Sergei Banevich's concert opera Scenes from the Life of Nikolenka Irtenev, just like Tolstoy's book which inspired it, is aimed at both children and adults whose souls still burn with the "light of childhood". It is a chamber work, and intimate - it is hard to speak otherwise of the most precious, exciting and delicate stage of life.
The opera is structured as a series of memories of the Narrator: the staccato and cinematic libretto by Sergei Vasiliev as if draws separate episodes of Tolstoy’s narrative from a fog. Just like in life – when people grow up much of the past is forgotten, and in our souls we retain only the strongest impressions of childhood. The plot is held together by refrain episodes – a waltz that Nikolenka’s sister is learning in the next room, an Easter folk song and Nikolenka’s own naive prayer “May God grant happiness to all, that they may be content, and that there be good weather for walking.”
The scene of the ball with the grand waltz, the sleepless night and even the comment about the first flowers of spring – here there is much that reminds us of another opera, also based on a plot by Tolstoy. Scenes from the Life of Nikolenka Irteniev in a sense is a War and Peace in miniature, in terms of purity and power of emotion ceding nothing to the “peace” episodes of Prokofiev’s opera.