– 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.”
From 2 to 8 October the Mariinsky Ballet will be performing at the Ravenna Music Festival.
The music festival, which brings major music and theatre talents to this ancient Italian city on an annual basis, celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. Music itself is traditionally the festival’s stronghold, though its venues – including not just theatres but magnificent Byzantine basilicas, monasteries and public squares in Ravenna – will introduce audiences to the greatest international achievements in dance, drama, jazz and ethnic music in addition to opera performances and concerts of classical music. In Ravenna the Mariinsky Theatre will be presenting three programmes. On 2, 3 and 7 October at the Teatro Alighieri there will be performances of Swan Lake with Olga Esina and Xander Parish, Anastasia Kolegova and Yevgeny Ivanchenko and Viktoria Tereshkina and Kimin Kim in the lead roles. On 5 October the company will give two performances of the ballet Giselle with Kristina Shapran and Kimin Kim and Anastasia Kolegova and Yevgeny Ivanchenko. On 6 October Giselle will feature Oxana Skorik and Xander Parish (recipients of the 2014 Léonide Massine Prize, presented to them on 6 September in Positano in Italy). On 4 and 8 October the programme features the one-act ballets Chopiniana and Apollo as well as George Balanchine’s Rubies. Italian audiences will see Xander Parish as Apollo, Viktoria Tereshkina and Kimin Kim and Nadezhda Batoeva, Filipp Stepin and Sofia Gumerova in the lead roles in Rubies. The Mariinsky Ballet’s performances will be preceded by 3D screenings of the ballets Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Giselle recorded at the Mariinsky Theatre.
For details of the Mariinsky Theatre’s performances in Ravenna please go to the festival’s official website: http://www.ravennafestival.org/
The new season at the Mariinsky Theatre: for the first time at seven venues at the Mariinsky Theatre, the Mariinsky-II and the Concert Hall there will be around one hundred performances and concerts each month. There will be cultural and educational programmes for children and young people on an unprecedented scale, as well as major Russian tours.
The new 232nd season opens on 26 September with the ballet Swan Lake at the historic Mariinsky Theatre and Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Il trovatore at the Mariinsky-II with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra and a stellar cast including Tatiana Serjan, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Alexei Markov and Hovhannes Ayvazyan. The season at the Concert Hall opens with a recital by Alexei Volodin on 27 September.
A year of Tchaikovsky. Marking 175 years since his birth
2015 will pass under the auspices of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, marking one hundred and seventy-five years since the birth of the great Russian composer for whom St Petersburg was his city in childhood, youth, glory and death. The Mariinsky Theatre’s repertoire includes all of the composer’s ballets, five of his operas and his symphony and chamber music. This date will be marked by performances and concerts. The anniversary year will also see the premiere of a new production of the opera The Queen of Spades (Stage Director – Alexei Stepanyuk) which will open the Stars of the White Nights festival. The XV International Tchaikovsky Competition, which runs from 23 June to 3 July 2015 in Moscow and St Petersburg, will be held at the Mariinsky Theatre among other host venues.
The potential of the Mariinsky-II will be truly brought to life: the four chamber halls, which began to function at full capacity last season, will be filled with rich events: there will be interactive sessions for children as part of the continuing children’s subscription series as well as new programmes targeted at audiences from age three to students; there will be appearances by musicians of the Mariinsky Orchestra and soloists of the Academy of Young Opera Singers in the Music Hour format; there will also be lectures and concerts by the city’s leading music historians. Much focus will be centred around music by 20th century and contemporary composers.
