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Victory Over the Sun
The World's First Futurist Opera

By Rosamund Bartlett and Sarah Dadswell

Victory Over the Sun
Hardback, 360 pages £85.00
Published: 2012
ISBN: 9780859898393
Format: 240mm x 165mm
Buy this Book

PDF, 360 pages £85.00
Published: 2015
ISBN: 9780859899529
Buy this Book

Subjects: Cultural and Social Studies, European Literature, European Studies, Modern European History, Performance
Series: Exeter Performance Studies

The Futurist opera Victory over the Sun, first staged in 1913 in St Petersburg, was a key event of the Russian avant-garde, notorious for its libretto, its unconventional score and its pioneering abstract sets and costumes designed by Kazimir Malevich. The iconic importance of Victory over the Sun as a theatrical event is universally acknowledged.

This volume brings together the first fully annotated translation of the libretto of this ‘anti-opera’ and other important primary source materials, including the score, the set and costume designs and contemporary newspaper reviews. The second part of the volume provides a wide-ranging collection of interpretive essays which explore the artistic, literary and musical dimensions of the staging, its theatrical and historical context, its relationship to Italian Futurism, and its position within the Russian modernist movement.

You can read more about the Pushkin House event on 22 November 2012 on the Russian Art and Culture website by following this link http:// www.russianartandculture.com/victory-over-sun-book-launch-pushkin-house/ (will open in a new window).

And you can see and hear more in Alexander Kan's report on the BBC Russian site by following this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/russian/multimedia/2012/11/121127_futuristic_dinner.shtml (will open in a new window).

In 1913, the year in which the Romanovs celebrated their tercentenary, the premieres of two revolutionary theatrical events brought Russian artists to the forefront of the European avant-garde. With its nonsensical ‘trans-sense’ libretto by Aleksei Kruchenykh and Velimir Khlebnikov, experimental score by Mikhail Matiushin and pioneering abstract sets and costumes by Kazimir Malevich, the Futurist opera Victory over the Sun may be compared in terms of its radical assault on artistic convention to Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring.

This interdisciplinary volume brings together a distinguished team of international scholars to discuss the artistic significance of this epoch-making ‘anti-opera’, which is now recognised as a key event of avant-garde cultural production, and a turning point in stage history.

The book offers new insight into the theatre practice and history of Russian Futurist performance, which, to date, has received little attention from theatre scholars despite its influence on the development of European drama in the twentieth century.

As well as an annotated translation of the libretto, the book includes reproductions of the score and contemporary newspaper reviews.

Illustrated throughout, and with a colour plate section containing twenty-seven colour images of costume designs, posters and other work by the abstract artist Kazimir Malevich.

Contributions by
Jeremy Arden, Michaela Bohmig, John E. Bowlt, Aurora Egidio, Murray Frame, Catja Gaebel, Julia Hollander, Anna Wexler Katsnelson, Robert Leach, Christina Lodder, Laurence Senelick and Margareta Tillberg

Victory Over the Sun: The World’s First Futurist Opera

List of Illustrations


About the Text

About the contributors                                                                                                           

Introduction – Rosamund Bartlett and Sarah Dadswell                                                         

Texts and Scores

i.     Biographies of the Librettists, Set Designer and Composer

ii.    Annotated translation of the libretto of Victory Over the Sun (translated by Rosamund Bartlett)

iii.   Pobeda nad solntsem: facsimile of the original 1913 Russian publication, incorporating some fragments by Matiushin

iv.   Maria Ender’s transcription of Matiushin’s original score for Victory Over the Sun

v.    Contemporary reviews

vi.   ‘About the Opera Victory Over the Sun’, by Aleksei Kruchenykh           


The Russian Cubo-Futurist Opera Victory Over the Sun: Aleksei Kruchenykh’s Alogical Creation, Michaela Böhmig

Entertainment and Enlightenment in Late Imperial Russian Theatre, Murray Frame  

On the Eve: the Russian Stage 1911–1914, Laurence Senelick                                      

Victories over the Sun: the Drama of the Russian Futurists, Robert Leach   

Darkness and Light: Solar Eclipse as a Cubo-Futurist Metaphor John E. Bowlt        

Kazimir Malevich and the Designs for Victory Over the Sun, Christina Lodder    

Victory over the Sun
– the Music, Catja Gaebel                             

“Be a Spectator with a Large Ear”: Victory over the Sun as Public Laboratory Experiment for Mikhail Matiushin's Theories of Colour Vision, Margareta Tillberg

Branding the Futurists, Sarah Dadswell

The Collision of Italian and Russian Futurism: Marinetti’s Visit to Russia, Aurora Egidio

Burnt by the Sun: the Transmutation of Performativity, Theatricality, and Framing in the Late Work of Kazimir Malevich, Anna Wexler-Katsnelson

A Modern Victory: Reflections on the 1999 Staging, Julia Hollander, Director and Jeremy Arden, Composer, in conversation with Sarah Dadswell


Selected Bibliography


‘This project brings the highest possible standard of scholarship to bear on avant-garde cultural production.’
Maria Gough, Professor of Modern Art, Harvard University


‘This collection opens fascinating and enriching views into a brief but powerful explosion.’
The Times Literary Supplement, 2 November 2012


‘Without doubt, it will be rewarding reading for anyone interested in Russian modernism.’
Slavic Review, Summer 2013, vol. 72, no.2



Rosamund Bartlett is Visiting Professor at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance and Visiting Research Fellow in the Music Department at King’s College London. She is the author and editor of several books, including Wagner and Russia (1995), Shostakovich in Context (2000) and biographies of Tolstoy and Chekhov, whose works she has also translated.

Sarah Dadswell is a cultural historian specializing in performance and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Drama at Exeter. Her doctoral thesis on the emergence and development of Russian Futurist performance 1910-1914 (University of Sheffield) formed part of an inter-institutional AHRB project, entitled ‘Russian Visual Arts, 1863-1913: Documents from the British Library Collection’, conducted by the Universities of Exeter and Sheffield.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 360 pages
 240mm x 165mm

 PDF , 360 pages

BIC Code:
  ART015100, MUS000000, MUS006000, MUS020000, MUS028000, PER011000, SOC002010
 University of Exeter Press


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