Festival’s Guide 2023
Natalia Siverina (NS): Is there a common theme that is bringing the festival program together this season?
We didn’t specify this in any special way, but you will notice that this time there is a lot of female presence at the festival, a lot of women creators. We originally thought about an exhibition called «La femme fatale», but for many reasons, including the lack of contacts with our partners — French and Austrian museums, we abandoned this idea. But we still decided to tell about women and decided to build the concept around our female goddesses, Russian actresses of the first half of the 20th century. Then we had a Chinese choreographer and an Indian choreographer, so the puzzle came together with an emphasis on the woman-creator.
NS: At the same time, there is also a very noticeable oriental accent as well.
The turn to the East is explainable, as you understand, but I want to point out that this is quite usual for us. Since 2013, i.e. for 10 years already the Festival has been working with this theme, we have brought Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, his «Sutra» with Shaolin monks, we have brought Akram Khan, who was known to very few people here at the time, and then became a star choreographer of a new formation. We brought «Giselle» in the version of South African choreographer Dada Masilo, and introduced the audience to an atypical interpretation of this story, when the main focus is on violated trust and revenge for it. Although, of course, on the whole, the festival has always been closer to European history, and the names that made our program are, first and foremost, John Neumeier, Maurice Béjart, Angelin Preljocaj, and Wayne McGregor.
But, note: choreographer Xie Xin who heads the Chinese Dance Theater Company, which will present a performance of T.I.M.E. at the festival, used to dance with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. And as for Aditi Mangaldas and her «Inside» performance, critics have written that she and Akram Khan have the same idea of the contemporary dance. So, this season’s program is not the result of a random choice, the names are intertwined.
NS: And, still, how comparable are these names to the past headliners you mentioned?
Both Aditi Mangaldas and Xie Xin are the names dominant both in their home country and in the world. I also want to emphasize that Xie Xin is very brave, for example she has a project called Ripple which she did with BalletBoyz male dance company from Glasgow, and you understand how many questions there were about how she worked with them, and she answered with oriental elegance that she was just dealing with a different level of energy, and all she had to do was to find a balance. Xie Xin is also interesting to the festival because she addresses Diaghilev’s themes, she has a version of «The Rite of Spring», unfortunately it is not danced at the moment, and a ballet to «Gnosiennes» music by Erik Satie, last year we turned to this music: we showed Maxim Sevagin’s version as part of Alexei Goribol’s «The Masquerade Ball» program.
And finally, this season at the Opéra de Paris opens with a gala featuring ballets by Crystal Pite, Marion Motin and Xie Xin’s «Horizon» opus, where the entire production team is Chinese and the dancers are French.
NS: To what extent is their language understandable to Russian viewers?
Aditi Mangaldas’ «Inside» performance is a very emotional piece, a look inside, into oneself, kathak is a temple dance; «kathoi» means «the art of storytelling». I agree that it is difficult for us to «read» the story and understand all their feelings. But of no less interest is the visual imagery, they are masterful at the technique of this dance. One should pay attention to the tiniest details, the meticulousness of the performance, the small touches, right down to the movement of the fingertips.
Xie Xin’s choreography is in some ways more comprehensible, it’s continuous meditation, modulating movements and entanglements; describing her method she herself says that she comes up with «soft and flexible movements connecting the large and small parts of the body». She also talks about being mesmerized by the free-fall movement of leaves, for example. T.I.M.E. — is a premiere of 2022, with each letter in the title denoting a life stage. T stands for Temperature and Teleportation; I stands for inner self, personally important moments and imagination; M refers to memory and mind, and E refers to energy and emotions. This performance has elicited resonance in many European countries: France, Switzerland, Spain, Luxembourg. And it will be the first time that the company will come to Russia, and I think it will be really interesting for our audience to get to know the work of a choreographer who is in demand, and right now is gaining great international recognition. Next year she has plans to work in Moscow and stage her own version of Coppélia. I think that if that happens, we will bring this ballet right after the Moscow premiere. So, just as we are following Preljocaj’s work, we will also be following the development of young choreographer Xie Xin.
NS: The Russian part of the program cannot be called specifically female.
