On 10 August the Mariinsky Theatre's 226th season came to a close with a performance of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin starring young soloists Alexei Markov and Sergei Semishkur, whose recent appearances have seen them elevated to swell the ranks of the Theatre's leading soloists.
The Mariinsky Theatre's most recent season will remain memorable for several outstanding events: the world premiere of one-act operas on subjects by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol as part of a festival marking two hundred years since the author's birth; the premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's ballet The Little Humpbacked Horse; the start of the new regular Artiste of the Month programme at the Concert Hall, which has seen performances by Alexei Volodin, Denis Matsuev, Sergei Khachatryan and Yuri Bashmet; the premiere of Mariusz Trelinski's productions of Sergei Rakhmaninov's opera Aleko and Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Iolanta; appearances by top performers at the Stars of the White Nights festival, Rene Pape, Violeta Urmana, Gary Lehman, Nikolai Putilin and Yevgeny Nikitin in Richard Wagner's Parsifal; and tours by the world's leading symphony orchestras and opera and ballet companies – the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra under Christian Thielemann, the Philharmonische Oktett Berlin, Finnish National Opera, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival and the Ballet Nacional de Espana.
The Theatre continues to develop its plans of assimilating the Concert Hall as a theatre venue, and last season the Hall's repertoire was expanded to include such performances as Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Christmas Eve, Antonin Dvorak's Rusalka, Modest Musorgsky's Sorochintsy Fair, Gennady Banshchikov's The Opera of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarrelled with Ivan Nikiforovich and two productions that continue the Mariinsky Theatre's project Masterpieces of World Opera in Russian – Gioacchino Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro.
In May, the Mariinsky Theatre announced that it would be launching the independent recording company "Mariinsky" – an unprecedented event in Russia. On 11 May 2009, the label's first CD was released – Dmitry Shostakovich's opera The Nose, which has received great acclaim from both Russian and foreign critics. Recently, the company released its second disc, with recordings of Shostakovich's First and Fifteenth Symphonies. The new label will specialise in recordings of music that forms the base of the Mariinsky Theatre's repertoire and the Theatre's Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Valery Gergiev.
In June, the Mariinsky Theatre announced its mass media strategy – a plan of development in principle using cutting edge information technology. Instruments to be used in this strategy involve: the Mariinsky Theatre's media broadcasting site, created in partnership with Microsoft Russia; an automated performance management system (APMS), created with support from the World Bank for Reconstruction and Development; the recording studio of the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre; development of an HD format television station created by SONY; and showing Mariinsky Theatre performances and concerts at cinemas throughout Russia.
Opera premieres of the Mariinsky Theatre's 226th season included: Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor with Anna Netrebko, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Idomeneo (performed for the first time at the Mariinsky Theatre), Sergei Rakhmaninov's Aleko and Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Iolanta, staged by Mariusz Trelinski's, and the full-scale revival of the vast 1950 production of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's opera Mazepa, supervised by stage director Yuri Laptev.
The Theatre's ballet repertoire was expanded last season to include George Balanchine's Theme and Variations, Jerome Robbins' In the Night and Leonid Yakobson's Shurale.
In addition to the traditional Maslenitsa festival, the New Horizons festival of contemporary classical music, the Mariinsky ballet festival, the Brass Evenings at the Mariinsky festival and the Stars of the White Nights festival, the Theatre ran an unprecedented festival to mark two centuries since the birth of Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, which included the world premieres of operas written on subjects for a Mariinsky Theatre competition by young composers Svetlana Nesterova, Anastasia Bespalova and Vyacheslav Kruglik, as well as the Theatre's triumphant revival of Rodion Shchedrin's opera Dead Souls.
As in previous seasons, the Theatre has undertaken several major tours. The most important include; the Mariinsky Theatre Festival in Berlin, marking two hundred and twenty-five years of the Mariinsky Theatre; a major tour of the USA by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra featuring music by Prokofiev; Russian opera music at the Barbican, including Rodion Shchedrin's The Enchanted Wanderer and Alexander Smelkov's The Brothers Karamazov; a new stage version of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen and a two-month tour by the Mariinsky Ballet Company to Covent Garden.
The Mariinsky Theatre opens its new season on 28 September with Anna Netrebko in the title role of the opera Iolanta by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. The first premiere of the season comes with Richard Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schatten, staged by Jonathan Kent and Paul Brown, to be performed at the Mariinsky Theatre for the first time on 16 November.
