An interview with Anna Matison, Stage Director and Production Designer of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Golden Cockerel, which will be premiered on 25, 26 and 27 December at the Mariinsky-II

An interview with Anna Matison, Stage Director and Production Designer of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Golden Cockerel, which will be premiered on 2526 and 27 December at the Mariinsky-II.

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov composed the operatic fairy-tale The Golden Cockerel with elements of irony and grotesque and infused it with witty musical discoveries with the unusual ease that one associates with an experienced and wise man. And, of course, he had every right to hope that his fellow Russian performers would present the audience with a dazzling display of his opus. Soon the tale is told, but the deed is long undone, and choosing singers for the roles is just the start, while bringing the score to life is half of the entire process. Everything that is important occurs when music and theatre unite, when physical time becomes music and stage time. For audiences this is a kind of religious rite, though for the production team, singers and musicians it is hard work, and the criteria to evaluate it are very high. Anna Matison, the Production Director, has shared her vision of the opera The Golden Cockerel in an interview.

– Anna, this production of The Golden Cockerel marks your debut in opera, though you have already worked in drama theatres and film. Tell us a little about your other work.
By education I am a script-writer and dramatist, and this education was based on my experience as a director. I worked on a TV station in Irkutsk, then in studio production and I wrote scripts myself. Then, once I had come to Moscow to work with Yevgeny Grishkovets, I wrote the plays Home and WEEKEND which are currently performed at the Modern Play School of the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre. In film I have been a script-writer for the films Yolki-2, Yolki-3 and Yolki-1914, and on the last I was also creative producer; apropos, it also involved the participation of Ildar Abdrazakov, and I am thrilled that this singer will be known not just in the world of classical music but throughout the country.
This franchise has attracted the greatest number of viewers in the history of contemporary Russian film. The film Satisfaction, which unlike the Yolki films not everyone has heard of, was an attempt to produce an original film albeit for a mass audience. I tend to avoid such genre labels as “art-house”. Although initially art-house was just original cinema, and the concept has, unfortunately, become devalued. This work is incredibly dear to me, just like my first experience in film. I have also worked on several documentary projects about classical music, such as The Musician (about the pianist Denis Matsuev), The Mariinsky Theatre and Valery Gergiev, Prokofiev: On the Way in which the role of Prokofiev was performed by Konstantin Khabensky, To Be Continued, The Thirteenth and the opera films The Lefthander, Semyon Kotko, Les Troyens and Don Quichotte.
We are currently completing work on a feature-length children’s film called The Grand Adventures of Little Sashenka Krapivkin – about a boy whose mother takes him on a performance tour as there is no-one to leave him at home with. The plot of the film includes a story about a conductor’s baton – it is a magic one. And Sashenka enters a magical world which he liberates from an evil villain (brilliantly performed by Yevgeny Grishkovets) who wants to destroy music. It’s not a very complicated plot but we wanted to produce a story that lets viewers follow the adventures of a six-year-old boy with whom they can identify as well as listening to some great music; the film features Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto, Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, the introduction to Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan and works by Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Verdi and other composers. It is a joint project with the Mariinsky Theatre featuring the orchestra’s musicians, Ildar Abdrazakov, Denis Matsuev and Valery Gergiev.

– Rehearsals are in full sway. For you, is there any difference – or, indeed, any similarity – between the rehearsal process for opera and for film?
In essence, rehearsal processes in theatre and in film are not terribly different – the rehearsal periods are practically identical. In my opinion, opera is really quite close to film. We don’t produce a film in order, scene by scene – we see it all in order as a complete film – all made from a vast number of individual cuts. And so at rehearsals before filming we try to imagine the scene in its entirety so that during the filming of an individual episode the actor understands the nature of his character at an exact moment in the film. And so it’s very important to create a line for each character, they have to feel free and motivated in each and every episode. In opera we have more or less the same thing. Speaking with stage directors who have come to musical theatre from film I understood that for them the unusual side of the situation is that all the performers sing. But for me the music is the main part of the “script”; it all has to be the way I want, the way I envision it to be. And so I believe I have been very lucky, and I am truly grateful for the chance to be making my debut as an opera stage director at the Mariinsky Theatre.

