The II International Organ Festival is being held at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, which for five days will become a centre of organ music in St Petersburg. According to French organist Thierry Escaich, who has already performed on several occasions at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre and who next year will be the festival’s director, “the festival promises to be interesting and memorable: during the festival there will be performances of undoubted great classical composers of the past – Bach, Mendelssohn and Franck, organist-composers who began their careers by playing the organ and only later composed timeless orchestral and vocal masterpieces; it will also be possible to hear the ‘organ-orchestra’ – arrangements for organ of symphony music by Ravel, Strauss and Messiaen; and there will be performances of contemporary organ music at the festival – works by classical composers of our own time including Mikael Tariverdiev and Rolande Falcinelli as well as jazz compositions.”
One interesting festival event will come with Thierry Escaich’s improvisation performance to a silent film. This project will be a memoir of the magnificent tradition of organ performances in the cinema at the dawn of filmmaking, when films were shown to the accompaniment of such great composers as Saint-Saëns and Olivier Messiaen.
This year the International Organ Festival is dedicated to the memory of the festival’s founder and first Artistic Director Oleg Kinyaev, a Russian organist who held the post of Principal Organist and Organ Master of the Mariinsky Theatre and who made a tremendous contribution to the development of organ music in St Petersburg.
The organ at the Concert Hall, crafted by the Strasbourg company Daniel Kern, is one of the first organs to be built in Russia in the last century, constructed in the manner of the French symphony organ with rich timbres, deep nuancing and expansive registers.
24 October. Gunther Rost, a prize-winner at more than ten organ competitions, recipient of the Bavarian State Prize “For Achievements in Art” and professor of the organ and improvisation class at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Graz (Austria), will be performing a classical programme of works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn and Louis Vierne.
25 October. The programme of the recital by Lada Labzina, Honoured Artist of the Republic of Tatarstan, senior lecturer at the faculty of organ and harpsichord studies at the Kazan State Zhiganov Conservatoire and Art Director of the State Bolshoi Saidashev Concert Hall in Kazan, will feature Lada Labzina’s own original transcriptions of the first movement of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite Schéhérazade, a prelude by Dave Brubeck and jazz works for organ by Volker Bräutigam, Krzysztof Sadowski and Dežē Antalfi-Žiross as well as works by Franz Liszt, Johann Sebastian Bach, César Franck and Mikael Tariverdiev.
26 October. Maxime Patel, an organist who frequently performs recitals in Europe and beyond and the only performer in the world of Jeanne Demessieux’ incredibly complex Organ Études a recording of which critics have hailed as a historic event, will be performing works by this French virtuoso organ music composer. The programme also includes works by French, Italian and German composers from the baroque to the 20th century such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Domenico Scarlatti, Franz Liszt, Marcel Dupré, Rolande Falcinelli and Pierre Labric.
28 October. David Briggs, the guest organist at St James’ Cathedral in Toronto, professor at Great Britain’s Royal Academy of Music and the first Briton to receive the Charles Tournemire Prize at the International Improvisation Competition in St Albans in Great Britain, will be presenting the audience with traditional organ music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Maurice Ravel and Olivier Messiaen in addition to his own transcription for organ of Richard Strauss’ symphonic poem Tod und Verklärung.
30 October. The festival closes with a concert by Thierry Escaich, a renowned composer (he has written over one hundred works), a virtuoso organ improviser, teacher and recipient of numerous music prizes, who will amaze the audience with his masterful improvisation for a screening of the 1925 silent film The Phantom of the Opera.
On Monday 20 October Aman Tuleyev, the Governor of the Kemerovo Region, awarded maestro Gergiev the title of Hero of Kuzbass.
