The Golden Age (Shostakovich)

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The Golden Age or The Age of Gold (Russian: Золотой век, Zolotoi vek), Op. 22, is a ballet in three acts and six scenes by Dmitri Shostakovich to a libretto by Alexander Ivanovsky. Choreographed by Vasili Vainonen (first act),[1] Leonid Jacobson (second act),[2] and V. Chesnakov (third act), it premiered on 26 October 1930 at the Kirov Theatre.[3]

The work was performed eighteen times[4] and was initially censored due to its inclusion of modern European dance styles.[5]

Plot summary[edit]

The ballet is a satirical take on the political and cultural change in 1920s' Europe. It follows a Soviet football (soccer) team in a Western city where they come into contact with many politically incorrect bad characters such as the Diva, the Fascist, the Agent Provocateur, the Negro and others. The team falls victim to match rigging, police harassment, and unjust imprisonment by the evil bourgeoisie. The team is freed from jail when the local workers overthrow their capitalist overlords. The ballet ends with a dance of solidarity between the workers and the football team.

Shostakovich himself was a very keen football follower, and is said to have coined the expression "Football is the ballet of the masses".


Woodwinds: 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling cor anglais), 3 clarinets (2nd doubling Eb clarinet, 3rd doubling bass clarinet), 2 saxophones, 2 bassoons (2nd doubling double bassoon).

Brass: 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, euphonium, tuba.

Percussion: timpani, triangle, woodblock, tambourine, flexatone, ratchet, snare drums, cymbals, bass drum, tam-tam, xylophone, bayan, harmonium.

Strings: violins, violas, cellos, double basses, banjo.


Shostakovich extracted a suite from the ballet, Op. 22a, in four movements:

  1. Introduction (Allegro non troppo)
  2. Adagio
  3. Polka (Allegretto)
  4. Danse

The Polka was reused as the second of his Two Pieces for String Quartet in 1931. He also arranged the Polka for solo piano (Op. 22b) and piano four hands (Op. 22c), in 1935 and 1962 respectively.


In 1982, Yury Grigorovich and Isaak Glikman revived the ballet with a new libretto. Grigorovich also chose to integrate other works of Shostakovich into the score.[6] In 1983, he created The Golden Age for Irek Mukhamedov, who defined the role of Boris, the young workers' leader, for successive generations of Bolshoi dancers. They moved the action to the USSR in the 1920s to a restaurant called "The Golden Age". Conflict unfolded between the Soviet Komsomol and the gang. The premiere took place on 4 November 1982 in Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre.

In 2006, the playwright Konstantin Uchitel wrote a new libretto for the same music.[4] The action was set in our time. Old man and old woman meet and remember their youth. The premiere took place on 28 June 2006 at the Mariinsky Theatre.[5]