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New horizons of the Perm Opera: the biggest Diaghilev Festival, three Golden Mask awards and seven premieres

The 145th theatre season at the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre closes on 30 June 2017. A performance of La traviata at the Golden Mask festival in Perm, premieres of the Diaghilev Festival and the resounding success of the orchestra, choir and ballet artists on the European tour were amongst this season’s event highlights.


Opera connoisseurs were treated to three new productions: Alexei Syumak’s opera Cantos, commissioned by the theatre and directed by Semion Aleksandrovsky, Philipp Himmelmann's interpretation of Giacomo Puccini's La bohème, and the Russian premiere of Ana Sokolović's Svadba (Wedding) directed by Anton Adasinsky.

The first premiere of the Perm Opera season was Cantos (“Songs” in Greek), inspired by the American writer Ezra Pound (1885—1972), one of the founders of modernism in Anglophone literature. The chamber action unfolds on stage with the music featuring a solo instrument instead of a conventional solo voice.

La bohème — a gem of late 19th century lyrical psychological opera — was presented to the public in May.  In Philipp Himmelmann's interpretation, the opera is set in Paris in 1968.  The Perm production of La bohème is now being screened in 88 cinemas in 53 cities across Russia till 30 September.  The showing times can be viewed on the Theatre HD website.

The third opera premiere of the season — Ana Sokolović’s Svadba (Wedding) — is perhaps her most significant work to date. It is an opera for six soloists which is performed a cappella, without any orchestral accompaniment.  The libretto is based on texts from Balkan folk songs and conveys the ritual of preparing a bride for her wedding. The director Anton Adasinsky has created a performance in which words are duplicated by gestures, while on stage, opera singers and contemporary dancers rub shoulders with one another. 

The 145th season saw four ballet premieres: Cinderella and three ballets to the music of Stravinsky (Le baiser de la fée, Petrushka, and The Firebird).

The new interpretation of Sergei Prokofiev's Cinderella, choreographed by the principal ballet master of the theatre Alexey Miroshnichenko, was first shown in December 2016. The idea to set the ballet in the 1950s and within a theatre environment was conceived by artistic director Teodor Currentzis. The "theatre within a theatre" approach allows the story to be placed simultaneously within the Soviet environment as well as that of the magic fairy-tale space.

Three of Stravinsky's ballets — Le baiser de la fée, Petrushka, and The Firebird — marked the close of the 2017 Diaghilev Festival. Two of the brightest stars in ballet today — Diana Vishneva and Natalia Osipova — took to the stage on May 25th to perform the lead roles (an unprecedented luxury for the audience!).

The choreographer of the first part of the ballet night was Viacheslav Samodurov, the artistic director of the Ekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre ballet corps.  In The Fairy's Kiss, Samodurov managed to move away from the "story" with motifs from Andersen’s story “The Ice-Maiden” in the libretto, creating a ballet "where narrative and abstraction converge."

The choreographer of the second ballet, Vladimir Varnava, working with the character of Petrushka, focused on two topics: the opposition of creative individuality to the aggressive crowd and the free will of the artist in the context of a real-life scenario.  The visual concept, developed by Galya Solodovnikova, is constructed using the “theatre within a theatre” device: the staging of the puppet show happens on the actual space of the stage itself. 

In his version of The Firebird, principal ballet master of the Perm Ballet, Alexey Miroshnichenko took audiences on a tour through the styles of the main choreographers of the XXI-XX centuries in reverse chronological order, beginning in the present and going back to Mikhail Fokine, the creator of the first choreographed version of the ballet.  The anthology idea was reinforced in the set design as well as the costumes by Alyona Pikalova and Tatiana Noginova, all based on iconic artistic symbols from the eras in which the choreographers worked.


In May, the Perm Opera and Ballet theatre hosted the XI International Diaghilev Festival — the biggest one in its history. It encompassed 40 hours of live music, 77 Festival Club events, 28 educational programme sessions, and 6 exhibitions, with the aim of closing the gap between the audience and the achievements of contemporary musical theatre. The festival was held across 11 venues in Perm (more than in any previous years). 14,000 people watched 56 shows from the main programme.

Besides Stravinsky's three ballets, the festival was the first venue at which spectators could watch the choreographic performance of The Decay of an Atom by the Liliya Burdinskaya Dance Company. World music premieres included Anton Batagov's piano cycle WHERE WE ARE NOT. Letters of Mother Superior Seraphima and Alexei Syumak's composition The Stranger


In 2016 Perm celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Perm Ballet. Today it would be inconceivable to separate the words "Perm" and "ballet" and have one without the other. The "Perm Ballet" brand is known all over the world. It encompasses both the troupe of the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre and the school — the Perm Choreographic College. The ballet troupe was 90 years old in 2016, and the college celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2015. Two gala concerts organised in September showcased the artists’ talents and the scope of today's repertoire. The programme included both academic variations and modern pieces.

And as if proof were needed, the advanced level of the troupe’s performances is further reinforced by the full houses its performances continue to attract — both at home and on tours abroad — as well as the critics' dazzling reviews. In 2016 the Perm ballet was named best company and its head, Alexey Miroshnichenko as best ballet master, by the renowned ballet and dance magazine Dance Europe.


