There was a famous photograph taken in 1936 entitled Friend of the Little Children, put

originally on the front page of Izvestia for propaganda purposes. It shows Joseph Stalin

holding a smiling little girl with a bouquet of flowers. The girl was Engelsina “Gelya”

Markizova (1930-2004), the daughter of Ardan Markizova, a government official later

shot for allegedly plotting against Stalin and being a Japanese spy. The little girl’s

mother, Dominca Markizova was later found dead under suspicious circumstances.

Even afterwards this photo kept being used in posters and parades, even becoming a

statue, while the fate of Gelya’s parents was never disclosed. This piece is based on the

photo, and written for unaccompanied bass-baritone voice. It is a dramatic monologue,

sung and spoken as if by Josef Stalin himself, in a kind of interior damnation of his

own making. He is unable to put the little girl down, and is tormented by images he

cannot free himself of. The music is confined to unaccompanied voice to express his

isolation. It utilizes a shifting variety of devices and word settings to articulate his guilt

and torment, an alternation of the three basic emotions of anger, fear and even love.

But the focus is always selfishly and painfully turned within, making it into hell.

In performance, the auditorium should be darkened, with the photograph projected

on the stage, the only other light being on the music stand reflected on the singer’s face.


sung by Andrew White, baritone

(words & music by William Vollinger)