On 6 August, the first part of the Mariinsky Ballet Company's tour to London came to a close. Covent Garden saw four performances of Romeo and Juliet. The tour opened on 3 August with young Mariinsky Ballet stars Alina Somova as Juliet, her debut in the role, and Vladimir Shklyarov as Romeo. London critics were unanimous in acclaiming Shklyarov as a new star of the Mariinsky Ballet Company.
"Shklyarov, another of this company's young hopes, is the most spontaneous person on stage. His dancing is ardent: excitement builds as he whips through a series of jumps, a young man caught up in his emotions. Similarly, he hurls himself into the confrontation with Tybalt – it's the one duel that actually looks like a fight. He always looks caught up in the world around him, ready to fling himself into love or battle. His dancing is clean and bold, with high jumps and strong, clear lines. It's a performance without mannerisms or ennui."
Zoe Anderson. The Independent, 5 August 2009
"Seen today, the production has many merits: a clear narrative line, elegant
courtly dances, lyrical duets, sets of faded grandeur by Pyotr Williams that
interpret Renaissance Italy with a sharp eye. What's needed here is absolute
belief and commitment on the part of the lovers at its heart, a grand gesture of
truth. And that is just what Shklyarov provides. He is heavenly, one of those
dancers who seems to regard the stage as a place he instinctively belongs.
"He jumps with natural, unforced elevation, partners with such care that Somova's feet barely brush the ground as he lowers her from soaring lifts, and acts with a sincerity that blows away all the corny posturing that surrounds him. His smile when he first encounters his Juliet is like an embrace; his pleasure as he strews lilies at her feet at their wedding touchingly tender; his despair when he realises that he will have to take up his sword and fight Tybalt unbearable. His Romeo is a real man in an unreal world.
"There is much to enjoy. Ilya Kuznetsov is a ferocious, swaggering Tybalt, Alexander Sergeyev an overly precise but vivid Mercutio, and Yana Selina full of grave grace as Juliet's companion. The orchestra under Boris Gruzin made the score sound thrillingly rich and fresh.
"But it was Shklyarov's night. In his outstanding performance, he gave a reminder of why such excitement always surrounds the Mariinsky whenever it visits; the productions may be old hat, but again and again the company produces dancers who dance like dreams and understand the art of classical ballet in their bones."
Sarah Crompton. The Daily Telegraph, 3 August 2009
"The evening's Romeo, Vladimir Shklyarov, is ardent, soaring, academically pure,
stylish. He is, as I noted last year, a blue-blood, and he shows us a vividly
Clement Crisp. The Financial Times, 4 August 2009
On 7 August, Ulyana Lopatkina and Danila Korsuntsev will be performing at Covent Garden in the ballet Swan Lake. There will be five performances of this ballet during the tour. The tour programme also features An Evening of Balanchine's Ballets and Konstantin Sergeyev's version of The Sleeping Beauty. The Mariinsky Ballet Company's tour runs until 15 August.
“90 minutes of absolute triumph” in Iolanta, “a great opera performed magnificently”, “to hear Netrebko is pure delight” and “the magical sounds of Netrebko`s soprano voice make one`s soul melt”… These were just some of the epithets awarded to the Mariinsky Theatre`s performances at the Summer Festival in Baden-Baden.
On 26 July, a unique “saison russe” came to a close at the Summer Festival at Baden-Baden`s Festspielhaus (Germany) during which the Mariinsky Theatre under Valery Gergiev presented a vast opera and symphony music programme of works by Russian composers, some of them not familiar to German audiences.
Over the week there were performances of Dmitry Shostakovich`s First, Fifth, Seventh, Thirteenth and Fifteenth Symphonies, his First Violin Concerto with soloist Sergey Khachatryan and Piano Concerto No 1 with soloist Denis Matsuev. Pianist Alexei Volodin performed the solo in Sergei Rachmaninoff`s Second Piano Concerto. The Festival`s theatre programme included the German premiere of the Mariinsky Theatre and the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus` co-production of Rachmaninoff`s Aleko and Pyotr Tchaikovsky`s Iolanta, staged by Mariusz Trelinski. In Baden-Baden, the role of Iolanta in all four performances was sung to rapturous acclaim by Anna Netrebko, according to Suddeutsche Zeitung “the uncrowned empress of All the Russias”. The German press was also enamoured by the work of Mariinsky Theatre soloists Alexei Markov and Robert and Edem Umerov as Ebn-Hakia in Iolanta and Sergei Skorokhodov as the Young Gypsy in Aleko.
