Dostoevsky at the Opera

Oct 14, 2021

04:00 PM - 05:00 PM

University of Iowa Main Library, Main Library Gallery

125 West Washington Street, Iowa City, IA 52242

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A black and white photo of Nathan Platte, a white man with glasses and short hair. He is smiling.

Despite Dostoevsky’s broad literary acclaim, composers hardly clamored to set his works for the stage. Introspective psychological portraiture suited novels, not musical dramas known for exaggerated expressivity. But while nineteenth-century composers steered clear of Dostoevsky, later composers recognized an opportunity. Dostoevsky’s tales came freighted with spiritual urgency and social critique, qualities that drew composers seeking to expand audiences’ conception of opera as a genre. This talk will introduce three operas based on Dostoevsky’s work: Sergei Prokofiev’s The Gambler, Leos Janacek’s The House of the Dead, and Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s The Idiot. We’ll listen to excerpts from each opera and discuss the appealing challenges that drew these 20th-century composers to musically inhabit Dostoevsky’s world.  

Join us at the UI Libraries' Main Library Gallery inside the From Revolutionary Outcast to a Man of God: Dostoevsky at 200 exhibition for this event.

Nathan Platte is an Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Iowa, where he holds an affiliated appointment in Cinematic Arts. His research and teaching interests span film music, opera, collaborative creativity, music and human rights, and musical adaptations across media. Nathan has shared his love for 20th-century opera in talks for UI’s Opera Studies Forum and WorldCanvass, where he has spoken on Sergei Prokofiev’s War and Peace, Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel, Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, and Nico Muhly’s Marnie. Nathan is also a writer, cohost, and producer for Sounding Cinema, a film music podcast, and FilmCastPodScene, the podcast of Iowa City’s independent cinema, FilmScene. 

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact in advance at