The Rake’s Progress
Boris Pokrovsky Chamber Opera Theater
Photos supplied by the Moscow Chamber Opera Theatre
This lovely little music theatre is located in the heart of downtown Moscow on Nikolskaya Street, just a few blocks away from Red Square. Few know that it is located in the former complex of Slavyansky Bazar where in 1897 there was a historic meeting of Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, the founders of Moscow Art Theatre.
Boris Pokrovsky, a world famous opera stage director, established the Moscow Chamber Opera Theatre in 1972, prior to serving as the stage director of the Bolshoi Theatre. The theatre adopted his name in September 2009 shortly after his death. From 2010 the theatre has a tradition of holding a retrospective showcase of Pokrovsky’s performances in addition to organizing the annual festival that bears his name.
Igor Stravinsky’s opera The Rake’s Progress, the latest opening night of this theatre, is a reconstruction of the original production of 1978. This was also when the opera was staged in Russia for the first time by Boris Pokrovsky and a prominent Russian conductor Genady Rozhdestvensky (who also served as the leading conductor of the same theatre at the time).
The actual opera was created in the middle of the 20th century based on the series of coloured prints by William Hogarth. The series consisted of eight pictures showing the reckless life of Tom Rakewell, the son of a rich merchant, who wastes all his money on luxurious living, whoring, and gambling, and ultimately finishes his life in Bethlem Royal Hospital: Bedlam. The opera was first staged in Venice in 1951 under Stravinsky’s supervision and later was performed in numerous theatres and festivals.
I was never a fan of Stravinsky but yet I was curious to discover this new theatre, which I admit I’ve never been
to before. The production turned to be really impressive. The singers did a superb job using both techniques and emotions. The set design portrayed Hogarth’s coloured prints to take us back to the original plot. The only downside to the whole experience was the very uncomfortable seating at the theatre. The space between the rows is rather limited, so anyone with long legs might have trouble sitting through an over three hour production with one intermission.
March 19, 20
Boris Pokrovsky Chamber Opera Theater
Address: 17 Nikolskaya str.
Enemies: History of Love
This play, which opened in February, is based on the novel of a famous American writer Isaak Bashevis-Zinger who immigrated to the USA from Poland in the mid-1930s. The production director is Evgeny Arnie, the founder and artistic director of the Israeli theatre Gesher (Hebrew for bridge), where the play was originally staged. After several years of negotiations, Galina Volchek, the Sovremennik artistic director convinced Arnie to stage this play in Moscow. The co-author of this production is Semyon Pastukh who created very impressive set designs that deserve a separate article.
The play is set in New York City, in the middle of the 20th century. The main hero of the play is a Polish immigrant, German Broder, who survived a German concentration camp. Even though he was able to escape to the USA, unlike millions of others who perished in the camps, he is unable to figure out his life and to decide what’s good or bad for him and for people around him. The play is really about the loneliness of the human condition.
The theatre uses an original way to separate different scenes of the play from each other—three sliding walls. The production is very dynamic, and emotions are revealed to the fullest. The acting is superb: several super new Sovremennik talents,
such as Chulpan Khamatova, Sergey Ushkevich, Alena Babenko play the leading roles.
When: March 2, 3, 25, 26
Address: 19 Chistoprudnyi Blvd.
Phone: 495- 621-64-73
This theatrical experience leaves you with a thrilling feeling. It reminded me of Aristotle’s idea of catharsis through watching tragedy on the stage. Even though it’s quite a sad story, I highly recommend watching this remarkable production.
The Inspector General Malaya Bronnaya Theatre
Malaya Bronnaya Theatre
Gogel’s immortal comedy The Inspector General opened at the Malaya Bronnaya Theatre recently. Every Russian remembers this play from their childhood and the lines “Gentlemen, I have gathered you here to give you some very unpleasant news—we have the Inspector General coming for a visit” became a real catch phrase. This play has been performed on the theatre stage for the past 200 years. The issues of bribery, corruption, lawlessness are still as topical today as they were during Gogol’s time.
Lots of school children who came to see the performance on the same night were a little surprised, to put it mildly, by what they saw. Sergey Golomazov, the artistic director, decided to shift the action of the play to the beginning of the 20th century. Nobody expected to see a boat plonked down right in the middle of the stage, even before the performance started. I heard people sitting behind me trying to refresh their memories of Gogol and all came to the conclusion that they couldn’t actually remember anything related to sailing in the original play. The worst thing was to see the mayor’s wife wearing a traditional Japanese dress appearing on the stage with the music from the Madame Butterfly opera.
I am personally not a big fan when directors for some reason or other change the
time where the action takes place. Classical plays by Gogol or Ostrovsky no doubt raise eternal problems of society, which will always be acute. There is no need to emphasize this by dramatically changing the place or time of the action. So if you are into such modernization and fresh outlook you will most likely enjoy this place. If you don’t, don’t bother to see it.
When: March 2, 11
Malaya Bronnaya Theatre,
Address: 4 Malaya Bronnaya st.
Phone: 495- 690-67-31, 690-40-93