Simon Morrison

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Simon Morrison is a music historian specializing in 20th-century music, particularly Russian and Soviet music, with special interests in dance, film, and historically informed performance based on extensive archival research. He is a leading authority on composer Sergey Prokofiev and has received unprecedented access to the composer's papers, housed in Moscow at RGALI. Morrison received his B.Mus. from the University of Toronto (1987), a Master's in Musicology from McGill University (1993), and Ph.D. from Princeton University (1997), where he is Professor of Music. His distinctions include the Alfred Einstein Award of the American Musicological Society (1999),[1] an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (2001), a Phi Beta Kappa Society Teacher Award (2006), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2011).

His most recent book, Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Tsars to Today, was published by Liveright (W.W. Norton) in 2016, with additional translations and editions from Random House (Canada), Fourth Estate (UK), and Belfond (France). It was widely reviewed in major news outlets and shortlisted for the Pushkin House Prize.[2] His biography of Lina Prokofiev, the composer's first wife, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2013.[3] Lina and Serge: The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev was featured on BBC Radio 4 (as "Book of the Week"), BBC World News (TV), and WYNC. Reviews appeared in The Guardian,[4] Boston Globe,[5] The New Yorker,[6] Daily Beast,[7] and American Spectator.[8]

Morrison is also author of The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years (Oxford University Press, 2009)[9] as well as Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement (University of California Press, 2002). As Scholar-in-Residence for the 2008 Bard Music Festival, he edited the essay collection Sergey Prokofiev and His World (Princeton University Press, 2008). Among his other publications are essays on Ravel's ballet Daphnis et Chloé, Rimsky-Korsakov, Scriabin, Shostakovich's ballet The Bolt, numerous reviews and shorter articles, including pieces for the New York Times, New York Review of Books, and London Review of Books.

Morrison is actively engaged in the performing arts, most notably ballet, and has translated his archival findings into new productions. In 2005 he oversaw the recreation of the Prokofiev ballet Le Pas d'Acier at Princeton University[10] and in 2007 co-produced a world premiere staging of Alexander Pushkin's drama Boris Godunov featuring Prokofiev's incidental music and Vsevolod Meyerhold's directorial concepts. In 2008, Morrison restored the scenario and score of the original (1935) version of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet for the Mark Morris Dance Group. The project[11] involved orchestrating act IV (featuring a happy ending) from Prokofiev’s annotations and rearranging the order and adjusting the content of acts I-III. This version of the ballet was premiered on July 4, 2008 and began an international tour in September. He has also recently brought to light Prokofiev's score Music for athletes/Fizkul’turnaya muzyka (1939), which Morrison describes as "cheerful, sardonic music composed for a scary political cause: a Stalinist (totalitarian) display of the physical prowess of Soviet youth."[12] In the spring of 2010, he staged Claude Debussy's final masterpiece, the ballet The Toy-Box (La boîte à joujoux), using a version of the score premiered in 1918 by the Moscow Chamber Theater that features a previously unknown "jazz overture." Also newly staged was the original version of John Alden Carpenter's jazz ballet, Krazy Kat (1921), based on the iconic comic strip.[13] In February 2012, Morrison oversaw a world-premiere performance of Prokofiev's incidental music for Eugene Onegin, set to a playscript by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky.[14] A concert version was performed by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra,[15] and the play staged by Princeton faculty and students. Both performances were part of a conference Morrison co-organized at Princeton, "After the End of Music History",[16] celebrating the career of musicologist Richard Taruskin.

Recently Morrison collaborated with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra to present a revival of Within the Quota (1923), a ballet with music by Cole Porter. The production was featured on NPR, the BBC World News America, and in a news story by the AP.

Selected publications[edit]

  • "The Bolshoi's Spinning Dance of Power," New York Times Op-Ed, November 26, 2013.
  • Lina and Serge: The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
  • The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • [Editor]. Sergey Prokofiev and His World. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.
  • [With Nelly Kravetz]. "The Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of October, or How the Specter of Communism Haunted Prokofiev." Journal of Musicology 23, no. 2 (2006): 227-62.
  • "Russia’s Lament." In Word, Music, History: A Festschrift for Caryl Emerson, 657-81. Ed. Lazar Fleishman, Gabriella Safran, Michael Wachtel. Stanford Slavic Studies 29-30 (2005).
  • "Shostakovich as Industrial Saboteur: Observations on The Bolt." In Shostakovich and His World, 117-61. Ed. Laurel Fay. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.
  • Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement. Berkeley and Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 2002.
  • "Skryabin and the Impossible." Journal of the American Musicological Society 51, no. 2 (1998): 283-330; reprint, Journal of the Scriabin Society of America 7, no. 1 (2002–03): 29-66.


  1. ^ Einstein Award Winners. American Musicological Society. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
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  3. ^ "Simon Morrison". Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. Archived from the original on 2013-03-10. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
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  9. ^ "The People's Artist: Simon Morrison". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  10. ^ "Pas Dacier a Soviet Ballet by Prokofiev and Yakoulov in 1925". Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  11. ^ "Sergey Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet". Archived from the original on 2013-05-17. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  12. ^ Quiñones, Eric (July 10, 2009). "Prokofiev's 'Music for Athletes' premieres at Princeton". Princeton University. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  13. ^ d'Aprile-Smith, Marguerite (April 5, 2010). "'Enchanting' triple world premiere set for April 8–10". Princeton University. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  14. ^ Cahir, Ian (2012-02-07). "'Eugene Onegin' project a mosaic of multidisciplinary productions". Princeton University. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  15. ^ Oestreich, James R. (February 12, 2012). "Prokofiev Version of 'Eugene Onegin' in a Russian Weekend at Princeton". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2013-03-24.
  16. ^ Oestreich, James R. (February 15, 2012). "The World According to One Musicologist". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2013-03-24.


Boris Godunov
  • "Prokofiev’s Take on Pushkin’s Czar, Revealed at Last," New York Times, Section B, April 13, 2007.
  • "A Lost 'Boris Godunov' is Found and Staged," New York Times, Section B, April 11, 2007.
  • "'Godunov' Rises from Stalin’s Terror," International Herald Tribune, April 11, 2007.
Pas d'Acier
  • "Reaching for Original Intentions in a Prokofiev Ballet,” New York Times, Section E, April 7, 2005.
Romeo and Juliet
  • "Merriment (and Eternal Love) in Both Their Houses," New York Times, May 15, 2009.
  • "Romeo, Romeo," The New Yorker, July 7, 2008.
  • "The Dictator’s Cut: Prokofiev’s 'Romeo and Juliet'," The Independent, July 2, 2008.
  • "Twist of Fate," Vogue, June 30, 2008.
  • "O Romeo, Romeo, Wilst Thou Smile at This Finale?" New York Times, Arts & Leisure Section, June 29, 2008.
  • "Harris Theater Helps Fund 'Romeo and Juliet' Ballet," Chicago Tribune, February 14, 2008.
  • "But Soft! Less Woe for Juliet and Her Romeo," New York Times, Arts & Leisure Section, November 18, 2007.
Eugene Onegin and Taruskin Conference
  • James R. Oestreich, "Prokofiev Version of 'Eugene Onegin' in a Russian Weekend at Princeton," New York Times, February 12, 2012.
  • James R. Oestreich, "The World According to One Musicologist," New York Times, February 15, 2012.