From Making Music Fun:
Sergei Prokofiev was born in Russia on April 27*, 1891. He began studying the piano with his mother at the age of three. By the age of five Sergei was displaying unusual musical abilities. His first composition, written down by his mother, was called Indian Gallop. By the age of nine he had written his first opera, The Giant.
At the age of thirteen Sergei entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory having already produced a whole portfolio of compositions. While at the conservatory he studied with Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Later in his life, Prokofiev was said to have regretted not having taken full advantage of this opportunity.
The music that Prokofiev composed was new and different. He brought to the concert hall strange new harmonies, dynamic rhythms and lots of humor.
When the Russian Revolution broke out, Prokofiev traveled to America. He hoped he would be able to compose in peace. American audiences, however, were not ready for his new sounds so he moved to Paris. In Paris, Prokofiev found greater success where his operas and ballets were well liked.
Prokofiev returned to Russia in 1932 spending the last 19 years of his life in his home country. During this time, he produced some of his finest works including Peter and the Wolf for chamber orchestra and narrator, and the score for his ballet Romeo and Juliet which contained some of his most inspired music.
Sergei Prokofiev died on March 5, 1953 as one of the most admired composers of the twentieth century.
A very simple view of Russian Revolution:
Love for Three Oranges
The opera was the result of a commission during Prokofiev's successful first visit to the United States in 1918. After well-received concerts of his works in Chicago (including his First Symphony), Prokofiev was approached by the director of the Chicago Opera Association, Cleofonte Campanini, to write an opera. Conveniently, Prokofiev had drafted a libretto during his trip to the US; he had based it on Carlo Gozzi's play in the Commedia dell'arte tradition, (which was itself based on Giambattista Basile's fairy tale "The Love for Three Oranges"). The eventual libretto was adapted by Prokofiev from Vsevolod Meyerhold's translation of Gozzi's play. The adaptation modernized some of the Commedia dell'arte influences and also introduced a dose of Surrealism. Due to Prokofiev's own scanty knowledge of English, and as Russian would have been unacceptable to American audiences, the initial version was set in French, with the possible assistance of the soprano Vera Janacopoulos, as L'Amour des trois oranges.
The opera received its premiere performance on 30 December 1921 at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, conducted by Prokofiev. It received its first Russian production in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) in 1926 and has since entered the standard repertoire of many opera companies.
Probably the best-known piece in the opera is the "March", which was used by CBS in the radio-drama series The FBI in Peace and War that was broadcast from 1944 to 1958. Prokofiev also quotes the march in act 2 of his ballet Cinderella (Op. 87).
Peter and the Wolf
In 1936, Prokofiev was commissioned by the director of the Central Children's Theatre in Moscow, to write a musical symphony for children. The intent was to introduce students to the individual instruments of the orchestra.
The first draft of the libretto (the story) was about a Young Pioneer (the Soviet version of a Boy Scout) called Peter who rights a wrong by challenging an adult. However, Prokofiev was dissatisfied with the rhyming text produced by writer of the story. So Prokofiev wrote a new version where Peter captures a wolf. As well as promoting desired Pioneer virtues such as vigilance, bravery and resourcefulness, the plot illustrates Soviet themes such as the stubbornness of the un-Bolshevik older generation (the grandfather) and the triumph of Man (Peter) taming Nature (the wolf).
Dance the Troika