– What kind of audience is your production of The Golden Cockerel aimed at? Is it for children?
Yes, that’s quite right. It’s for the so-called “family audience”.

– Despite the fact that in both Pushkin’s tale and Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera there are double and possibly even triple subtexts that mean this can be interpreted as an adult fairy-tale and not for children? Tell us something about your concept – why is it for children? Because “a fable in persona” (as the composer described his opera) was seen by contemporaries as a political pamphlet. Do these subtexts exist in your production, though children will see it for what it is while adults, because of their life experience, will see this significance?
First of all, the composer really called his opera a “fable in persona” and not satirical scenes. Satires and fables are different genres. Seeing satire in this fable is the familiar and traditional route, a path taken by directors on several occasions. But first and foremost I take as my basis the fact that we all remember this tale from childhood. It’s not important if we read it ourselves or if our parents read it to us – in neither case did we see it or discuss it as a political satire, we just followed the plot. I really wanted to produce a fairy-tale because I can hear a fairy-tale in the music as well. What else do you take children to other than to such beautiful music, such a vivid, clear and amazingly beautiful and very imagistic and visual work? The Golden Cockerel might be the first opera a child sees at the theatre, and the music helps make this first encounter a magical one, revealing a new interest to children. That’s first. Secondly, regarding the concept and hints at political satire, the fact is that the action takes place in the Thrice-Tenth Kingdom both with Pushkin and Rimsky-Korsakov. But neither the poet nor the composer states categorically that the Thrice-Tenth Kingdom is Russia, we just understand this intuitively. Of course, in the context we see archetypes of our tsars and political situations, but nowhere is this ever directly interpolated, there are no allusions or jokes that would define the genre as cold and cruel. What is the difference between satire and humour? When a production is staged in a satirical manner it often has features of actual historical characters. As soon as definite features are added and we become immersed in specific details and transfer situational aspects, for me it is of the present, temporary, it’s something that in twenty years will not be regarded as keenly as it is now. In the music of The Golden Cockerel first and foremost I hear a very beautiful fairy-tale world. The drama of the opera is constructed around certain canons, there is the notion of “logline”, or summing up what an opera is about in one line. Possibly, I may be wrong, but for me the main theme is female power. If we staged a production about a silly tsar then in accordance with plot laws only the tsar should die, or someone else be an unexpected victim of chance. But when absolutely all of the men die, young and old, clever and foolish – this tells us that female power is boundless. For children we are building the plot around the princess and the adventures in a magical land, while adults should be able to see the story of female power. Not about an attempt to stand in the way of evil, but to reject it. After all, we give the Queen of Shemakha a chance, but she doesn’t take it – out of fear of being her own self... Such a concept can be reflected in the performers. It’s a tremendous pleasure when the work is a mutual process and everything that I try to convey and stage in terms of the performing relationships receives not only understanding and embodiment but development too: the singers think about the images and get under the characters’ skins.

– Why did you choose The Golden Cockerel for your debut in opera? It can’t be easy to stage a production after almost a hundred years (the premiere took place in 1919), because this is only the second production at the Mariinsky Theatre, not counting the co-production with the Théâtre du Châtelet in 2003 (mounted in the kabuki style by a Japanese production team). Knowing the story behind productions of the opera, both Russian and international, which have been incredibly vivid I think it’s an incredibly responsible task.
It’s very simple, I didn’t choose it, Valery Gergiev did. He said that he really wanted to stage The Golden Cockerel. I was lucky: I had already done several film projects with the maestro although I’ve never staged an opera. As Gergiev likes the working process and the result it must mean that he likes what I have done in children’s films, and he offered me the chance to consider the production. I asked for the chance to do some sketches first and write a concept before continuing our discussion. After all, film and opera are different planets. And once he saw that there was an integral vision Valery Gergiev confirmed his intention to work on this production.

– What guided you when you selected such a young production team for this opera?
Everyone who is working on the production is united by their interest and great passion. Age here is irrelevant – that’s just the way it came together. I like syncretic forms of art – film and opera – because they draw together many talented people who are attracted by an idea. My colleagues in this production love music, they feel it and consider this world absolutely to be their own.