The first of the opera premieres of the new season is planned for 29 and 30 October 2014 – French stage director Alain Maratrat will be mounting a production of Gioachino Rossini’s opera Il barbiere di Siviglia. 31 January 2015 will see the premiere of 20th century Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti’s opera Assassinio nella cattedrale, to be directed by Vasily Barkhatov. The XXIII Stars of the White Nights music festival will open at the Mariinsky-II with the premiere of a new production of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades staged by Alexei Stepanyuk, while in June 2015 Claudia Solti will be staging Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La traviata. Anna Matison will be presenting a new stage version of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Golden Cockerel. At the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre there will be a premiere of Vladimir Tarnopolsky’s musical tale A True Story about Cinderella for adults accompanied by children. Also there on 11 November there will be a concert performance of the Soviet composer Antonio Spadavecchia’s opera The Gadfly which in the late 1950s was staged by major opera houses throughout the Soviet Union – in Riga, Kharkov, Perm, Chelyabinsk and Kuibyshev. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Christmas Eve will take on new life at the Mariinsky-II.
Ballet premieres of the season promise audiences a broad range of choreographic genres, ranging from classical productions to modern dance; there will be a production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and Yuri Grigorovich’s The Stone Flower. The ballet playbill will see revivals of Reinhold Glière’s The Bronze Horseman and Scotch Symphony to music by Felix Mendelssohn with choreography by George Balanchine.
The new season promises to be rich in debuts: Olga Esina, who returns to the Mariinsky Ballet from the Wiener Staatsballett, will be dancing lead roles at the Mariinsky Theatre for the first time, among them Nikia in Minkus’ La Bayadère and the title role in Glazunov’s Raymonda, Kristina Shapran – a new Mariinsky Ballet soloist – will be appearing in lead roles in the ballets Giselle to music by Adolphe Adam, Le Parc to music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and Ludwig Minkus’ La Bayadère and Oxana Skorik will be performing as Aurora in Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty and the title role in Rodion Shchedrin’s ballet Anna Karenina. Vladimir Shklyarov will be making his debut as Ali-Batyr in Farid Yarullin’s Shurale, Timur Askerov and Andrei Yermakov will be performing the lead male role in Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, Xander Parish will be appearing as Prince Désiré in Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Sleeping Beauty and Kimin Kim will be performing the role of the Prince in Prokofiev’s Cinderella. The ballet company will also be engaged in a key activity for the Mariinsky Theatre – the training of the next generation; there will be debuts by talented students of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in repertoire productions alongside members of the company in addition to the academy’s traditional graduation performances.
Tradition and innovation
The Mariinsky Theatre is one of the few theatres in the world that presents different and often polar versions of one and the same work, as may be seen from the 2014-2015 playbill: Modest Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov staged by Andrei Tarkovsky and Graham Vick, Yuri Temirkanov and Alexei Stepanyuk’s versions of Eugene Onegin and Andrei Konchalovsky and Graham Vick’s productions of War and Peace.
The playbill for the Concert Hall in the new season comprises mainly symphony and chamber music programmes as well as opera productions staged specifically for the Concert Hall such as Ariadne auf Naxos, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, L’elisir d’amore, Aida and May Night, while the number of choral programmes has increased significantly; alongside the popular Requiems of Giuseppe Verdi and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart the playbill for the Concert Hall features Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem which opens the choral playbill on 29 September, Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Matthäus-Passion, George Frideric Handel’s The Messiah, Giacomo Puccini’s Messa, Sergei Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible and Rodion Shchedrin’s Boyarina Morozova, this new subscription will feature appearances by Russia’s largest children’s choruses. The Mariinsky Theatre will continue its important policy of inviting young and starting-out musicians – instrumentalists, conductors and entire ensembles.
Debuts at the Mariinsky
Performing at the Mariinsky Theatre is an honour for any brilliant musician. Hence the greater responsibility of “new names” at the Mariinsky – this “recommendation” can prove a defining point in the careers of young performers and offers them the opportunity to promote themselves before St Petersburg’s demanding audiences – even for established musicians who are appearing on the Mariinsky Theatre playbill for the first time, with the Concert hall hosting appearances by pianists Eric Schneider (5 October), Tae-Hyung Kim (8 October), Mikhail Yanovitsky (21 October), Dmitry Onishchenko (16 November) and Xavier Phillips (23 November), the Tchiki Duo percussion (marimba) duet (10 October), violinists Leticia Moreno (11 October)and Vadim Gluzman (26 November) and clarinettist Igor Fedorov (22 October). Several debuts will take place during the Organ Festival with concerts featuring Gunther Rost, David Briggs and Maxime Patel.