As I said, we did not specifically declare this theme. The ballet program will be opened by a performance by the Terezin Quartet of the Nizhny Novgorod State Opera and Ballet Theatre. These are four one-act ballets to music by Erwin Schulhof, Gideon Klein, Pavel Haas, Hans Krass, composers — prisoners of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The artists dance to live music. This music is stunning, having a powerful impact, despite its chamber form. Not all of it was written in the concentration camp, some of it was written before the war. Three Russian choreographers, Tatiana Baganova, Alexander Sergeev and Maxim Petrov, as well as Alessandro Caggegi, a British dancer and choreographer of Italian origin working in Russia, have staged ballets to this music. The company is excellent, everyone is lit up and eager to show their capabilities.
The Dolgushin Time, the program of the Samara Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, was created together with Yuri Petrovich Burlaka, the well-known restorer of the ballet heritage and the theater’s chief ballet master. Unlike Pierre Lacotte who revived the fashion for old ballets, although he rather did not restore, but stylized and composed something of his own, Burlaka is trying to really restore the Leningrad choreography of the 1960s-1970s. Few people know it, but for all the closure from the world, the lack of video and trips abroad, real miracles were created here, in fact, a new language was created. For example, great Leonid Yakobson, his ballets «Rodin», «Divertissement», «The Bedbug», «Shurale», and the Vestris miniature, which he staged to the music by Leningrad’s Gennady Banshchikov in 1969 for Baryshnikov. Such a name as Igor Chernyshov, a powerful, spontaneous talent, staged more than forty ballets, few people remember him now, while Markovsky and Osipenko, Nikita Dolgushin — all the best dancers of the time — danced in them. Georgy Aleksidze’s works were very interesting, everyone who was tired of the classics wanted to dance with him. And now Burlaka, with his usual academic nobleness, is making an evening of this choreography, he has a wonderful company, he himself is a great tutor, and Samara has become a platform where one can see and understand what it was like — the golden age of Leningrad ballet.
NS: Do you want to dedicate a separate festival to it?
I’m thinking about it. He has enough material: evenings of choreography of Aleksidze, Chernyshov, Burmeister, Goleizovsky, ballets to the music by Shostakovich and many more amazing programs. We’ll see how the Dolgushin Time will be received. Note that I have put two of Chernyshov’s duets in there, I couldn’t resist that: the duet of Phrygia and Spartacus, which, by the way, will be danced by Denis Rodkin and Eleonora Sevenard, the most beautiful pair of the Bolshoi Theater, and the duet of Antony and Cleopatra. The Dolgushin time is a collective notion in this case, we are talking not only about Nikita Aleksandrovich, but in general about the time of the great Leningrad dancers, the time of Nureyev-Dolgushin-Baryshnikov. In 1961, Nureyev made his famous leap into freedom, and Dolgushin, suffocated in the atmosphere of the Kirov Theater, left for Novosibirsk. He staged sixty ballets. We will show «Armida’s Pavilion», fragments of «Carmen Suite» ballet to the music by Georges Bizet — Rodion Shchedrin with choreography by Nikita Dolgushin, which was created especially for the Samara theater company in 2003, the second act of «La Sylphide» ballet by Herman Lovenskiold with choreography by August Bournonville as reviewed by Dolgushin, also staged for the Samara Theater. I wanted to complete the festival with the white tunics of «La Sylphide», but due to the tight touring schedule of Xie Xin Chinese company: they can only come to St. Petersburg at the end of November, so they will drop the curtain. In general, this year’s festival is longer.
NS: This year you have announced a separate film program, what are those films?
We will be showing documentaries related to ballet. We have chosen the Angleterre Cinema as the venue, a place ideal for auteur films. This program is a kind of link between the festival and the museum, an appeal to the heritage. We talk about the importance of the heritage, and this was also characteristic for Diaghilev. I would like to draw attention to the «Donna Tanya» film about ballerina Tatiana Leskova, a great-granddaughter of writer Leskov, who lives in Rio de Janeiro and recently turned 100. She is full of energy and a hundred guests were invited to her centenary party. Writer Maya Kucherskaya, a winner of the Big Book Award, the author of the book about Leskov in the LOP series (Life of Outstanding People), became interested in his great-granddaughter, because Tatiana Leskova practically alone laid the tradition of classical ballet in Brazil, that is, she is the founding mother. Maya Kucherskaya got enthusiastic about making a film about it, we supported it, and on behalf of the festival we found some funds for the production. The second auteur film, «For the Sake of Spring», is dedicated to the unique ballet that changed the choreography of the 20th century: «The Rite of Spring» produced by the Belarusian General Production Center Company. The film is «charged» on Stravinsky’s music, it was assembled, if I may say so, on syncopation, on nerves, but at the same time it contains a detailed story about the phenomenon of «The Rite of Spring». The film presents reflections of world-renowned experts: Lynn Garafola, the author of the «Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet» textbook study, as well as Angelin Preljocaj, Vyacheslav Khomyakov, Maxim Petrov, Andris Liepa and other interesting speakers. The film has been shown only once, at a private screening in Minsk, so this will be the premiere. Within the framework of cooperation with the OKKO online platform, we will also show part of the four-part film about Aidan Salakhova at the site of a new cultural urban space: the Levashovsky Khlebozavod..
