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Prokofiev's Movie Suite
Sergei Prokofiev was not an obvious choice to compose the score for Lt. Kije, one of the earliest Soviet films. In 1932, he had not yet composed his more popular works, Romeo and Juliet or Peter and the Wolf. When approached by the film studio, Belgoskino, in 1932, Prokofiev saw it as a way to reach a wider audience, thanks to the international distribution of the film.
The satire on bureaucracy revolves around a clerk’s adding a non-existent lieutenant, “Kije,” while writing out a list of soldiers for Tsar Paul I (1796-1801). Later, the tsar is angry when woken up by a scream from one of his courtiers and demands the culprit be punished. The courtiers blame “Lieutenant Kije,” who is sent to Siberia, only to be found innocent when the guilty party confesses. Tsar Paul then promotes “Kije” to colonel, and the courtiers are forced to continue fabricating “Kije’s” life. He supposedly marries the princess Gagarina, and the tsar gives the happy couple lands and money.
When Tsar Paul demands to meet with “Kije,” the courtiers tell him that he died, so “Kije” is given a funeral with full military honors. When the tsar demands the return of “Kije’s” fortune, the courtiers (who have used the money themselves) tell him that “Kije” used all the money himself. So Tsar Paul denounced “Kije” as a thief and posthumously demotes him from general to private.
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