The award, which marks significant achievements and successes in concerts and educational activities, the careful revival of traditions and great personal contributions to the development, maintenance and promotion of classical music, was presented at the end of a charitable concert. That day the Mariinsky Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev performed twice in Kemerovo, with one of the concerts – which was free – aimed at children studying at music schools and their teachers from the region. Valery Gergiev underlined the fact that he considers performing for children to be a priority: “Opening a window, a door, or even better the great gates into the world of classical music for children is the number one task for us all.” During the children’s matinee concert the Mariinsky Theatre musicians presented the young audience with Sergei Prokofiev’s symphonic tale Peter and the Wolf; many children also attended the second concert in the evening, though that programme was much more “serious”, including music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Verdi and Wagner.
The Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev first performed in Kemerovo in 2010. Less than one year ago, in December 2013, after a concert at the Kuzbass State Philharmonic the maestro was awarded the title of “Honorary Citizen of the Kemerovo Region” for his contribution to the development of the area’s cultural life.
– Il barbiere di Siviglia is your fourth production at the Mariinsky Theatre, and two of those have been operas by Rossini. How did you get the idea for this production? Did the management of the theatre offer it or was it your own initiative?
The offer to stage Il barbiere di Siviglia came from the Mariinsky Theatre, more specifically from Larisa Gergieva. Possibly after Il barbiere di Siviglia more productions of Rossini’s operas will follow.
– The Russian press calls you “a professional who knows absolutely what he wants”. What meaning are you revealing for yourself and for audiences with this production – what is your production about?
Why Il barbiere di Siviglia in particular? My attention was drawn by one very important fact. De Beaumarchais wrote his play during the French Revolution, and Rossini was alive during the Bourbon reign, so they both witnessed monarchical France. Both these periods are very important as they heralded the structure of modern society. Back then it changed completely and utterly. It marked the end of rule by the aristocracy with its devotion to social order, which it considered a pledge for world harmony, and the advancement of the bourgeoisie with its reverence for money and the despotic supremacy of the individual. That was when a completely new class emerged, and it is embodied by Figaro the barber – a man who suddenly finds himself independent. Almaviva’s former lackey has become master of his own life. He has his own trade and uses this to make a living. Figaro can turn his hand to anything and is keen to assist anyone. He is also independent. It comes as no surprise that de Beaumarchais’ play was censored at the time. For the age, the character was totally new. The nobility had power, titles and money, but the bourgeoisie was becoming an increasingly dangerous rival. It was in just such circumstances that the plot of our tale was born. A youth from high society is enchanted by a young girl and wishes to marry her, but in order to achieve his dream he must battle against conditions, social order and his own situation in life. He is a man who wishes to be admired for his own qualities rather than his personal status. There is something of the hero in him: he tries to discover himself as well as the meaning of life. And in this sense the plot is completely new – here de Beaumarchais is very close to modernity. Moreover, this story reflects his own life: you know, he was the son of a watchmaker and achieved everything under his own steam. And he achieved a great deal: he was elevated to the ranks of the nobility and became a trusted advisor to the king and a purveyor of weapons during the American War of Independence.
– It is well known that Il barbiere di Siviglia is an opera not just with a rich history of productions but also with a huge number of production and performance clichés. How do you plan to tackle these?
A cliché is the systematic on-stage embodiment of an incredibly superficial glance at the lead characters, situations and performance style (meaning “so-called” tradition). From the word itself it is clear that a cliché is literally a repetition of a situation or an image purely because it has a defined effect on the audience. In other words, it involves the use of tawdry jokes or caricature depictions of people with one single aim – to please the public. For example, don Bartolo is often portrayed as a ridiculous and naïve man who lets himself be manipulated, but that’s not true: he understands immediately that Rosina is concealing something – it is merely that he is blinded by the surrealist and absurd life situation into which he has fallen. He is touching and pathos-filled rather than ridiculous. Intuitively he senses the lie that surrounds him and he suffers from that. But his jealousy does not allow him to accept reality in full. Tradition in opera is terrible because it only exists to serve the egocentric whims of performers who have nothing in common with what the composer wrote and what he based the work on. It is an established fact that the renowned conductor, music historian and Rossini specialist Alberto Zedda researched the composer’s original score and discovered that the role of Rosina was not actually written for a soprano: it was performed by a mezzo, the same singer who sang in L’italiana in Algeri! And in new versions of scores – to which changes were often made by the singers themselves – there are a huge number of deviations. In particular, the role of Basilio was written in D Major. For a bass that is rather high, and so, when singing “La calunnia”, the singer really has to push himself. But this tension reflects the state the character is in – Rossini wanted to show how worked up Basilio gets when Bartolo relates that Count Almaviva has come to Seville. In this aria we can sense a touch of slight madness or hysterical joy – you see, he has found a way truly to harm someone close to him without dirtying his own hands. The high notes of this aria should be strained, the character has to be beside himself – because that is how he reveals his true nature to us. So in this production I am trying to tell a simple story of characters who find themselves in unusual circumstances.
