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Music Text

Libretto by Viktor Yerofeyev after his novel (R), German version by Jorg Morgener (G), English version by Andrew Reynolds and Anthony Legge (E)


S,2T,2Bar,B; choir;

Abbreviations (PDF)




World Premiere
Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam
Boris A Pokrovsky, dir/Ilja Kabakow, prod/Jean Kalman, lighting engineer
Conductor: Mstislav Rostropovich
Company: Netherlands Opera/Rotterdam PhilharmonicOrchestra


I Baritone
WIFE Soprano
VOVA Tenor
Chorus of Friends, Idiots, Homosexuals Chorus (SATB)
Time and Place

Russia in the Soviet era


The opera is related by a couple, ‘I’ and The Wife, as a story that has already taken place, though events on stage do not necessarily follow a chronological order. A group of friends gather in a small Soviet apartment to celebrate the fact that I and The Wife have accepted an ‘idiot’ called ‘Vova’ (short for ‘Vladimir’, as in Vladimir Iliich Lenin) to come and live with them. Vova bursts on to the stage, seizes The Wife and decapitates her with a pair of kitchen scissors. I is sexually excited by this act.

I goes to a lunatic asylum to choose an idiot to come and live with him. He tells the guard that he is looking for a ‘holy fool’ and after examining various inmates chooses Vova. The Wife is appalled. Vova can only repeat a single word - ‘Ech!’ I explains that "now I will tell you how I became his".

The three characters are living together in the apartment. At first silent and withdrawn, Vova gradually becomes more violent, smearing food and faeces on the walls and ripping up books. Smashing the telephone, he cuts the apartment off from the outside world. Taking refuge in their second room, I and The Wife quarrel. Vova forces an entry, seizes The Wife and copulates noisily with her. I fetches a kitchen knife to kill Vova.

Sexually satisifed, Vova becomes cleaner and more house-trained. I must now sleep in one room, while The Wife and Vova live together in the other. When The Wife becomes pregnant by Vova, after some doubt she aborts the child. This enrages Vova who diverts his attentions to I. Now it is I and Vova who live together, while The Wife is in the other room. The Wife attempts to reclaim Vova for herself, but Vova decapitates her with kitchen shears, to I’s intense excitement.



Recommended Recording

Dale Duesing, Romain Bischkoff, Teresa Ringholz, Howard Haskin, Leonid Zimnenko, Robin Leggate, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Mstislav Rostropovich
Sony CD52495

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