

The Chronology of The Electrification of the Soviet Union is as follows: Serzha's arrival at Ousolie takes place in the winter of 1916, immediately prior to the Revolution of February 1917. At Ousolie, Serezha remembers the May and June preceding the outbreak of World War One in July 1914. The epilogue takes place in about 1920 or 1921.

Dramatis Personae:
Boris Pasternak
Serezha Spectorsky
Lemokh (non-singing)
{Mr Frestln; Sashka's Husband}
{Fardybassov; Ticket Collector; Frestln Servant}

Anna Arild
Mrs Frestln

Harry Frestln (non-singing)

1986, Faber & Faber, hbk

1986, Faber & Faber, pbk


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