“Victory Over the Sun” (1913) – The World’s First Futurist Opera

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A lot has been said of “The Rite of Spring” in this, its centenary year, and rightfully so. However, there’s still much to be said for “Victory Over the Sun,” the world’s first futurist opera which also premiered in 1913. Close to all of the music by Mikhail Matyushin has been lost yet the it remains in our cultural memory due to the stage designs of Kazimir Malevich and the text by Aleksei Kruchenykh. The opera was intended to underline parallels between literary text, musical score, and the art of painting, and featured a cast of such extravagant characters as Nero and Caligula in the Same Person, Traveller through All the Ages, Telephone Talker, The New Ones, etc.

This work was brought to my attention in 2002 by Robert Wilson when I had the great pleasure of working with the extraordinary Andrey Bartenev and other artists at the annual Watermill Center Benefit. I wouldn’y say that it influenced our work, “The Ladder of Red” (2002), but Bob certainly set us in a correct place as far as lineage goes.

THE LADDER OF RED @ Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center

I hope that, before this year is out, that “Victory Over the Sun” also gets the recognition that it deserves as a significant precursor of 20th century performance art and beyond.

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