The theatre artists’ busy schedule of Perm performances did leave some time for touring.

During the 145th season, the musicAeterna musicians gave 13 concerts in Germany, performed 4 times in Austria, Switzerland and Italy (including in Venice in anticipation of the Venice Biennale) and gave concerts in Poland, Greece, Belgium, the UK and France. In Russia, they gave three concerts in Moscow and one in Saint Petersburg.
The ballet troupe gave five spectacular performances of Swan Lake on Canada’s largest stage. In Russia, the Perm Ballet danced at the Mariinsky and Dance Open festivals in Saint Petersburg, the “Seeing Music” festival in Moscow and "Dance Aesthetics" festival in Yaroslavl, all with great success.

The Opera company performed on stages throughout the Perm region including in Dobryanka, Berezniki, Cherdyn, Chaykovsky, Gornozavodsk and Kungur.

Currently, the musicAeterna orchestra and choir are preparing for another tour in Austria. They will be the first Russian company to participate in the main performance of the Salzburg Festival: this year it is Mozart's La clemenza di Tito. The phenomenon, long referred to by critics as "Perm Mozart", will be finished by Peter Sellars — the renowned American director who has already successfully collaborated with Teodor Currentzis in the past, notably on the diptych Iolanta/Perséphone and the hotly-disputed The Indian Queen.


Another important outcome of the season relates to the Golden Mask National Theatre Festival. This year the theatre received three awards for the production of La traviata: Teodor Currentzis received his seventh Golden Mask as the "Best opera conductor", Nadezhda Pavlova was awarded the prize for  "Best opera actress", and the maestro of contemporary directing Robert Wilson was named "Best lighting designer".

The Diaghilev festival won the 2016 Russian Event Awards. In total, 702 projects from 68 regions in Russia took part in the competition, with the Diaghilev Festival recognised as the best touristic cultural event in Russia.

The recording of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) by the musicAeterna orchestra conducted by Teodor Currentzis was awarded the ECHO Klassik award — one of the most reputable music awards in the world — for the nomination "Symphonic Recording (20th/21st century music)."

Prior to that, the Perm interpretation of The Rite of Spring was named as the best recording of 2015 by Apple Music. And the opera Don Giovanni recorded by musicAeterna and Teodor Currentzis won the BBC Music Magazine award.

Some individual awards have also been bestowed upon the theatre.

— Teodor Currentzis won the Parabola prize , established by the Andrei Voznesensky foundation.

— Nadezhda Pavlova was awarded the Stroganov Prize, and together with Teodor Currentzis and Robert Wilson received a prize from the Music Critics Association for La traviata.

— Conductor of the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre Valentin Uryupin was a prize winner at the 5th International Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition (he was awarded third prize).

— Perm Opera soloist Anzhelika Minasova won two nominations at the International Rimsky-Korsakov Competition of Young Opera Singers: chamber performance (first prize) and opera (third prize).

— Teachers and instructors Elena Kulagina, Vitaly Poleshchuk, Olga Lukina, Bakhytzhan Smagulov and Elena Shcheglova were awarded the Perm Krai Prize in the category "Cultural Heritage Preservation and Promotion" for their work on the premiere of Swan Lake choreographed by the principal ballet master of the Perm Ballet, Alexey Miroshnichenko.

— The editorial team and creative board of the Ballet magazine awarded Inna Bilash with the prize "Soul of the Dance" in the nomination "Rising Star". On top of that, Inna Bilash and Nikita Chetverikov received the "Media choice" award in the Big Ballet 2016 contest.


This season the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre set a precedent for a widely-available and accessible school of cultural education.  The programme was subdivided into cycles dedicated to certain performances from the theatre repertoire. The Laboratory's work focused on two areas: Open World and Open Theatre.

The Open World area was aimed at a wider audience and included lectures and discussions with Perm, Russian and world experts in different spheres of art. The Open Theatre part was mainly for audiences of the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre and it involved a deeper immersion into theatre life. Thus, participants of the Laboratory could attend rehearsals of premiere performances and symphonic programmes of the season, various workshops and meet-the-artist sessions. At season end, the Laboratory was short-listed for the Innovation Award.


During the 2016/2017 season we had some news concerning the construction of a new stage for the theatre. Since Maxim Reshetnikov became Acting Governor of the Perm Krai there has been a new development in this area: a final decision was made on the construction of a new freestanding building, the project for which was developed by David Chipperfield Architects. As you may recall, David Chipperfield Architects' project won the international competition in 2010. Currently the project is being finalised and a construction site is yet to be determined. 


The next theatre season of the Perm Opera — the 146th — will open at the end of August. Plans include the staging of Phaëton, a baroque opera by Lully, featuring the musical ensemble Le Poème Harmonique, directed by Vincent Dumestre, Honegger's Jeanne au bûcher directed by Romeo Castellucci, a well as a performance for children — Octopus's Garden — directed by Maria Litvinova and Vyacheslav Ignatov, who have already impressed both kids and adults alike with their Journey to the Land of the Jumblies; a long-awaited  updated version of The Nutcracker is planned to be shown in December, along with Scheherazade, choreographed by Alexey Miroshnichenko in May. Another ballet premiere — Opera by Leonid Desyatnikov choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky — is planned to be staged in March.

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