Red Poppy

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(orig. Russ. title Krasny mak)

Ballet in three acts with choreography by Lev Lashchilin and Tikhomirov, libretto and design by Mikhail Kurilko, and music by Reinhold Glière. Premiered 14 Jun. 1927 by the Bolshoi Ballet, Moscow, with Geltser and Tikhomirov. It is an early example of Socialist Realism, created to fulfil State demands for populist and politically correct art. Set in China of the 1920s it tells the story of a dancer, Tao Hoa, who is exploited by a vicious manager and falls in love with the captain of a Soviet ship. She intercepts the bullet with which her manager tries to kill her lover and the red poppy which she gives to a little Chinese girl as she dies becomes a symbol of liberation—both for the Chinese people and their Soviet comrades. The ballet's attempted fusion of revolutionary good intentions, vernacular dance, and old-fashioned classical ballet prompted the critic Alexander Tcherepnin to mock ‘You don't make a statue of a Red Army officer out of whipped cream’. However, it was frequently revived in the USSR (after 1957 re-named The Red Flower, to avoid any association with opium). New versions include Lopukhov (GATOB, 1929), Zakharov (Kirov Ballet) and Lavrovsky (Bolshoi, both 1949). A shortened version was choreographed by Schwezoff for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1943.

Subjects: Dance.

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