Operas now in work by neo-Romantic American
composer David Avshalomov
“Trotzky in Mexico”
A sardonic operetta/musical about Trotsky’s last days in exile in Mexico, a tragic dialectic of the Russian Revolution Betrayed.
Libretto and lyrics by my longtime collaborator, Renaissance woman Meredith Kennedy. Current concept is a hybrid between operetta and music theater, with spoken dialog, musical interludes, songs–but also some sung recitatives. The musical style will range from light–occasionally almost cabaret-to operatic. The story will be told and sung with grim humor. Accompaniment: small orchestra (piano and strings core plus a few single winds, brass, percussion). Currently in the intermediate concept stage, with a fairly complete song list. Some musical sketches and lyrics exist in draft form. Full libretto to be complete in mid-2017.
THE REVOLUTIONARY THE TEMPTRESS THE PAINTER THE WIFE THE ASSASSIN THE DICTATOR
TROTSKY IN MEXICO
Leon Trotsky (lyric tenor), older in Mexico, also younger in Leningrad.
Natalia Sedova, Trotsky’s wife (alto)
Frida Kahlo (mezzo or dramatic soprano)
Cristina, Frida’s younger sister (lyric soprano)
Diego Rivera (baritone)
Sukhanov (bass), chronicler of the October Revolution
Martov, leader of the Mensheviks
Stalin (basso profondo)
Beria (icky tenor)
Other figures from the revolution (cameos)
Ramon Mercader (tenor)–the assassin
Sylvia Ageloff (soubrette), Ramon’s girlfriend
Small male chorus
Casa Azul servants
TROTSKY IN MEXICO
MEXICO (Casa Azul): Trotzky and Frida Kahlo physically initiate their affair in her bedroom in Diego Rivera’s house outside Mexico City. Afterwards she sings of her attraction to him and wants to find out what makes him tick, what made him who he is, how he ended up there in exile. (WHY DO I LOVE YOU, MY LITTLE BOLSHEVIK?) He tells his story as the story of the Russian Revolution (I CAME UP THE HARD WAY), the fine ideals they held, and the betrayal of the Revolution by Stalin, while she starts painting his portrait.
LENINGRAD (various): In flashbacks, each introduced to Frida by the older Trotsky, brief key scenes from the Revolution play out on a raised platform/diorama with its major players, a chorus at a Soviet meeting in Leningrad (WE WILL MAKE DEMOCRACY), the dismissal of the Mensheviks (THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY), the final overthrow of the Provisional Government, and the Bolsheviks’ seizing of power.
MEXICO (Frida’s bedroom): When Frida asks naïve questions, Trotzky mocks her as a dilettante. He tells of his work after the revolution reorganizing the army and the economy. He laments what they could have achieved if they had stayed true to their revolutionary principles. (O MY RUS/WE COULD HAVE) Then, prompted regularly by her questions, he recounts how it all went bad, the nightmare of the new economy (IT WAS A NIGHTMARE), the liquidation of kulaks, the starvation, even cannibalism (IT’S NOT FUNNY), the rise of the apparatchiki (THE NEW ARISTOS). How Stalin took over after the death of Lenin, consolidated his power and liquidated his enemies and rivals–real or imagined, the purges and the millions of exiled, disappeared, and dead. (Choral interlude of mourning, WHEN THE TIME COMES FOR ME TO DIE). He outlines his exile and peregrinations, his flight to Mexico and arrival, Rivera’s and Frida’s welcome. He still has hope for the Communist International and still works tirelessly to promote world revolution (I BELIEVE THERE STILL IS HOPE).
(Courtyard of Casa Azul): He leaves her painting, goes out into the house and encounters Rivera–embracing Frida’s younger sister Cristina too warmly; she exits after introductions. Trotsky and Rivera exchange views on the role of the artist in revolution and socialism. Rivera sings of his self-involved hedonistic life (I PAINT WHAT I PAINT, I TAKE WHAT I TAKE). They drink some tequila, then Rivera teaches him a funny bawdy song (NO ME GUSTA)–they dance to it, hat dance versus hopak, and fall down laughing. The new Trotsky assistant, Ramon Mercader (the assassin), brings news of Trotsky’s bogus/rigged “conviction” by the International on charges of counterrevolution. Trotsky and his wife Natalia discuss how to respond (IT IS OUTRAGEOUS).
MEXICO (Casa Azul Dining Room): Trotsky stages a mock trial with American Socialists and liberals as the jury, to vindicate himself. He defends himself brilliantly. They find him innocent (HE’S OBVIOUSLY INNOCENT).
MOSCOW (high Kremlin window): Stalin hears of the mock trial, tells Beria to have Trotsky killed. Beria says he has a man in place, they work out the details (IT’S TIME TO LIQUIDATE THIS LITTLE TROTZKY MAN)
MEXICO, Frida’s Bedroom: She urges him to celebrate his vindication, offers a special favor . . . (LET US CELEBRATE ). Just then Diego and Natalia, Trotzky’s wife burst in, discover them together and confront them. All sing a classic quartet on betrayal (TRUE BETRAYAL). Rivera and Frida bicker, Natalia forgives Leon (YOU ARE THE REVOLUTION AND I AM YOUR RUS), Trotsky says they will leave, Rivera says no hard feelings, they should still have a farewell banquet to celebrate the mock trial verdict. In the final dinner scene all are uncomfortable, Rivera tries to make the best of it with the Mariachi music and an ironic toast. Suddenly the assassin attacks Trotsky with the ice axe, is captured, and Trotsky, mortally wounded, sings his final aria of regret about what could have been in Russia (WE COULD HAVE, WE COULD HAVE, reprise), then dies in his wife’s arms in a Socialist Pietá tableau, as the cast laments (HOW MUCH I LOVED YOU) and Stalin laughs from his Kremlin window.
Concept © 2014 David Avshalomov, Meredith Kennedy
Sources include Trotsky’s Autobiography, History of the Russian Revolution, A Revolution Betrayed, several bios, and Sukhanov’s eyewitness memoir of the October revolution. Plus common sources on Rivera/Kahlo.