Education projects at the Mariinsky Theatre:
The new project Art Schools Visiting the Mariinsky Theatre is targeted towards young musicians. The theatre will be offering St Petersburg’s music schools and art schools the opportunity to run review-concerts in the chamber venues of the Mariinsky-II. The music schools will form the programme of these concerts independently and depending on the participants’ preferences. The first concerts are scheduled for November.
Yet another new project comes with the series of free weekly chamber concerts Open Wednesdays at the Mariinsky, which will allow the public to become more familiar with the orchestra’s musicians and young instrumentalists in chamber format at the various halls of the Mariinsky-II; this series starts in October. Every Wednesday musicians of the Mariinsky Orchestra and guest performers will offer audiences programmes of works from the international classical repertoire from eras ranging from Bach to Shchedrin and including rarely performed music by such composers as André Jolivet, Eugène Ysaÿe and Bohuslav Martinů. Each concert can be heard just once – neither the same musicians nor the same programme will be repeated.
At the chamber venues of the Mariinsky-II we continue our series of interactive sessions for young and school-age children (3-8 years), which have proved tremendously popular – Piccolo at the Mariinsky and Music Told in Tales of Sand.
The cultural-educative programme The Soul of St Petersburg – the Mariinsky Theatre features a brief introductory lecture to the basic concepts of musical theatre, an excursion of the public areas of the Mariinsky-II and a theatrical divertissement with the Mariinsky Academy of Young Opera Singers. This season guests include school-pupils from over twenty Russian regions, from the Kamchatka and Magadan Regions to Ingushetia and Adygea, who will be visiting the city as part of the school tourism project My Russia: Peter’s City, run by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.
We continue the series of lectures and concerts as part of the interactive sessions Bead-Play: Inside Music and beyond Its Confines for middle-school pupils given by the best music and theatre historians of St Petersburg. These lectures and concerts feature soloists of the Mariinsky Theatre and Orchestra.
Each day of the new season the Mariinsky Theatre will be admitting over two hundred year-10 pupils from St Petersburg schools as part of the project A Theatre Lesson at the Mariinsky. Teenagers will discover the backstage premises of the Mariinsky-II and undertake a team task – creating their own design for a theatre production and attending an opera or a ballet at one of the theatre’s three stage venues. This project, unique in terms of scale, inclusion and intensiveness of content, was inaugurated by the theatre last season with the active support of the St Petersburg City Government and received lofty praise from teachers and participating school-pupils.
This season the series of master-classes Valery Gergiev’s Arts Centres given by leading members of the orchestra and chorus masters of the Mariinsky Theatre as well as teachers of the faculty of arts of the St Petersburg State University will run from 12 to 19 October. Pupils from music schools and middle and upper special academic institutions that focus on professional musical or arts education are invited to take part in the lessons. After the master-classes there will be concerts, exhibitions and a prize-giving ceremony for the participants.
Festivals in the new season
24 – 30 October 2014
The International Organ Festival is being run for the second time. Over the course of five days the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre will become a focal point for culture in St Petersburg – there will be debuts at the Concert Hall by: Gunther Rost (24 October), a prize-winner at more than ten organ competitions, a recipient of Bavaria’s State award “For Achievements in the Arts” and a professor of organ and improvisation at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz (Austria); David Briggs (28 October), the staff organist of Gloucester Cathedral and a professor of the British Royal Academy of Music; Maxime Patel (26 October), an organist known both in Europe and beyond. Festival participants at the Concert Hall also include Lada Labzina (25 October), an Honoured Artist of the Republic of Tatarstan, senior lecturer in organ and harpsichord at the Kazan State Zhiganov Conservatoire and Art Director of the State Bolshoi Saydashev Concert Hall in Kazan, and organist and improviser Thierry Escaich (30 October) – a world-famous composer (having created over one hundred opuses), teacher and recipient of numerous music awards.