– What part of the production is most important for you – the instrumental, the vocal or the drama – or perhaps you focus on the visual aspect of the production?
With Rossini, and particularly in this work, it is staggering that the music itself and the vocals already incorporate the drama based on de Beaumarchais’ text. And so when staging the opera it is vital first to study the content, to find its human message, and only then create the visual imagery of the opera – which may change during the production process. You can see that here everything is interconnected – the teamwork of the set designer, costume designer and stage director, the work of the singers, looking for interpretations. We are staging a story about how, in a certain social and human context, people mercilessly battle against each other in order to attain their own aims.
– Your previous productions at the Mariinsky Theatre have been interactive. Will you be involving the audience in your production this time too?
I think that people love being part of the on-stage action. For example, we have the cinematographer: there the viewer is totally involved in the process. He sits in the dark watching a story that unfolds on the screen and is totally immersed in the film. He experiences true catharsis – he completely identifies with the story on the screen. And I always try to stage a work so that it is an event, a celebration for the audience. That’s why I decided to move the stage forwards and have a bridge between the auditorium and the orchestra – to bring the action as close as possible to the audience.
– You have admitted that you see your place as a stage director as being “between the composer and the modern day”. Do you plan to translate the plot of Il barbiere di Siviglia into contemporary language?
All social classes are involved in this story: those of the past, the present, the emergent and the developing. Basilio is a ruined and embittered nobleman. Meanwhile, Bartolo is a representative of the bourgeoisie – there are such people even today. Almaviva represents a noted aristocratic family. Rosina is also an aristocrat, while Figaro is a man who runs his life as he sees fit. Berta is her master’s favourite servant, who suddenly finds herself in disgrace. So I am telling the audience a story about their lives which is also close to them. Therefore you have to have the element of a miracle – because today, especially, we need hopes and dreams. I want to tell an unusual story so that I can talk about everyday things. And so I select elements from all ages and times that can help me tell this story.
– You have already worked with our company and you know many of the performers and what they are capable of. Who supervised the casting of the singers for this production – you or the Mariinsky Theatre?
Larisa Gergieva and I both worked on the casting. And I particularly asked her for the role of Rosina and the Count to be performed by young singers. So both the Count and Rosina will be very young, and Bartolo will be much older in order that the characters seem real as well as comical. I recommended Edem Umerov for the role of Bartolo. I absolutely adore working with Mariinsky Opera soloists because together we can do everything. They can get deep under the skins of their characters. And if they perform with real inspiration the story will take on new life... They are true artistes.
Speaking with Nadezhda Koulygina
From 24 to 30 October the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre will be hosting the II International Organ Festival featuring acclaimed European musicians. An interview with one festival participant, the virtuoso improviser and world renowned composer Thierry Escaich, is now available
From 24 to 30 October the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre will be hosting the II International Organ Festival featuring acclaimed European musicians. An interview with one festival participant, the virtuoso improviser and world renowned composer Thierry Escaich, is now available.
– What does the organ mean to you? Why did you opt for it of all musical instruments?
