Natasha, Pierre, and that comet again

August 19, 2020

In my first searches for “War and Peace” on YouTube — the day after I’d shown my kids some summaries of Moby-Dick, The Odyssey, and Frankenstein — I learned that there had been a play in 2012-17, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” .  It played in New York (and even briefly in Quito!) but I never saw it, nor do I remember it playing.

The prologue really does say it all:

There’s a war going on
Out there somewhere
And Andrey isn’t here

And this is all in your program

You are at the opera
You’re gonna have to study up a little bit
If you wanna keep with the plot
‘Cause it’s a complicated Russian novel
Everyone’s got nine different names
So look it up in your program
We’d appreciate it, thanks a lot
Da da da
Da da da
Da da da

Balaga is fun

Bolkonsky is crazy
Mary is plain
Dolokhov is fierce
Hélène is a slut,
Anatole is hot
Marya’s old school
Sonya’s good
Natasha’s young
And Andrey isn’t here

What about Pierre?
Dear, bewildered and awkward Pierre?
What about Pierre?
Rich, unhappily married Pierre?
What about Pierre?
What about Pierre?
What about Pierre?

“Mary”, who is “plain,” refers to Marya Bolkonsky. Natasha’s “old-school” godmother is Marya Dmitryevna Akhrosimova (who is not in the BBC series). In the book she is very hard on Natasha after the Anatole affair and calls her goddaughter a common slut, which makes it more meaningful when Pierre offers his compassion.

(Marya Dmitrievna later calls Helene a whore, but Helene is more shameless than Trump.  Tolstoy shows that she gets away with what she does by never letting on any shame, even sharing openly her plans, no matter how questionable: see Vol. III, Part III, Ch. 7.)

“Sonya Alone” might be my favorite of the songs:

Hard as it is,
In the coming days,
I watch my friend
In her strange, unnatural state
Don’t let her out of my sight
She trails off
Stares at nothing
Laughs at random
And the letters come

She waits by the window
And I listen at the door
‘Til one day, I see by the
Sad look on her face
There’s a dreadful plan in her heart

I know you are capable of anything
I know you so well my friend
I know you might just run away
What am I to do?
Who do I ask for help?
Is it all on me?
Is it all on me?

But I will stand in the dark for you
I will hold you back by force
I will stand here right outside your door
I won’t see you disgraced
I will protect your name and your heart
Because I miss my friend

I know you’ve forgotten me
I know you so well my friend
I know you might just throw yourself over
But I won’t let you
I won’t let you
It’s all on me

And I remember this family
I remember their kindness
And if I never sleep again

I will stand in the dark for you
I will hold you back by force
I will stand here right outside your door
I won’t see you disgraced
I will protect your name and your heart
Because I miss my friend
Because I miss my friend
Because I miss you, my friend

The middle of the book is more-or-less where “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet” starts.  The play depicts Volume II, Part V, in its entirety – though it also seems to have added the Pierre-Dolokhov duel, from earlier in the story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s