Simon Morrison specializes in 20th-century music, particularly Russian, Soviet, and French music, with special interests in dance, cinema, aesthetics, and historically informed performance based on primary sources. He has conducted archival research in St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Paris, London, New York, Washington DC, Copenhagen, and (most extensively) in Moscow. Recently he has traveled to Tel Aviv, Beijing, Hong Kong, Montreal, Moscow, Copenhagen, and Bangkok to give invited lectures and graduate seminars.
Morrison is the author of Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement (California, 2002) and The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years (Oxford, 2009) as well as editor of Prokofiev and His World (Princeton, 2008) and, with Klara Moricz, Funeral Games: In Honor of Arthur Vincent Lourié (Oxford, 2014). His biography of Serge Prokofiev’s first wife, Lina and Serge: The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev (Houghton, 2013), garnered positive reviews in the New Yorker, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Daily Beast, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. It was also dramatized as the “Book of the Week” on BBC radio and covered on BBC World News television.
Professor Morrison maintains a profile as a public intellectual, having published feature articles and opinion pieces in The New York Times, New York Review of Books, Threepenny Review, London Review of Books, and The Times Literary Supplement. He serves as president of the Prokofiev Foundation, and edits the journal Three Oranges, produced under its auspices. In 2016 he finished a history of the Bolshoi Ballet, published by Liveright, the prestigious and storied imprint of W.W. Norton. Future books include studies of Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky based on new archival sources.
Morrison’s more specialized articles and essay-reviews have appeared in such journals as the Journal of the American Musicological Society, 19th-Century Music, Cambridge Opera Journal, Journal of Musicology, Music & Letters, and Slavic Review. Topics include Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé, the aesthetics of Lourié, the sound-world of Rimsky-Korsakov, eschatology of Scriabin, and ballets by Shostakovich, Debussy, and Cole Porter.
Morrison has often translated his archival findings into new productions. In 2005 he oversaw the recreation of Prokofiev’s ballet Le Pas d’acier at Princeton, and in 2007 he co-produced a world-premiere staging of Alexander Pushkin’s drama Boris Godunov, featuring Prokofiev’s incidental music and Vsevolod Meyerhold’s directorial concepts. (Both projects were covered in the New York Times.) In 2008, Morrison restored the scenario and score of the original version of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet for the Mark Morris Dance Group. The project involved orchestrating the newly discovered, original happy ending plus adjusting the content throughout. This version of the ballet premiered on July 4, 2008, and was subsequently performed in Berkeley (Cal.), London, Norfolk (Virginia), Champagne-Urbana (Ill.), and New York City at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater. Morrison also oversaw stagings of John Alden Carpenter’s jazz-ballet Krazy Kat and Debussy’s La Boîte à joujoux at Princeton University.
Among Professor Morrison’s many distinctions are the Alfred Einstein Award from the American Musicological Society (for outstanding musicological article), an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, a Phi Beta Kappa Society Teaching Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.