Open air entertainment

Open air concerts and those held in medieval castles make delightful and fashionable change from traditional venues

By Viktar Korbut

This summer, why not attend a concert in the countryside; melodies are especially enchanting at night. Recently, a grand concert took place not far from Minsk, featuring leading soloists of the Belarusian State Academic Musical Theatre, the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre, the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia and St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre. Organised in the open air, the festival seems likely to become an annual event.

American conductor Philip Simmons attended the open air concert and noted that nothing similar exists in the USA. No one has ever played classical music at a folk museum. “It adds some special charm; it was extremely unusual to hear nightingales singing in tune with opera soloists.”

It was the first time that the Museum of Folk Architecture and Everyday Life has hosted such an event, although it has many times organised folk festivals. Classical music has never before been performed there but it took just one month to arrange for the best voices from Belarus and Russia to attend. Larisa Yudina, a soloist with St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre and an Honoured Artiste of Russia, arrived only for one evening, to please the Belarusian audience. “I think Belarus possesses perfect musicians and very grateful listeners,” she noted.

Among the arriving cars were those with diplomatic number plates. It’s a real pleasure to spend a Friday evening on a lawn listening to the strains of a symphony orchestra. Around thirty performances were organised over two hours, with the concert conventionally divided into two sections: masterpieces of classical opera and those from classical Vienna operetta. Works by Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Mozart and Verdi were, of course, performed live.

Oleg Lesovik, chief conductor of the Belarusian State Academic Musical Theatre, tells us, “Next year, a similar concert will certainly be held.” Nesvizh is to host a summer festival of opera and ballet, entitled Nights of the Bolshoi Theatre in Radziwills’ Castle. The open air event, which was launched in 2010, will be hosted by the former residence of the noble Radziwill family.

The Radziwills’ residence courtyard can accommodate several thousand people. Vyacheslav Volich, a conductor of the Bolshoi Opera Theatre and one of those who helped launch the festival, notes that, in the mid-1990s, the theatre toured widely, taking part in various open air festivals in Switzerland and Germany. “From experience, we’re well aware that it’s rather difficult to organise an open air festival in a city. Nesvizh Castle is an ideal venue, boasting a stone courtyard, closed on four sides, high palace walls and a stone floor — all perfect for creating the right acoustics. It’s great when a concert is held in the open air and there’s no need to amplify sound using microphones. There are very few places where this can be achieved. Moreover, the 16th-19th century castle itself adds festivity and flamboyance to the performance.”

Popular Belarusian music has already been performed near the walls of Mir Castle, with a traditional concert organised by ONT TV Channel. Meanwhile, Molodechno is preparing for the Festival of Belarusian Song and Poetry, which will take place in autumn and will be dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Mulyavin. The concert will feature songs from the repertoire of legendary Pesnyary band and its artistic leader.

The Molodechno event takes place every other year, with songs performed in Belarusian; lyrics are taken from verses by our most wonderful poets. This year’s major event is a contest of young performers of Belarusian pop songs, with three entrants representing each Belarusian region and the city of Minsk. These will be accompanied by the National Academic Concert Orchestra, headed by Mikhail Finberg. A concert is also scheduled, dedicated to the creativity of Belarusian composers Dmitry Lukas, Grigory Pukst, Piotr Podkovyrov and Alexey Turenkov.

At night, jazz music will be heard in Molodechno, with the jazz band of the National Academic Orchestra presenting a programme. The festival will finish with a concert featuring the Titovich State Folk Academic Choir and Pesnyary State Ensemble.

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