– Will the production make any use of new technologies in the set designs to underscore the individuality of the protagonists and define their characters more clearly?
For me theatre is a very conservative space, and that’s one of the things I like about it. Even a modern highly equipped theatre – as a phenomenon it’s still conservative and it has limitations dictated by the stage. In film you can see an incredibly far flight into outer space without being affected, while in theatre you might see two or three very simple images but feel everything. In theatre you can’t hide behind special effects – as has always been the case, theatre requires talent first and foremost. I don’t really like special effects in film either because very quickly they become dated. Advertising develops techniques that are then adopted by film, but if you watch Lord of the Rings today you’ll be amazed at how cheap the graphics look. Because technology instantly becomes outdated, it develops at the speed of light, and we accept it immediately and believe it was always that way. But I’m not a fan of bringing computer effects into the theatre which definitely age. Mikhalkov says that in film the best special effect is splicing, and I agree with him. If you have classical means at your disposal and can achieve a strong impression then that’s a guarantee that the impression will remain the same ten years later. It’s the same in theatre. I hope that we will succeed in creating vivid impressions with the use of the modern technology that will aim not to shock but delicately, or even imperceptibly, fit into the context of the opera, technology that will look contemporary even with the passing of time. I would say that The Golden Cockerel is a classical production made using contemporary means, and I really hope that the efforts of the people working on it will result in an integrated look and that it will be an interesting production.
Speaking with Natalia Kozhevnikova and Inna Rodina


From 21 to 27 December the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra will undertake its traditional pre-New Year tour to Baden-Baden (Germany)

From 21 to 27 December the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra will undertake its traditional pre-New Year tour to Baden-Baden (Germany).

The Mariinsky Theatre will present its ballets at the Festspielhaus. One of Europe’s most important theatre and concert complexes, opened in 1998 the Festspielhaus is a prime example of the combination of history and modern trends – the Festspielhaus is located is located in the restored building of the old railway station, which now features a modern block of light-coloured marble and glass. The Mariinsky Theatre opens its tour to the Festspielhaus with the ballet Raymonda (21 December) with Viktoria Tereshkina, Vladimir Shklyarov and Yuri Smekalov in the lead roles. On 22 and 23 December German audiences will see Swan Lake with Yekaterina Kondaurova and Timur Askerov and Viktoria Tereshkina and Kimin Kim, while over Christmas (25 and 26 December) there will be performances of The Nutcracker featuring the choreography of Vasily Vainonen. The lead roles will be performed by Alina Somova and Vladimir Shklyarov (25 December), Kristina Shapran and Alexander Sergeyev (26 December at 14:00) and Anastasia Matvienko and Timur Askerov (26 December at 19:00). The tour ends on 27 December with an evening of one-act ballets including George Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony, Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DCSH and Wayne McGregor’s Infra.

Following the Sergei Prokofiev Music Festival which took place in Rome from 10 to 15 December, Valery Gergiev departed for The Netherlands, where once again he will be conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra

Following the Sergei Prokofiev Music Festival which took place in Rome from 10 to 15 December, Valery Gergiev departed for The Netherlands, where once again he will be conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.

On 17 December there will be a concert in Utrecht at the TivoliVredenburg music venue, followed on 18 and 19 December by concerts at the famous De Doelen concert hall in Rotterdam, the home of the Dutch orchestra. Over all three evenings, the acclaimed Dutch violinist Janine Jansen will be appearing with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and maestro Gergiev. The programmes feature Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto and suites from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Christmas Eve and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker.

Valery Gergiev has had a longstanding creative partnership with this Dutch orchestra. From 1995 to 2008 maestro Gergiev was Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, while in 1996 together with the ensemble he founded the Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival. From 2008 to the present Valery Gergiev has been an honorary conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Over the years of his collaboration with the orchestra he has conducted over four hundred concerts in The Netherlands and abroad. In September 2014 maestro Gergiev conducted the Rotterdam Philharmonic at the XIX Gergiev Festival marking one century since the start of the First World War.

In the lead up to Christmas and New Year there will be a premiere of a new production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairy-tale opera Christmas Eve at the historic Mariinsky Theatre; previously, it was performed at the Concert Hall

In the lead up to Christmas and New Year there will be a premiere of a new production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairy-tale opera Christmas Eve at the historic Mariinsky Theatre; previously, it was performed at the Concert Hall.

