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‘Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812’ Preview: A Unique Show, Ambitious Undertaking, and Meaningful Experience

The Cast of "Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812"
The Cast of "Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812" By Courtesy of Grace R. Kim
By Serena Jampel, Crimson Staff Writer

Based on a 70-page segment from Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” the musical “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” follows ingénue Countess Natasha Rostova’s arrival in Moscow, where she meets the rogue Anatole. Meanwhile, Pierre, a sensitive and existential man, searches for higher meaning. The recent Harvard production of “Great Comet,” directed by Samuel F. Dvorak ’23, aimed to create a unique and emotional experience for both the artists and the audiences.

“I think it's a beautiful story about characters finding the meaning of life — finding community and fellowship and each other,” Olympia M. A. Hatzilambrou ’24 said, who plays the titular role of Natasha.

With a moving and relentless score, this “electro-pop opera” promises to be unlike anything most audiences have ever seen — with the orchestra uniquely positioned onstage among the actors — providing an immersive experience.

The show is emotional and resonant, following the entangled lives of Russian nobility in the midst of the French Invasion of Russia.

“It shows that even though the world is a very dark and scary place, you can find beauty and meaning and the small moments of human connection,” Dvorak said.

With a cast of seventeen actors and a production team of over seventy people, “Great Comet” promises to be one of the biggest musical events of the semester, if not also the most technically demanding.

“I mean, it's by far the most challenging and demanding piece of theater that I've done here in my four years here. I'm about to graduate. I'm moved by and compelled by it,” Dvorak said.

Connor C. Riordan ’23, who joins the cast of “Great Comet” as Anatole, called the music “incredibly difficult to learn” and described the complex choreography by Kim as another technical challenge.

“This show requires more emotional range from me than I think I’ve ever had to use on stage,” Hatzilambrou said.

Her soaring solos call upon her classical opera training while remaining in the musical theater register. She remarked that it is “cool to experience new techniques.”

“I am just overwhelmed with joy seeing so many beautiful scenes happening and choreography and beautiful music happening on stage,” publicity producer Texaco Texeira-Ramos ’26 said.

“This is the best student show that I have ever been a part of at Harvard,” Riordan said, who has been participating in theater at Harvard since his freshman year. “I truly believe that it is one of the best artistic experiences that anybody will have on campus during their time here.”

The word “opera” may spark trepidation in the average audience member, but “Great Comet” is truly a unique production that viewers of all kinds will find meaningful.

“It really is a show that I think is so human and real, and no matter what your background in literature or theater is, or if you're interested in literature and theater, I think you will be entertained by the show and by the work that the students put in,” concluded Dvorak.

“It's been an honor to be in this cast. And it's an honor for you to come see it and we hope you will come,” Hatzilambrou said.

An ambitious undertaking and an unusual concept, “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” might not be the theater-goer’s usual fare, but the uniqueness of the show and the passion of its cast and crew make it worth a watch.

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