Over the course of recent centuries the organ has been closely connected with composition. It is a polyphonic instrument with its tremendous richness of colours and incredibly refined nuances – the more so as it is performed by just one person. And so it is entirely logical that for me (and for my great predecessors including Mendelssohn, Franck, Vierne and Messiaen) the organ came to be a kind of unique laboratory where the composer can study the architecture of sound before approaching the composition of orchestral music or assimilating other instruments. One dazzling example of such comes with Bruckner and his symphonies that were performed on the organ.
– Which composer is closest to you in spirit? And why?
However paradoxical it may sound, several composers that are very close to me in terms of spirit never ever played the organ – or at least they dedicated little attention to the instrument. Significantly, I have been inspired by Béla Bartók with his Beethoven-like sense of form, rhythmic fugues and research into folk music of various countries. I also really value the incredible melodic virtuosity of Tchaikovsky and the Impressionistic orchestral colours of Ravel. It is interesting that in truly discovering these composers it helped me select my own organ performing style. And so, when I improvise, these composers become my guides, they make me go beyond the confines of the instrument and make maximum use of its possibilities in order not to destroy the musical fabric that inspires me (regardless of the fact that it may have nothing in common with the organ itself).
– You are known for your improvisations. Could you please tell us something about their charms and complexities?
Improvisation is the creation of music here and now. But that doesn’t mean that the public’s fingers are open to jests and merriment. Quite the reverse. In this genre you have to think several steps in advance, you have to create harmonies and rhythms in a few milliseconds before your fingers perform it; you have to form the structure of musical speech as if it were in words – and, at the same time, you have to observe impulsive and feverish bursts that characterise any improvisation.
The true art of improvisation lies in not losing the freedom of expression even when using complex and ideally refined musical language.
– What is the meaning of creativity for you?
We are all creators: when working with sound material (albeit background, melodies or harmonic colour etc.) we see it through the prism of our own identity and we convey this to subsequent generations in a new format. We don’t have to strive to be “new”: any true creative beginning starts with powerful individuality combined with total and absolute mastery in all fields of composition. Johann Sebastian Bach, whose compositions open the current Organ Festival, never negated the music of the past. He merely transformed it, uniting different styles and trends. Thus emerged the new concept of the fugue – more concertante, at times even dance-like, with an ideal balance of harmony and counterpoint and a new approach to the instrument... And all of this was attained via stormy and comet-like inspiration.
– Has your attitude to your work changed with time? And, if yes, how so?
Of course – in my first works I strove first and foremost for musical expressionism, trying to achieve maximal expression of sound (a fine example is my Organ Concerto No 1 which has been performed for several seasons at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre), while in more recent works I have essentially focussed on the colour of sound and its movements over the general orchestral fabric. One example of my new creative style is my symphonic poem for organ and orchestra Barque solaire, which I had the honour to perform at the same venue three years ago under the baton of Valery Gergiev.
– What can we expect from the Organ Festival this year? Are there any surprises to delight the public?
Of course, there will be performances of works by undoubted classics such as Bach, Mendelssohn and Franck – meaning all three organist-composers who began with the organ and only subsequently composed their timeless orchestral and vocal masterpieces. But we will also hear the organ-orchestra, or arrangements for organ of music by highly diverse composers, from Ravel and Strauss to Messiaen. At these recitals one understands the precise rhythm of the instrument as well as its rich scale of musical colours... Finally there will be contemporary organ music at the festival, with works by classical contemporary composers including Mikael Tariverdiev and Rolande Falcinelli (who, apropos, was one of the greatest French tutors of the 20th century), and even jazz compositions which will demonstrate that the organ is more than a mere church instrument but rather an accompanist to various elements of our lives. The performance of such varied music is thanks to the incredibly rich sound abilities afforded by the organ of Alfred Kern&Fils, on which all of the festival’s participants will perform.
And yet another significant event of the year: I will be performing an improvised accompaniment to a silent film – as in the early days of cinema. This project will be a memoir of the great tradition of the use of organs in cinemas, when the accompaniment to films was provided by such great composers as Saint-Saëns and Olivier Messiaen.