Moving the opera to the old theatre will give new stage life to this already popular work which was premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre one hundred and twenty years ago. Stage Director Olga Malikova is convinced that “the demonic forces and human flaws that Gogol personifies in his characters is nothing other than the evil that is present in all of us and which forces us to do ill-conceived, at times silly and depraved things” and that love can overcome the power of evil and produce wonders, and so the residents of the village of Dikanka will tell audiences a beautiful story about a Christmas of love.


From 13 to 16 December the Mariinsky Theatre will be presenting ballets at the Tianjin Grand Theatre (Northern China)

From 13 to 16 December the Mariinsky Theatre will be presenting ballets at the Tianjin Grand Theatre (Northern China).

In Tianjin the Mariinsky Ballet will be performing The Little Humpbacked Horse featuring choreography by Alexei Ratmansky with Ulyana Lopatkina and Vladimir Shklyarov (13 December) and Anastasia Kolegova and Filipp Stepin (14 December) in the lead roles as well as an evening of ballets by Michel Fokine. Chopiniana will feature Xenia Ostreikovskaya, Tatiana Tiliguzova and Viktoria Brileva (15 December), Anastasia Kolegova, Anna Lavrinenko and Alisa Sodoleva (16 December) and Yevgeny Ivanchenko. The lead roles in The Firebird will be performed by Anastasia Kolegova (15 December), Sofia Gumerova (16 December) and Yuri Smekalov. In Schéhérazade Chinese audiences will see Alisa Sodoleva with Vladimir Shklyarov (15 December) and Viktoria Brileva with Ernest Latypov (16 December).

The Grand Theatre in Tianjin, China’s fourth largest city, is located in a picturesque park on the shore of a lake. The theatre building, opened in 2012, resembles a seashell lapping against the water. Its semi-circular roof, which appears to soar above the ground, links three stage venues.


From 10 to 15 December the Italian capital will be hosting a major festival of music by Sergei Prokofiev, organised by the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and maestro Gergiev, an untiring promoter of Prokofiev’s musical legacy

From 10 to 15 December the Italian capital will be hosting a major festival of music by Sergei Prokofiev, organised by the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (a State-sponsored complex of concert organisations, arts education institutions, museums and libraries in Rome) and maestro Gergiev, an untiring promoter of Prokofiev’s musical legacy. During the festival Valery Gergiev will present six concerts with the Mariinsky Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.

Prior to that, on 9 December, maestro Gergiev will conduct the Mariinsky Orchestra in Turin, where there will be a performance of masterpieces of Russian symphony music including Modest Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition orchestrated by Maurice Ravel and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony (Pathétique).

Over three evenings (10, 11 and 12 December) at the grand concert hall of the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a focal point for classical music in Rome, the Mariinsky Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev will be performing a series of every symphony by Sergei Prokofiev as well as his Second Violin Concerto (soloist – Leonidas Kavakos). Also, on 13, 14 and 15 December as part of the festival maestro Gergiev will conduct three concerts by the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, each of which will feature a performance of three works by Prokofiev – Russian Overture for Symphony Orchestra, Violin Concerto No 1 (soloist – Leonidas Kavakos) and the oratorio Ivan the Terrible (together with the chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and soloists Yulia Matochkina and Roman Burdenko).

The festival in Rome adds to the series of projects by Valery Gergiev and Mariinsky Theatre performers dedicated to the works of Sergei Prokofiev. It is well-known that maestro Gergiev is today the most acclaimed interpreter of Prokofiev’s music; with the Mariinsky Theatre as well as international companies on numerous occasions he has conducted all of Prokofiev’s operas, symphonies, instrumental concerti, cantatas and most famous ballets. Many of Valery Gergiev’s interpretations of Prokofiev’s music have been released on CD or DVD (these recordings have received prestigious Russian and international awards), and several works were performed by him for the first time. In just the last few months maestro Gergiev conducted the great 20th century Russian composer’s music in Stockholm, Vienna, Dortmund and Cardiff, while last week a cycle of seven symphonies and five piano concerti by Prokofiev was performed in Beijing.


