By Victor Andreev
Last year, People’s Artist of Russia Andris Liepa presented performances from Russian Seasons at Minsk’s Bolshoi Theatre. It appeared to be one-off event but, immediately after his European tour, Andris returned to Belarus. This October saw him bringing performances such as Tamar, Bolero and Dedication to Dyagilev to Belarus, with which he has had special relations back from Soviet times.
The ballets of Tamar and Bolero were performed on the Minsk stage by the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theatres’ best artistes, as well as by the Kremlin Ballet. Dedication to Dyagilev featured People’s Artist of Russia Farukh Ruzimatov. Scheherazade was staged at the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus, as was Tamar, featuring Honoured Artistes of Russia Alexandra Timofeyeva and Ilya Kuznetsov singing the leading arias. Meanwhile, People’s Artiste of Russia Ilze Liepa — a prima of the Bolshoi Theatre — played the role of a dancer in Bolero.
Andris Liepa’s liaisons with Minsk’s Bolshoi Theatre date from the 1980s, when he rehearsed with Belarusian ballet master Valentin Yelizariev on local stages. Yelizariev trained Liepa for an international contest in the USA, after which the young dancer began a rapid ascent to stardom, as did his father Maris.
Arriving in Minsk last month, Liepa confirmed that he feels at home in the city. He chatted with the Director of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre, Vladimir Gridyushko, and tells us, “Mr. Gridyushko caught me by the tail, as if I were a fire-bird. He said that I should think about staging permanent performances in Minsk. I must admit that I don’t have enough time to bring to life all my ideas but I promised to think over his invitation. It’s too early to speak about a schedule of future performances, but if technical opportunities of stages in other Belarusian cities allow us, audiences in regional centres will be able to see Russian Seasons performances,” notes Mr. Liepa. Last year, Minskers had the chance to see Scheherazade and The Firebird.
Russian Seasons features music by Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov and Igor Stravinsky. According to Mr. Liepa, it’s essential that the best traditions of classical art are preserved, based upon the centenary old Parisian performances of Sergey Dyagilev.
“Many theatres have today moved to contemporary technologies, which detract from the pure joy of human movement; there are so many metal constructions and light-emitting diode screens on stage. A true Russian ballet should follow Dyagilev’s Seasons.”
The performances staged in Paris by Sergey Dyagilev in the early 20th century are sure to appeal to Belarusians, as there are many fans of Russian ballet among them. Moreover, the Belarusian ballet school borrows greatly from the Russian. It’s symbolic that Liepa continues the traditions begun by Dyagilev; his father Maris was a pupil of Serge Lifar — a dancer who performed Russian Seasons in Paris. Sets are designed following photos and recollections of the originals, reconstructed by Russian artists Anna and Anatoly Nezhnye. The latter is also a chief artist with the State Kremlin Palace.
Russian Seasons is supported at the highest level, with Belarus’ Culture Ministry offering its help. Pavel Latushko believes that the event is an ‘example of preserving our historical and cultural legacy through the modern efforts of the world community’. Mr. Liepa sees major prospects for Minsk’s cycle of Russian Seasons.
“Belarus is a bridge between Russia and Europe, Moscow and Paris. Belarusian audiences will be among the first to see the very best from the creative laboratory of Russian Seasons. After Minsk, Dyagilev’s performances are to tour Russia.”