The Mariinsky Piano Festival
23 – 28 December 2014 and 5 – 11 April 2015
The next series of the international festival presents both young and established pianists, each with his or her own inimitable style. This season the festival will be held at several venues – the Concert Hall, the main stage and the concert venues of the Mariinsky-II.
The Maslenitsa festival
16 - 22 February 2015
An annual festival that runs during Shrovetide. The Mariinsky Theatre returns to the glorious tradition of Shrovetide festivities, alternating public celebrations with humorous performances; audiences will have the opportunity to see vivid opera and ballet productions, generally based on fairy-tales.
The Mariinsky international ballet festival
12 – 22 March 2015
The traditional Mariinsky international ballet festival is taking place for the fifteenth time. Each year the festival presents productions from the classical repertoire, premieres and new projects featuring stars of the Mariinsky Ballet and outstanding guest dancers. The festival will see the continuation of the project The Young Choreographers’ Workshop – a programme that gives young ballet masters the opportunity to demonstrate their skills to an audience. As part of the Workshop there will be a premiere of a full-evening ballet by young choreographer Anton Pimonov, two of whose ballets are already in the company’s repertoire.
The Stars of the White Nights festival – one of the world’s largest international music forums – will take place in June-July 2015 at three venues including the possibilities of the Mariinsky-II’s chamber venues. The festival is currently considered one of the ten best festivals in the world. Over the course of twenty-two years, the Stars of the White Nights festival has expanded from ten days to sixty-five.
From 2014 the festival will be held at three main venues (the Mariinsky Theatre, the Mariinsky-II and the Concert Hall) as well as the four chamber halls of the new theatre.
Each year the festival programme comprises the finest operas and ballets on the theatre’s repertoire as well as premieres, tremendous symphony concerts and masterpieces of chamber music. The galaxy of dazzling Mariinsky Theatre performers and international guest stars will be augmented by talented young performers in the festival programme.
Mariinsky Theatre Festivals in Russia
The Moscow Easter Festival
12 April – 9 May 2015
The fourteenth season of the Moscow Easter Festival will run from 12 April to 9 May 2015 and will commemorate two auspicious dates – the 70th anniversary of Victory Day in WW-II and the Great Patriotic War as well as the 175th anniversary of the birth of the great Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
The Mstislav Rostropovich Music Festival
The Mstislav Rostropovich Music Festival is being run for the seventh time this year. The Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev will be performing at the Samara Opera and Ballet Theatre in early December. The festival will feature a Russian tour by the Mariinsky Theatre and will culminate in a “pre-New Year” musical tribute to Moscow.
Mariinsky Theatre tours in the 2014-2015 season
The Mariinsky Ballet: in October the Mariinsky Ballet will be appearing at the Ravenna Festival. At the Teatro Alighieri the Mariinsky Ballet will present its classical repertoire: on 2, 3 and 7 October there will be Swan Lake; on 4 and 8 October there will be the one-act ballets Chopiniana and Apollo as well as Rubies from George Balanchine’s ballet Jewels. On 5 and 6 October the company will give three performances of the ballet Giselle. The arrival of the Mariinsky dancers will be heralded by 3D performances of the ballets Swan Lake and Giselle, filmed at the Mariinsky Theatre. In November the ballet company will perform Le Corsaire in Rio de Janeiro and subsequently in São Paulo. In December in Baden-Baden there will be performances of Raymonda, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Late January and early February will see the start of a tour by the ballet company to Washington.
In October the Mariinsky Opera will be performing in Astana, where it will present two parts of Richard Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen – Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. In November in Birmingham Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen will be performed in full. On 2 November in Cardiff in Wales Mariinsky Theatre soloists and the Chorus and Orchestra will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Betrothal in a Monastery, while on 3-5 November at the Barbican in London there will be performances of Modest Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Rodion Shchedrin’s The Lefthander and Valery Gavrilin’s The Chimes.
