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Harlow Robinson

Headshot of Harlow Robinson

Matthews Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of History

Matthews Distinguished University Professor Emeritus Dr. Harlow Robinson is a specialist in Soviet and Russian cultural history, and has written widely on Soviet film and the performing arts. His major publications include Sergei Prokofiev: A Biography, which has appeared in five editions; The Last Impresario: The Life, Times and Legacy of Sol Hurok; and Selected Letters of Sergei Prokofiev, which he edited and translated. His book, Russians in Hollywood: Hollywood’s Russians was published in 2007. He has also contributed numerous essays, articles and reviews to The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Nation, Opera News, Opera Quarterly, Dance, Playbill, Symphony and other publications. As a lecturer, he has appeared at the Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Music Center Opera, Guggenheim Museum, San Francisco Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Aspen Music Festival and Bard Festival. He has also worked as a consultant for numerous performing arts organizations, and as a writer and commentator for PBS, NPR and the Canadian Broadcasting System.

Prof. Robinson has served as vice president of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages. A frequent visitor to the former USSR and Russia, he has received fellowships and grants from the NEH, American Council of Learned Societies, Fulbright and the Whiting Foundation.

Prof. Robinson teaches courses on Russian cultural history, history of Soviet cinema, the image of Russia in American culture, and Prague,Vienna, Budapest 1867-1918. In March of 2010, Prof. Robinson was selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an Academy Film Scholar. As part of this prestigious honor, he received a grant from the Academy’s Institutional Grants Committee to support his research on the career of Oscar-winning director Lewis Milestone.


  • Sergei Prokofiev: A Biography 573 pp. Viking Press, 1987; published in UK by Robert Hale (1987); in paper by Paragon House (1988); Spanish-language edition by Javier Vergara Editor (1988) Reissued by Northeastern University Press with a new foreword and afterword, in paperback, 2002, 584 pp.
  • The Last Impresario: The Life, Times and Legacy of Sol Hurok 521 pp. Viking Press, 1994; Penguin paperback, 1995.
  • Selected Letters of Sergei Prokofiev Translated, edited and with an introduction by Harlow Robinson 348 pp. Northeastern University Press; 1998

Chapters in Collections

  • Articles on Sergei Prokofiev, Alexander Borodin, Betrothal in a Monastery, Prince Igor and Kat’a Kabanova for International Dictionary of Opera (St.James Press, 1993)
  • “‘Molchanie–eto smert’ or ‘Keeping Russia Clean’: Recent Developments in the Gay and Lesbian Movement in Russia, For SK: In Celebration of the Life and Career of Simon Karlinsky, Modern Russian Literature and Culture, Studies and Texts Vol.33, Berkeley Slavic Specialties, 1994, 255-262.
  • “Composing for Victory: Classical Music in the USSR During World War II,” Culture and Entertainment in Wartime Russia, edited by Richard Stites. Indiana University Press, 1995; 62-76.
  • “Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and the Russian Ballet Tradition,” Crossed Stars: Artistic Sources and Social Conflict in the Ballet “Romeo and Juliet”, Revised and edited proceedings from a Conference sponsored by the Dance Critics Association, San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum, 1994, 34-38.
  • “Soviet Culture Under Gorbachev: Another ‘Thaw’?,” in The Gorbachev Generation: Issues in Soviet Domestic Policy edited by Jane Shapiro Zacek. Paragon House, 1989. 139-55.
  • “Music,” in The Cambridge Companion to Modern Russian Culture, ed.Nicholas Rzhevsky, Cambridge U.Press , 1998, 236-63.
  • “Shostakovich Symposium: Maksim Shostakovich, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Solomon Volkov, Kenneth Kiesler,” moderated, translated and edited by Harlow Robinson in Shostakovich Reconsidered , Allan B.Ho and Dmitry Feofanov, eds. Toccata Press, 1998, 373-399
  • 41 reviews of operas on video for Metropolitan Opera Guide to Opera on Video, Paul Gruber, ed., Norton, 1997.
  • ­Mussorgsky: Complete Songs for Voice and Piano, G.Schirmer, Inc., 1995 Paraphrase translations, 371-389
  • Tchaikovsky: Complete Songs for the Voice and Piano, paraphrase translations (unpublished) “Vasilisa the Fair,” a play in two acts and eight scenes after Russian folk tales, by Sofia Prokofieva and Irina Tokmakova. Translated by Sabina Modzhalevskaya and Harlow Robinson; edited by Harlow Robinson. For New York State Theatre Institute, Albany; produced May 1991; published in paperback by Samuel French, 2003 (52 pp.)
  • Mozart and Salieri by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Introduction on the opera; English translation of the opera (singing version) with Thaddeus Motyka; translation of the introduction and notes to the Soviet edition. Belwin-Mills, Inc., 1984. (produced in New York by Chamber Opera Theatre of New York, 1981)
  • The Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. English translation of the opera (singing version) and translation of the introduction and notes to Soviet edition. Belwin-Mills, Inc., 1984. Reprinted by Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1994.

Related Schools & Departments

  • Education

    Ph.D., 1980, Slavic Languages and Literatures
    University of California, Berkeley

  • Contact

  • Address

    272 HO
    360 Huntington Avenue
    Boston, MA 02115