Speaking with Svetlana Nikitina
On 14 and 15 October the Mariinsky Theatre will be hosting the first ever St Petersburg tour by the Beijing Opera with two productions – The Legend of the White Snake and Lady Mu Guiying Takes Command
On 14 and 15 October the Mariinsky Theatre will be hosting the first ever St Petersburg tour by the Beijing Opera with two productions – The Legend of the White Snake and Lady Mu Guiying Takes Command.
The performances mark one hundred and twenty years since the birth of Mei Lanfang – a performer who even during his own lifetime became a legend thanks to his performance of “dan” roles (female parts). His performing style led to the emergence of a theatre art school – the Mei School, an oriental system of theatre art which, alongside the Russian Stanislavsky system and the German Brecht system, forms the triad of great theatre schools. Following performances by the Beijing Opera Company under Mei Lanfang in the 1920s and 30s in Japan and the USA, Beijing opera began to be performed throughout the world, while in 2010 Beijing opera as a style of Chinese art was listed in UNESCO’s cultural legacy register.
The history of Beijing opera began in 1790, when four theatre companies from the province of Anhui came to Beijing and performed to commemorate the Emperor’s eightieth birthday. Beijing opera was for both the Imperial Court and the common man. Initially Beijing opera was only performed by men, though women were allowed to appear on the stage from 1870. From 1860 the Beijing Opera Company performed throughout China, and by the close of the 19th century it had become the country’s most popular art form.
On 8 October Oleg Demchenko will make his debut as Nurali in the ballet The Fountain of Bakhchisarai.
The ballet The Fountain of Bakhchisarai was first staged eighty years ago, on 28 September 1934. In this production, which heralded the start of a new movement in Russian ballet – so-called drama-ballet – the production team achieved a harmonious combination of dance and pantomime that is rare. Revealing the depth of Alexander Pushkin’s poem, choreographer Rostislav Zakharov did not stint in the dance characteristics of the world of Polish Princess Maria and the Crimean Khan Ghirei, Nurali – Ghirei’s military commander – is one of the most danceable roles in ballet. It is Nurali who is the main performer of the temperamental Tatar dance, in which the warrior dedicated to the khan attempts to dispel his master’s gloomy thoughts. In this role, Oleg Demchenko will have to demonstrate not just technique – precision, speed and leaps – but also a fiery temperament and the passionate dance that makes Nurali stand alone among the Tatar warriors.
On 7 October The Fountain of Bakhchisarai will see debuts by graduates of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet who are now members of the Mariinsky Ballet – Shamala Guseinova will be appearing as a Polish Maiden and Nail Yenikeyev will be dancing the solo in the Cracovienne for the first time.
On 8 October the Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev commences a major tour during which the St Petersburg musicians will present a diverse series of symphony music programmes at concert venues in the Land of the Rising Sun
On 8 October the Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev commences a major tour during which the St Petersburg musicians will present a diverse series of symphony music programmes at concert venues in the Land of the Rising Sun. The Mariinsky Orchestra will be visiting Matsudo, Kumamoto, Fukuoka, Osaka, Ishikawa, Tokyo, Nagoya and Saitama. The tour programme includes masterpieces by Russian and European composers of the 19th and 20th centuries, among the m Pyotr Tchaikovsky (Symphony No 6 (Pathétique) and Piano Concerto No 1 with Daniil Trifonov performing the solo), Johannes Brahms (Piano Concerto No 2 with soloist Nelson Freire), Antonín Dvořák (Cello Concerto with Narek Hakhnazaryan performing the cello solo), Gustav Mahler (Symphony No 5), Igor Stravinsky (The Firebird, Pétrouchka and Le Sacre du printemps), Sergei Prokofiev (the suite from Romeo and Juliet), Dmitry Shostakovich (Symphony No 8) and Rodion Shchedrin (Сoncerto Naughty Limericks).