From 5 to 8 December there will be a major tour in terms of geography covered and the intensity of performances by the Mariinsky Orchestra under maestro Gergiev to Russian cities. Over four days the Mariinsky Orchestra will present six concerts in three Russian cities, travelling between Khanty-Mansiysk and Moscow in this short space of time

From 5 to 8 December there will be a major tour in terms of geography covered and the intensity of performances by the Mariinsky Orchestra under maestro Gergiev to Russian cities. Over four days the Mariinsky Orchestra will present six concerts in three Russian cities, travelling between Khanty-Mansiysk and Moscow in this short space of time.

On Friday 5 December the Mariinsky Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev will give two concerts in Khanty-Mansiysk at the Ugra-Classic theatre and concert complex. The playbill for the matinee concert  – in line with tradition a charitable event  – includes Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and three symphonic sketches La Mer as well as Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of Modest Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The evening concert will feature Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

The Mariinsky Theatre has a longstanding history of artistic collaboration with Khanty-Mansiysk, the capital of the Ugra Region  – Mariinsky Theatre performers under maestro Gergiev appear on an annual basis at the Ugra-Classic complex which opened in December 2004. Khanty-Mansiysk has frequently appeared on the Mariinsky Theatre’s touring schedule in recent years.

On the subsequent two days (6 and 7 December) the Mariinsky Orchestra musicians will be in Samara, where they will perform three concerts at the Samara Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre as part of the programme of the VII Music Festival To Mstislav Rostropovich. The matinee concert on 6 December will be a charitable event for pupils of the region’s music schools and their teachers as well as veterans, pensioners, children and young people. The programme includes Sergei Prokofiev’s symphonic tale Peter and the Wolf and First (Classical) Symphony. The matinee concert on 7 December features Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and three symphonic sketches La Mer as well as Modest Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. At the evening concert on 7 December there will be a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

The Music Festival To Mstislav Rostropovich, organised on the initiative of Valery Gergiev and the government of the Samara Region, takes place on an annual basis. The first two festivals in 2008 and 2009 were held at the Samara State Philharmonic, while starting in 2010 all festival concerts have taken place at the Samara Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre following the completion of major reconstruction work. The festival pays tribute to the memory of the outstanding Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich (1927–2007). The exceptional talent and unbounded energy together with other unique qualities of this great musician, humanist and unusually powerful and magnetic personality made him a truly outstanding figure in the history of classical music.
On Monday 8 December the Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev will appear at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow. The evening will be dedicated to the memory of President and Chairman of the Board of the French energy company Total Christophe de Margerie (1951–2014), who tragically died in a plane crash on the night of 20-21 October. Christophe de Margerie made a huge contribution to the development of Franco-Russian economic and cultural relations. Total has supported numerous cultural projects, its idea being to strengthen relations between the two countries. Since 2006 Total has supported art projects of the Mariinsky Theatre and Valery Gergiev, such as the Moscow Easter Festival, the Stars of the White Nights music festival and tours by the Mariinsky Theatre throughout Russia’s regions. Christophe de Margerie’s contribution to international cultural exchange and humanitarian missions is hard to overestimate. It is not by chance that the programme of this concert features masterpieces of Russian and French music  – Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and La Mer as well as Modest Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition orchestrated by Maurice Ravel.

With these performances the Mariinsky Theatre’s musicians will draw to a close their tours to the Russian regions for 2014, the Year of Culture in Russia. During these tours the Mariinsky Orchestra under the baton of maestro Gergiev has performed in twenty-nine Russian cities from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, giving over fifty-five concerts, many of them with charitable aims and on an open-to-all basis.


Respected international publications have given rave reviews to the latest Mariinsky label release – an HD-format recording of Sergei Prokofiev’s legendary ballet Romeo and Juliet with choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky

Respected international publications have given rave reviews to the latest Mariinsky label release – an HD-format recording of Sergei Prokofiev’s legendary ballet Romeo and Juliet with choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky. This recording was produced at the historic Mariinsky Theatre in February-March 2013 and was released on the Mariinsky label in September this year. The lead roles are performed by Diana Vishneva (Juliet), Vladimir Shklyarov (Romeo), Alexander Sergeyev (Mercutio) and Ilya Kuznetsov (Tybalt). The Mariinsky Orchestra was conducted by Valery Gergiev. It was this production that opened the Mariinsky Ballet’s three-week tour last season to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (London). One British critic referred to Diana Vishneva and Vladimir Shklyarov’s performances as “enchanting” (The Telegraph).

