Animal Farm, Opera by A. Raskatov
The sharp pen of George Orwell meets the keen musical mind of Alexander Raskatov on the stage of Vienna State Opera. The occasion is Animal Farm, a musical adaptation of the British author’s famous 1945 novella. After its successful premiere at the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam on 3 March 2023, the work is quickly gaining recognition throughout the rest of Europe, too. With an English libretto by Ian Burton, Raskatov’s Animal Farm delivers all the wit and bite of the Orwell literary original with musical flair and excitement that elevate the story to a new level.
Like the novella that inspired it, the opera tells the story of a group of farm animals who rebel against their human farmer, hoping to create a society where the animals can be free and equal. Led by the pigs, who are more intelligent than the other animals, the farm dwellers overthrow their human owner and establish their own government based on the principles of "Animalism." At first, the new society seems to be successful, but the pigs gradually become corrupt and start to oppress the other animals. They rewrite history to suit their needs, create propaganda to control the other animals, and eventually become indistinguishable from their human oppressors. George Orwell wrote Animal Farm as an allegorical critique of the Soviet Union under Stalin and a warning about the dangers of political power and corruption.
In the unique musical style of Alexander Raskatov, Animal Farm comes to life in a remarkable way. The Russian-born and raised composer looks back to his heroes Anton Webern and Modest Mussorgsky in crafting emotional and evocative melodies that can tell stories on their own. Raskatov is also not new to bringing literary classics to the opera stage – one of his other trademark works is his adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s A Dog’s Heart. This season, Animal Farm shines in all its multifaceted glory at Wiener Staatsoper.