Sergei Banevich (1941–) is rightly acclaimed as a classic of children's music. The key to the composer's success may be seen perfectly through his own words: "As a professional musician I am convinced that classical music, indeed any music in general, makes a young person pull him – or herself together and look at him – or herself, because a child has a huge, interesting and spiritual world that is of no less importance than the spiritual world of an adult. True music can awaken that world."
Banevich's work is linked not just with music education (he has founded international children's music festivals in St Petersburg), but also with attracting children to musical theatre. For young audiences he began to compose at the very start of his creative career. "To write operas and operettas for children, based on contemporary intonations. And at the same time to use the experience of Sergei Prokofiev, but to combine its achievements with the music of modern life, taking the best it has to offer," is how the composer describes the task he faces.
Several generations have grown up with Banevich's music. The composer has an excellent understanding of the ways that young children perceive things and has an ability to compose accessible yet professional music for them. His works include the operas The Little Town in the Snuff-Box, Twelve Months, Ferdinand the Magnificent, How We Switched on the Night and the ballets The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina and Bambi to name but a few.
Murych the Cat (2017) is Banevich's fifth opera for the Mariinsky Theatre. Last season, the historic stage saw the revival of The Story of Kai and Gerda, while the chamber Prokofiev Hall hosted the premiere of the opera The Brave Hare. One year earlier came productions of An Opera about Porridge, a Cat and Milk and Scenes from the Life of Nikolenka Irtenev, which proved popular with younger Mariinsky Theatre audiences. The story about the resourceful and somewhat boastful cat Murych, who celebrates his birthday with his family and friends, is targeted at the youngest audiences and finds a keen response from both children and their parents.