NS: Are you going to repeat your successful experience with the «What? Where? When?» themed game?
Yes, we decided to play «What? Where? When?» again, making the tradition of the Orient in the Russian theater the main theme. This is a huge topic, as the theater was nourished on this source from the late 18th century to the first third of the 20th century, from «Caesar in Egypt» and «La Bayadere» to «The Red Poppy». The game will take place in the Atrium of the General Headquarters of the Hermitage. In addition, the Hermitage has also offered a form of cooperation: practically during the days of our festival they will be holding two large conferences, one devoted to China and the other to India and the Far East. Our audience will be able to use a promo code to attend the events of these conferences, and the Hermitage audience, in turn, will be able to receive promo codes for attending the events of the festival.
NS: Which actresses will the exhibition in the Sheremetev Palace be dedicated to?
I’ll start by saying that the festival will open with Alexei Goribol’s «The Poet’s Love» program partly inspired by the subject of our exhibition, as it is dedicated to creators and their muses. Schumann and Clara Wieck, «The Poet’s Love» cycle will be performed; Mahler and Alma Mahler, the «Adagietto» will sound, Roland Petit staged «La rose malade» for Maya Plisetskaya to this music; then Weber’s «Invitation to Dance» which is associated with two actresses at once: Tamara Karsavina who danced the premiere in Fokine’s choreography, and Zinaida Reich, the famous Marguerite Gautier in «La Dame aux Camelias» at the Meyerhold Theater. It was Weber who became the main musical theme of the performance. The second part will feature the poem «How Good, How Fresh Were the Roses| by Ivan Myatlev. There are several works on it, in particular Arensky’s recitation to music dedicated to Vera Komissarzhevskaya, the heroine of the exhibition, which will be performed. Then Prokofiev’s cycle on poems by Akhmatova for voice and piano, and in the finale there will be songs by Isaak Dunayevsky. The program features the Bolshoi Theatre’s young soprano soloist Albina Latipova, remarkable baritone Boris Pinkhasovich, BDT artist Taras Bibich, and musicians from the musicAeterna orchestra at the State Capella.
Goribol’s program forestalls the museum exhibition «The Judgment of Paris. Birth of a Goddess» which will be housed in the Kitchen (Polar) wing of the Sheremetev Palace, in four halls. The first hall will contain portraits of different divas, famous and not so famous, but all of them were idols of the public of their time. The second hall «The Road to Olympus» is dedicated to two actresses Maria Savina and Vera Komissarzhevskaya, their rivalry. The third hall «The Road to Golgotha» is dedicated to the tragic fates of Zinaida Reich and Alisa Koonen, and the fourth hall «The Bright Path», as you can guess from the name, will tell about Lyubov Orlova and Marina Ladynina. Paris is a metaphor, of course. In the context of these women’s fates, it is the public and it is the power. In order to tell about the drama of the life stories, we have arranged the texts in the exhibition in the form of social network pages with comments from friends and foes. The exhibition presents the best portraits from the collection of our Theater Museum and our permanent partners: the Russian Museum, the Tretyakov Gallery, the A.A. Bakhrushin Theater Museum, the State Hermitage Museum, and the Museum of the Academy of Arts. Masterpieces from private collections which rarely appear in public will surprise and delight, and some works by Alfred Eberling and Rustam Khamdamov will appear for the first time! A detailed richly illustrated catalog will be published, and the texts in it are a fascinating commentary on different theatrical eras.
I think Sergei Pavlovich would appreciate our efforts.