“The magical sounds of Netrebko`s soprano voice make one`s soul blossom: at
the start of the opera in the arioso that resembles an emerging flower bud, as
if she were blindly reaching out for an emotion, while later – in Iolanta`s duet
with her knight – we see the whole gamut of the emotions of a human being who
has just discovered he has his entire life before him: the intonations grow from
inside, with ease they soar above the music, striving towards the
“This magnificent opera was brilliantly performed. It was hard to believe that it was Netrebko`s debut in this role – such was her confidence throughout the entire opera.”
“The opera was a demonstration of what festivals can be: here the greatest voices all came together to restore justice regarding an undeservedly rarely performed work and to imbue it with as great a degree of brilliance and sound as possible. The finest performers in this opera were Baden-Baden regulars Valery Gergiev and the orchestra, which draped silk and velvety covers of extended wind solos resembling the refined script of medieval manuscripts. And the chorus, it`s a crowning, intoxicating apotheosis. As is the cast, especially the rich baritone Alexei Markov.”
Jorg Konigsdorf, Tagesspiegel, 21.07.09
“Anna Netrebko conveys the touching naivety of the young blind girl surrounded by the anxious care of her maids. With increasing and greater power, the singer senses the unease that overwhelms Iolanta when she begins to guess that the world contains much more than just her own woodland paradise. And when love comes into her life it seems as if the entire noble sound and magnificence of Anna`s voice open up in full. To hear her singing is a pleasure.”
Monique Cantre, Reutlinger General-Anzeiger, 21.07.09
“It was ninety minutes of absolute triumph. And not just because in addition
to Netrebko there were another two first-class singers performing – Alexei Markov`s Russian-sounding baritone and Piotr Beczala`s
elegant Polish tenor – and Valery Gergiev lends sensitivity to the score, which
is imbued with the leitmotif from the Fifth Symphony, and he subjects it to the
powerful, rhythmic reign of his hand. But also because this time, together with
Polish director Mariusz Trelinski, the Russians decided in favour of a modern,
interpretative theatrical staging.”
“Anna Netrebko has not remained standing in terms of her development as a singer and no longer wishes her image to be associated with media stamps. Having become more feminine and tranquil, she has retained her poeticism. Her individuality is developing brilliantly.”
Manuel Brug, Die Welt, 20.07.09
“With the velvety, fiery, warm colours of her soprano, she ennobles the title role. Even in the dramatic scenes, for example in the coloratura duet with Polish tenor Piotr Beczala in the role of Vaudemont, the singer does not cease to demonstrate her magnificent vocal qualities. ” “The unfolding of Netrebko`s piano culture to a great degree is assisted by the accompaniment of the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra. Conductor Valery Gergiev sharpens nothing, he merely allows Tchaikovsky`s refrain-like, sweet music to flow out.” “Alexei Markov, too, is convincing with his powerful, masculine baritone; Edem Umerov also presents work conscientiously done. ” “In the opera Aleko, Sergei Skorokhodov left a bright mark with his equally brilliant, so very penetrating tenor voice.”
Georg Rudiger, Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 20.07.2009
“With such a lavish performance of Modest Musorgsky`s Pictures at an Exhibition, the stormy and lengthy ovations were quick to come. And the greatest of all came with the works by Lyadov and Rimsky-Korsakov based on folk themes, performed as encores. The audience at the Festspielhaus ecstatically welcomed Maestro Valery Gergiev and his orchestra at the start of the series of Shostakovich evenings, where music by Musorgsky is a good and intentional addition: because the great Soviet symphonist had felt his kinship with the musical language and his closeness to the artistic spiritual nature of the man who had, arguably, been the most senior member of the Mighty Group.” “In Gergiev`s interpretation, Musorgsky`s Pictures at an Exhibition emerge as a glittering parade of images, succulent illustrations and even a truly spiritual event. ” “No-one can avoid the magnetic tension that comes from Gergiev`s orchestra in Shostakovich`s First Symphony. Its severe sound that glitters and dazzles like icy crystals but does not grate or burn from within beats here, bar for bar, like the music itself.”
Isabel Herzfeld, Badische Tagblatt, 21.07.09
“Thanks to the daring, sensitive palette of instrumental sounds and the
delicate development of the subject, here there was a primordial performance of
Russian recitative opera [Aleko], which set the tone in those times.”
