Such is theatrical life
By Yulia Leonova
Summer, theatre and recreation are tarred with the same brush. Closing the season and going on a traditional holiday, theatrical troupes sum up the results, voice their plans and make spectators drop out of cultural context until September
Meanwhile, life at the theatre does not calm down during the summer. It is especially noisy in the Bolshoi Theatre. In this season, the Bolshoi Theatre was one of the last to say goodbye to the public, doing so in a royal manner — with a premiere. The Ballet Summer in the Bolshoi festival prolonged the season for a whole week: artistes took off the pointes from their slim feet only on July, 9th. They do not have time for voyages and cruises. In just one and a half months, the public expect to see autumn ballet. And then again, wearisome rehearsals and hard work — such is theatrical life... The Director General of the theatre, Vladimir Gridyushko is already in anticipation:
For October, we have planned one of the most long-awaited premieres of the Bolshoi Theatre — ‘Firebird’ — directed by Andris Liepa. We plan have it completed by September, 5th. On the first of November, spectators will see another new ballet — the performance of ‘Laurencia’. The ballet master is the partner of Liepa, the incomparable Nina Ananiashvili. As for the opera repertoire, it will be replenished by three new performances: ‘Pagliacci’, ‘The Tsar’s Bride’ and new version of ‘Carmen’ directed by Galina Galkovskaya.
From every premiere people always expect indispensable success. Has the Bolshoi Theatre the right to failure?
Only the one who does nothing will never be mistaken. It concerns any theatre, not only ours. The Bolshoi theatre has its own traditions and history. But behind conversations on traditions, people often hide emotional laziness, a desire to live in the land of Nod where nothing happens. We should not become the hostages of stereotypes and turn into something outdated and archaic. Therefore, we willingly accept an experiment, opening the theatre to the widest spectator audience. Judge for yourself; just this year, the theatre has given 13 opening nights. We have opened a season by four one-act operas in the Chamber Hall by name of Aleksandrovskaya. At the same time, we have shown on the big stage the world premiere of the ballet ‘Vytautas’. Then, for the first time in the history of Belarusian ballet, in our repertoire appeared a staging in the modernist style — ‘Six Dances’ by Jiří Kylián; and further, the exotic ‘The Seven Beauties’ and one of the best, in my opinion, ‘Der Fleigende Holländer’ by Wagner. In February we introduced the new scenic version of the opera ‘Rigoletto’ and a bit later, the repertoire was filled up by an ‘Evening of One-Act Operas’. Tchaikovsky’s ‘Queen of Spades’, directed by the well-known Bulgarian director and academician, Plamen Kartalov finished the theatrical season. Believe me, it was not easy for us to sustain such a tempo.
Then why arrange such a race on the creation of performances? In the whole world the norm for repertoire theatres is 2-3 opening nights a year.
Romeo and Juliet — one of the popular performances at the Bolshoi Theatre
We have been simply compelled to follow this way. After the theatre’s restoration in 2009, it appeared that many performances cannot return to the updated stage: their scenography became outdated and the generation of artistes changed. Therefore, we had to create new performances, including preserving symbolic names. By the way, in Europe you will not find a theatre with performances of more than thirty years prescription. And we had the majority of such performances. Therefore, we have actively joined the race in the creation of new performances. From the 74 shows which are now in our repertoire, more than 45 were staged over the last five years. But we will not work at such a tempo any more. 2-3 opera and ballet performances a year, I consider being quite enough.
Vladimir Pavlovich, how do the budgetary and non-budgetary parts of financial means correlate? The Ministry of Culture has repeatedly put before theatres the task of increase revenue. How has the Bolshoi Theatre carried out this commission?
In Europe, subsidies to theatrical establishments from state budgets, as a rule, total nearly 70-80 percent. While the Bolshoi Theatre’s total amounts to around 30 percent. It is normal world practice. And we adhere to it. Our income is money from ticket sales plus partner sponsorships. Thanks to them, the public has the possibility to annually visit Nights of the Bolshoi Theatre in Radziwiłł Castle, the Minsk International Christmas Opera Forum, the Big New Year’s Ball and to see our new project ‘Ballet Summer in the Bolshoi’ which too, we hope, will become an annual event.
I remember, there were talks on the creation of a Board of Governors under the theatre. But then you refused this idea. Why?
It is not important what you call it. That’s not the point. We have friends and partners with which we have co-operated for several years. They are known, their names are specified on the posters. The questions of budget and financing are solved at general meetings. I do not think that there is sense in giving a beautiful, official name to the idea.
And what are production relations at the theatre? Do you, as the Director General, concentrate exclusively on financial and economic activity or also influence the creative process?
The Director General is responsible for everything. It’s his duty. But to manage, does not mean to give advice with and without cause. In ballet, the Head is the Art Director; in opera there is a Main Director, Main Chorus Master and Manager of Soloists Troupe. And each of them knows how and what to do. It would be absurd if I came into a rehearsal and gave advice to the Troyan [Yuri Troyan — Art Director of ballet]. My task is to help, instead of interfering. I also do not give advice to the producer; it is his performance, his concept. If we trust the person, then we trust in everything. Another matter is to accept or not accept the performance as a whole. But even following the results of the final showing of the performance to me, the decision is made, not only by me but by the whole Arts Council. I have worked as Director General for 5 years. Have you heard any scandals connected with my name? No. They have never been, nor will not be. In our theatre, we build relations in a way that everything is transparent and accessible. I do not want to comment on what occurs in the Russian Bolshoi Theatre or in other creative collectives. The only thing that I think is a pity is that, that behind these working showdowns, they forget about the main thing — the spectator.