Another important event of the tour to Japan comes on 17 October with a concert performance in Tokyo of the opera Salome by Richard Strauss – a composer the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of whose birth is being widely celebrated this year in the music world. The main roles are to be performed by leading Mariinsky Opera soloists soprano Mlada Khudoley (Salome), tenor Andrei Popov (Herodes) and soprano Larisa Gogolevskaya (Herodias).
On 13 October, the only day-off during the tour by the Mariinsky Orchestra, maestro Gergiev will travel to China in order to conduct the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, an ensemble of which Valery Gergiev becomes Principal Conductor next year (in January 2013 the Philharmonic Orchestra and the city government of Munich unanimously elected maestro Gergiev as Lorin Maazel’s successor with the orchestra until 2020). At the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Hall the Munich Philharmonic under the baton of Valery Gergiev will present a monograph concert that also marks the anniversary of Richard Strauss’ birth. The programme for that evening includes the famous symphonic poems Don Quixote, Don Juan and Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche.
The tour of Japan will be “framed” by appearances in Russia by the Mariinsky Orchestra under the baton of maestro Gergiev in Siberia and the Russian Far East. On 5 October the re will be two concerts at the Tomsk Regional State Philharmonic, on 6 and 7 October the re will be three concerts at the new technically and acoustically acclaimed Primorsky Opera and Ballet Theatre in Vladivostok, while on 19 October the musicians will appear in Khabarovsk followed by two concerts in Kemerovo on 20 October. The leitmotif of the music programme in the Russian regions comes with Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. The main accent of the regional programmes falls on charitable concerts for pupils at music schools at which the Mariinsky Orchestra will take young audiences on an engaging exploration of the orchestra with Sergei Prokofiev’s symphonic tale Peter and the Wolf. It is well known that during previous visits to Russia’s regions on the initiative of maestro Gergiev agreements have been concluded on collaboration with representatives of regional authorities as part of the project Valery Gergiev’s Centres for the Arts for Russia’s Talented Youth, which sees the gubernatorial competitions Children Performing with an Orchestra in a number of regions, the winners of which will come to St Petersburg to see the Mariinsky Theatre and its musicians.
On 5 October tenor Dmitry Voropaev will be performing the role of Macduff in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth for the first time (production by David McVicar)
Macbeth is one of three Shakespearean operas that the composer wrote. Verdi was the first to transpose Shakespeare’s drama to the operatic stage in a version close to the original and himself wrote the entire text in prose, dividing it into scenes and numbers. The librettist Piave and the composer’s friend the poet Maffei had only to arrange the prepared text in poetic form.
According to critics, the performing style of Dmitry Voropaev – a soloist of the Mariinsky Academy of Young Opera Singers – stands apart for its “incredible softness, lyricism and pliancy.” In the opera Macbeth the soloist will be appearing as Thane Macduff, who brings Macbeth’s bloody reign to an end with his sword.
Valery Gergiev will be conducting the Mariinsky Opera in performances of the operas Das Rheingold and Die Walküre in Astana
Artistes of the Mariinsky Opera and Orchestra will be performing under the baton of maestro Gergiev in Kazakhstan as part of the I International Music Festival The Silk Road. The Kazakh State Opera and Ballet Theatre Astana Opera will be hosting the Mariinsky Theatre’s performances of the first two parts of Richard Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen, staged on a concept by Valery Gergiev and George Tsypin. On 3 October there will be a performance of Das Rheingold, the preliminary evening of Wagner’s tetralogy. The vocal roles will be performed by leading soloists of the Mariinsky Opera and the Mariinsky Academy of Young Opera Singers, many of whom have already won acclaim in the Wagnerian repertoire at the world’s greatest musical theatres, among them Nikolai Putilin (Alberich), Mikhail Vekua (Loge), Andrei Popov (Mime), Mikhail Petrenko (Fafner), Edward Tsanga (Fasolt), Zlata Bulycheva (Erda), Anastasia Kalagina (Freia), Yevgeny Ulanov (Donner), Alexander Timchenko (Froh), Zhanna Dombrovskaya (Woglinde), Yulia Matochkina (Wellgunde) and Ekaterina Sergeyeva (Flosshilde). The role of Wotan will be sung by internationally renowned bass-baritone Willard White and that of Fricka by mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova.