“At the centre of all this action [Iolanta] was Anna Netrebko, the uncrowned Empress of all the Russias. The role was written as if specially for her, beginning with the tender lyrical passages of the innocent young girl to the pathos-laden of the rousing, sighted and loving woman. Coupled together with Valery Gergiev`s orchestra, this created deeply affecting moments.”
Kristina Maidt-Zinke, Suddeutsche Zeitung, 20.07.09
“Polish director Marius Trelinski has succeeded in distilling a certain cross-section of society from this simple fabula. He shows that in the wild gypsy camp, which is celebrating a wedding amid colourful packing containers, the tragedy has already been laid that will burst forth in the finale for Aleko. And from the point of view of the cast (John Relyea as Aleko and Veronika Dzhioeva as Zemfira) the opera is just as magnificent. With the material of this score, Valery Gergiev was able to demonstrate the strong side of his orchestra – the rich wind instruments, the rich dynamism, the rich sound.”
Frank Armbruster, Stuttgarter Zeitung, 20.07.09
“Both Russian works [Aleko and Iolanta] carry a "western"
accent and power. Both operas are imbued – the hand of Wagner the great
grandfather can be felt in everything – with recitative and ariosos and the
frequently passionate openings of the arias become melodically integrated and
fluid. Often the orchestra speaks with a Wagnerian voice, trying to come through
the dense framework of the images. In Aleko there is a dance component
with an oriental flavour, and in the colouristic intermezzo one can clearly
observe a proximity to Impressionism.”
“Regarding the musical expressiveness, Baden-Baden regular Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre`s virtuoso orchestra have added a great deal indeed: a light tracing, the settled sound that, in entering an extremely tender pianissimo, reaches great emotional heights. And, ultimately, in the love duet in Iolanta, which, internally, is placed so to speak between the two last symphonies, and along with this it becomes an inspired hymn to light, to the Creator, to the universe, Gergiev`s orchestral power reaching frenzied temperatures.”
“This plateau filled with suffering is home to the arias of the lead male characters: Iolanta`s ill-fated husband, sung by Alexei Markov, a rich, high baritone, and Iolanta`s ‘true` husband sung by Piotr Beczala, a radiant tenor who, at the same time, is famed for the extremely refined portrayal of character nuances.”
“Iolanta is embodied on stage by Anna Netrebko with her marble-cool soprano, which yet still meets all Tchaikovsky`s expectations in terms of its expressiveness. Her voice has clearly grown, it has become much richer than previously and it is moving towards Tosca and Sieglinde; at the same time, the well-known timbre remains, dazzling with its thousands of colours. A singer of such scale as Piotr Beczala is quite simply "a must" in order to ensure some correspondence to the level of such a fascinating lyric tenor as Sergei Skorokhodov in the role of the young gypsy in Aleko.”
Heinz W. Koch, Badische Zeitung, 20.07.09
At London`s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, from 29 July to 15 August the Mariinsky Theatre will be performing Richard Wagner`s grandiose tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen under the baton of Valery Gergiev as well as a selection of the finest ballets in its repertoire – Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Konstantin Sergeyev`s version of The Sleeping Beauty and George Balanchine`s ballets Serenade, Symphony in C and Rubies.
The Mariinsky Opera Company will be on an important, epoch-forming tour at this renowned London theatre from 29 July to 1 August. For the first time, at Covent Garden London`s demanding audiences will see the greatest and most ambitious project by a modern Russian opera house which has been taken to almost every continent, demonstrating the wealth of Russian opera in arduous Wagnerian territory and introducing the world to next-generation Mariinsky Theatre with Richard Wagner`s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen. It should be noted that the Mariinsky Theatre is the first Russian company to perform Wagner`s tetralogy at London`s foremost theatre.
In London, the Mariinsky Theatre will be presenting a new version of Der Ring mounted after the original concept by Valery Gergiev and George Tsypin by an international team: Stage Director Alexander Zeldin, Video Designer Sven Ortel and Eurhythmics Director Tomasz Wygoda.
The lead roles in the operas in the tetralogy are to be performed by Mariinsky Theatre singers who have already won international acclaim in this highly demanding repertoire: the role of Wotan is to be performed by Yevgeny Nikitin and Mikhail Kit; the role of Siegfried by Leonid Zakhozhaev and Viktor Lutsyuk; the role of Brunnhilde by Olga Savova, Olga Sergeyeva and Larisa Gogolevskaya; the role of Fricke by Larisa Diadkova; the role of Sieglinde by Mlada Khudolei; the role of Siegmund by Avgust Amonov; the role of Alberich by Nikolai Putilin; the role of Froh by YEvgeny AKIMOV; the role of Erda by Zlata Bulycheva; the role of Mime by Andrei Popov and Vasily Gorshkov; the role of Fafner by Gennady Bezzubenkov; and the role of Hagen by Mikhail Petrenko.