Audiophile Audition magazine awarded the release its top rating of five stars: “Better image and sound than the MacMillan Royal Ballet production. I found the Mariinsky production paced very well, and was done with grace and beauty. All the dancers are strong and appropriate. Diana Vishneva as Juliette is especially beautiful and a wonderful actress as well. Altogether a great production that shines on Blu-ray.” (John Sunier)

“Every aspect of this production is as virtually flawless as a live performance can be. The power and energy generated from the pit is astounding and the picture is breathtakingly opulent. Enthusiastically recommended!” (Bruce Surtees, The WholeNote)

“The star of this Mariinsky Ballet DVD/Blu-ray two-disc set is one of the great ballerinas of our time, Diana Vishneva, and she’s the reason to buy it. Her Juliet is giddy, buoyant, luxuriant, and irrepressible, with the charisma of a silent-movie heroine. Then there’s Valery Gergiev, arguably the world’s most famous conductor, in the pit. Eschewing pretty and poetic, he gives us Prokofiev that’s passionate and even brusque. It’s breathless and often breathtaking stuff.” (Jeffrey Gantz, The Boston Globe)

“A new double play DVD and Blu-ray disc release on the Mariinsky label of a live recording of the Mariinsky Ballet in a performance of Leonid Lavrovsky’s Romeo & Juliet. Originally screened in cinemas, this new film stars Diana Vishneva and Vladimir Shklyarov, who dance in it as beautifully as they did during the opening night of the Mariinsky Baleet’s recent season at Covent Garden.” (Dancing Times)

George Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony returns to the Mariinsky Theatre’s repertoire

George Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony returns to the Mariinsky Theatre’s repertoire

Scotch Symphony stands alone among George Balanchine’s countless productions. In most of his works he strove not to divert the audience’s attention from the actual dance with plots, elaborate costumes or sets, though here Balanchine dressed his dancers in kilts, hose and tartan berets, a picturesque romantic landscape serving as the backdrop.

The choreographer created this ballet in 1952 after returning from the Edinburgh Festival, inspired by the local colour and theatrical flavour of Scottish folk parades. Scotland plunged the ballet-master in recollections of the early ballet La Sylphide, the action of which unfolds in this famously romantic nation, and he resolved to bring back to the stage the atmosphere of this masterpiece of romantic ballet, the first ever homily to female classical dance so admired by Balanchine. Balanchine brought to life the poetry of romanticism with its ethereal sylphs in airy tunics against a background of richly coloured Scottish attire to music by another romantic – Felix Mendelssohn. Apropos, the composer, too, had been inspired to write his Third Symphony, the musical basis of the ballet, following a visit to Scotland. The impetuous tempi of the wind instruments and the scherzo that opens the ballet depict scenes of folk merriment and carefree skirls of the bagpipes; the meditative refrain theme of the violins in the lyrical movement plunges the audience into the melancholy gloom of ancient legends and traditions of this northern nation.

Immersed in this entourage of romanticism and in this combination of dance and music so natural for him, Balanchine remained totally confident in his own self. There is no storytelling with various peripeteia – rather there are merely prominent hints at the fact that the protagonists belong to different worlds – the physical and the fantastical. The virtuoso structure of the choreographic themes, the sparkle of fantasy in combination with elements of classical dance and choreographic allusions to masterpieces of romanticist masterpieces such as Giselle and La Sylphide are all strung together with the bead-like quality of the lifts and the songful flight of the adagios. Moreover, as in many of Balanchine’s ballets, the dance portraits of the ballerinas formed the choreographic narrative of Scotch Symphony. Balanchine created the solo in the first movement for Patricia Wilde, a caricature dancer who performed miracles of pointe technique and comet-like smaller movements. Maria Tallchief, another of the choreographer’s favourites, on seeing the start of the production (if the ballerina’s memories are to be believed) gave a passionate sigh as she hoped that this new ballet was for her. And then, in the second movement, Balanchine transposed his attention to her and was so enamoured with the airy and broad dance of Tallchief who experienced no technical difficulties at all that in the finale he actually created nothing whatsoever for Wilde.