Under Valery Gergiev the Mariinsky Orchestra opens the season with Russian tours: On 5 October there will be two concerts at the Tomsk Philharmonic, while on 6 and 7 October there will be three concerts in Vladivostok at the new Primorsky Opera and Ballet Theatre. The musicians will subsequently appear in Khabarovsk (19 October)and Kemerovo (20 October). The ensemble then departs for Japan, marking the first foreign tour of the season. The programme of the tour focusses on works by Stravinsky, Shchedrin, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky as well as Mahler, Brahms and Strauss. In late October the Mariinsky Orchestra will be appearing in Frankfurt together with violinist Nicola Benedetti. There will be a monograph series of concerts of works by Sergei Prokofiev in Austria and Germany: in Vienna (27, 28 October)there will be performances of his First and Second Symphonies and all of his piano concerti with soloists Behzod Abduraimov, Alexei Volodin, Sergei Babayan and Denis Kozhukhin; in Dortmund (31 October and 1 November) there will be performances of all of the composer’s piano concerti, the opera Betrothal in a Monastery with the theatre’s soloists and chorus and music for the ballet Cinderella as well as the oratorio Ivan the Terrible. On 9 December in Turin the orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony and Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. On 10-12 December in Rome the orchestra will present a marathon of works by Sergei Prokofiev: all of his symphonies and Violin Concerto No 2 with soloist Leonidas Kavakos. There will be an extensive tour of the USA by the orchestra from 24 January to 6 February, taking the musicians to Troy, Morristown, Chapel Hill, Daytona Beach, Naples and Miami. In summer, in accordance with tradition the Mariinsky Orchestra will be performing at the Mikkeli Festival at the Baltic Sea Festival.
Tours at the Mariinsky Theatre
On 14-15 October the Peking Opera will be performing at the historic Mariinsky Theatre for the first time; one of China’s oldest and most acclaimed theatres, it will be performing the traditional Legend of the White Snake and Lady Mu Guiying Takes Command.
Throughout the season the Concert Hall will host performances by such famed ensembles as the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra (3 October), the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne (3 November), the Philadelphia Virtuosi chamber orchestra (8 November), the Venice Baroque Orchestra (5 December) and the Musicians of Rome chamber orchestra.
One of the theatre’s most important activities is inviting symphony orchestras from cities throughout Russia to perform at the Concert Hall – this season at the Mariinsky Theatre there will be concerts by the Symphony Orchestra and the State Primorsky Opera and Ballet Theatre as well as the State Symphony Orchestra of the Republic of Tatarstan.
Film production at the Mariinsky Theatre
During the 2014-15 season there will be a series of film screenings recorded in the 2013-14 season of Ludwig Minkus’ ballet La Bayadère with classical choreography by Marius Petipa and Sergei Prokofiev’s opera War and Peace staged by Graham Vick. During the Stars of the White Nights festival there will be live broadcasts of works to music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky as well as a premiere of the opera The Queen of Spades and the ballet The Sleeping Beauty.
The Mariinsky Theatre – a historic guardian of the values of russian music and theatre art
The Mariinsky Theatre is a unique artistic and historic phenomenon in Russian and world music. It has presented the world with amazing artists in performances and concert series at three venues. But, moreover, the Mariinsky Theatre is also a historic guardian of the values of Russian music and theatre art with its unique and rich archive.
To mark the anniversary of Modest Musorgsky’s birth the theatre has prepared an exhibition revealing documents and interesting facts concerning the first ever production of the composer’s opera Boris Godunov at the Mariinsky Theatre. The original manuscript and the composer’s personal request to the theatre’s board to accept the work to be staged as a production will all be available to view at an exhibition that runs for the first weeks of the new season.
For the coming year a similar exhibition is planned featuring documents and manuscripts of Pyotr Tchaikovsky to mark one hundred and seventy-five years since the composer’s birth.