On 4 October the Astana Opera will host a performance of the opera Die Walküre. The vocal roles will be performed by Vladimir Feliauer (Wotan), Ekaterina Gubanova (Fricka), Avgust Amonov (Siegmund), Mlada Khudoley (Sieglinde), Mikhail Petrenko (Hunding) and Olga Savova (Brünnhilde) as well as Zhanna Dombrovskaya, Irina Vasilieva, Regina Rustamova, Yekaterina Krapivina, Tatiana Kravtsova, Ekaterina Sergeyeva, Elena Vitman and Yulia Matochkina (Valkyries).
The tour to Astana marks the next stage in collaboration between the Mariinsky Theatre and the new Kazakh theatre which was inaugurated in June 2013. The series of celebrations in October last year dedicated to the opening of the new theatre began with a premiere of a new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Attila conducted by Valery Gergiev. In March this year the gave its first tour outside Kazakhstan – in St Petersburg at the Mariinsky-II it presented the operas Attila and Birzhan and Sara (a national opera written by the Kazakh composer Mukan Tulebayev).
The production of Der Ring des Nibelungen, staged at the Mariinsky Theatre in 2003, is unique: it was the first German-language production of Wagner’s tetralogy at any Russian musical theatre. In sharp contrast to dozens of European productions of the Ring in which the mythological plot is made contemporary and brought up to date, the Mariinsky Theatre’s tetralogy is markedly archaic in style and makes references to humanity’s ancient memories, including symbols of various ancient civilisations. Thanks to this production, the Mariinsky Theatre earned its reputation as a “true house of Wagner” (the theatre has a repertoire of Wagnerian music unprecedented in Russia, featuring productions of Der Fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal in addition to Der Ring des Nibelungen).
The European premiere of the Mariinsky Theatre’s Ring (Baden-Baden, 2004) was received by the German media as a truly historic event in the history of music. In addition to performances in Germany, the Mariinsky Opera has performed Wagner’s tetralogy on tour in Russia (Moscow), South Korea, Japan, the USA, Great Britain, Spain and Slovenia. Now the Ring’s touring geography will expand to include Astana. The Mariinsky label has produced a complete recording of Wagner’s tetralogy. The already released Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, thanks to the magnificent cast of soloists and the “magnificent playing by the Mariinsky Orchestra” (BBC Radio 3 CD Review) under Valery Gergiev, immediately won broad acclaim from the public and the critics. The first release of the tetralogy – the opera Die Walküre – received a Diapason d’Or, an Opera Diamond award and five stars from Audiophile Audition magazine, as well as one of classical music’s most prestigious prizes, the ECHO Klassik, as “Best Opera Recording of the Year”. The Mariinsky Opera’s Das Rheingold was awarded the Choc de l’année prize by France’s respected magazine Classica.
This year saw the first presentation of the European ballet award named after the great romantic ballerina Marie Taglioni, thanks to whom ballet became so popular in the 19th century. The Taglioni Award marks the finest achievements in European ballet in thirteen categories. “I live ballet,” says Vladimir Malakhov, the founder of the prize and an outstanding contemporary dancer, “And I want to convey to the next generation the passion of self-expression through music.” The prize-winners were selected by a jury consisting of ballet and press experts. Yulia Stepanova, who last year made debuts in several lead roles (Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Gamzatti in La Bayadère and the title role in Sylvia at the Mariinsky Theatre), received the accolade of “Best Young Ballerina”. “Best Young Male Dancer” was Xander Parish, whose repertoire now includes the roles of Romeo (Romeo and Juliet), Siegfried (Swan Lake) and Aminta (Sylvia). The title of “Best Ballet Conductor” went to Pavel Bubelnikov, the jury noting “his rich experience, wonderful sense of classical ballet and ability almost to breathe with the dancers and sense their needs.”