Scotch Symphony was the first ballet by George Balanchine to enter the repertoire of the Mariinsky (then still the Kirov) Theatre. As far back as 1989 the choreographer’s favourite dancer Suzanne Farrell succeeded in making the Leningrad dancers produce Balanchine’s speed, precision of phrasing and unusually active use of the feet. Now, her one-time pupils are coaches of the present, teaching today’s performers the “patter” of the complex combinations of leaps and the intimate slowness of the elegiac passages “to dance the music”.

Olga Makarova

From 30 November to 4 December the Mariinsky Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev will be performing a series of concerts of Russian music at major venues in Taiwan and China

From 30 November to 4 December the Mariinsky Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev will be performing a series of concerts of Russian music at major venues in Taiwan and China.

At the Tainan Municipal Cultural Center on 30 November the Mariinsky Orchestra will be presenting a programme of symphony music masterpieces by Russian composers. The concert will feature suites from the ballet Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky and the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan by Rimsky-Korsakov as well as Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

On 1 and 2 December maestro Gergiev will be conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra in two concerts in the capital of Taiwan, where there will be performances at the National Theatre and Concert Hall in Taipei. The playbill for the first evening includes the overture from Glinka’s opera Ruslan and Lyudmila, the suite from the ballet The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky, Polovtsian Dances from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Schéhérazade.
The programme for the second concert includes Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Sergei Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony. Moreover, the same evening, Mariinsky Orchestra musicians will be joined by the internationally renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who has previously worked with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev on numerous occasions. He will be performing the solo in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 17.

One key event of the tour will be a marathon-festival of music by Prokofiev which the Mariinsky Orchestra will present at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. At three concerts on 3 and 4 December there will be performances of all of Prokofiev’s symphonies and piano concerti. At the evening performances the Mariinsky Theatre under maestro Gergiev together with pianists Grace Fong, Alexei Volodin and Sergei Babayan will perform the First, Second and Seventh Symphonies and the First and Third Piano Concerti (3 December), followed by the Fourth and Sixth Symphonies and the Fourth and Fifth Piano Concerti (4 December).

At the matinee concert on 4 December Valery Gergiev will be conducting the Russo-Chinese Youth Orchestra. The programme includes the Third and Fifth Symphonies and the Second Piano Concerto. The piano solo will be performed by young Chinese pianist Haochen Zhang.
The Russo-Chinese Youth Orchestra was founded as part of a youth exchange programme between Russia and China that runs in 2014 and 2015, one of the aims of which is to increase contacts between students of both countries. The first performance by this ensemble which includes fifty Russian and sixty-three Chinese musicians took place under the baton of Valery Gergiev in March this year at the new Mariinsky Theatre (Mariinsky-II).

The performance of all of Prokofiev’s piano concerti and symphonies will continue a series of music cycles by Russian composers to whom the Mariinsky Theatre and Valery Gergiev are introducing audiences at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing – a vast cultural complex in the Chinese capital that houses several stage venues. In December 2007 during festivities to mark the opening of the centre, in the main theatre auditorium the Mariinsky Theatre presented Borodin’s opera Prince Igor. Subsequent appearances were made at the centre’s large concert hall; in September 2011 there was a performance of a series of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, while in September 2012 came four symphonies and piano concerti by Shostakovich followed in December 2013 by a marathon-festival of music by Stravinsky. Earlier this year there was a joint-Russo-Chinese production of Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, the premiere of which was conducted by Valery Gergiev in February 2014 at the Mariinsky-II and in March 2014 at the large auditorium of the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

This unparalleled marathon of piano concerti and symphonies by Prokofiev adds to the series of concerts commemorating the great 20t century Russian composer by the Mariinsky Orchestra – recently similar concerts have been held in Stockholm, Vienna, Dortmund and Cardiff, while in mid-December Valery Gergiev will be presenting a festival of music by Prokofiev in Rome.