On 3 August, Covent Garden will see the start of a tour by the Mariinsky Ballet Company. In London, the lead roles will be performed by both renowned stars who are adored by British audiences and young dancers making their debut performances in principal roles during such a significant tour. In Romeo and Juliet, the title roles will be performed by: Yevgenia Obraztsova, Alina Somova, Yekaterina Osmolkina and Viktoria Tereshkina (Juliet) and Igor Kolb, Denis Matvienko, Vladimir Shklyarov and Yevgeny Ivanchenko (Romeo). In Swan Lake, the role of Odette-Odile will be performed by Ulyana Lopatkina, Alina Somova, Viktoria Tereshkina, Yekaterina Kondaurova and Yekaterina Osmolkina, while the role of Prince Siegfried will be danced by Igor Kolb, Denis Matvienko, Vladimir Shklyarov and Danila Korsuntsev. The Sleeping Beauty will feature Alina Somova, Yevgenia Obraztsova and Viktoria Tereshkina as Princess Aurora; Leonid Sarafanov, Igor Kolb and Vladimir Shklyarov as Prince Desire; and Yekaterina Kondaurova and Daria Vasnetsova as the Lilac Fairy.
It should be remembered that Mariinsky Theatre traditionally tours in summer to Covent Garden and that it was the Mariinsky Theatre which was the first guest company to perform at the famous London theatre following reconstruction and refurbishment in 2001.
On 19 July, the programme Diana Vishneva: Beauty in Motion brought to a close Russia's foremost festival of music – the XVII Stars of the White Nights Music Festival. The theatre's 226th season continues until 10 August.
Over the sixty days of the festival, there were over one hundred performances and concerts, attended by almost one hundred and fifty thousand guests.
Festival performances and concert recitals included appearances by opera and ballet stars – Maria Guleghina, Violeta Urmana, Anna Netrebko, Elena Zhidkova, Rene Pape, Gary Lehman, Vladimir Galuzin, Gabor Bretz, Olga Borodina, Ildar Abdrazakov, Diana Vishneva, Svetlana Zakharova, Ulyana Lopatkina, Alina Somova, Viktoria Tereshkina, Leonid Sarafanov and Vladimir Shklyarov.
The Concert Hall played host to such venerable instrumentalists as violinist Leonidas Kavakos, pianists Rudolf Buchbinder, Lang Lang and Denis Matsuev and the Mogilevsky dynasty.
The principal event on the ballet playbill was the triumphant return of
Shurale, one of the most popular ballets by legendary choreographer Leonid Yakobson. The premiere performances were danced by Yevgenia Obraztsova, Denis Matvienko, Alexander Sergeyev, Irina Golub, Mikhail Lobukhin and Anton Pimonov.
The Concert Hall witnessed operas that are rarely performed in Russia: guest soloists Elena and Gabor Bretz dazzled in Bartok's Duke Bluebeard's Castle; Berlioz' grandiose Les Troyens under the baton of Valery Gergiev gave young soloists Yekaterina Semenchuk and Sergei Semishkur the chance to display their talents in new and complex roles; and Gelena Gaskarova and Yekaterina Solovieva demonstrated their exceptional talents in the title role of Antonin Dvorak's Rusalka.
The programme of this year's festival had a German accent. The festival was
attended by the most outstanding German ensembles: the Munich Philharmonic
Orchestra, one of the finest in Germany, under star conductor Christian
Thielemann; the Philharmonische Oktett Berlin; and the Schleswig-Holstein
Festival Chorus and Orchestra with Handel's Alexander's Feast oratorio.
The Oktett's visit coincided with a photo exhibition dedicated to legendary
conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras Wilhelm Furtwangler.
Key composer figures of the "German programme" came in the form of Beethoven and Wagner. The festival witnessed performances of all of Beethoven's symphonies and piano concerti by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, Gianandrea Noseda and Paavo Jarvi. The culmination of the festival's "German programme" came with the premiere of a new version of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, mounted by an international production team: Stage Director Alexander Zeldin, Video Projection Designer Sven Ortel and Eurhythmics Director – Tomasz Wygoda, who introduced new colours and shading to Valery Gergiev and George Tsypin's concept.