Swan's Lake performance: Ukrainian-Belarusian version

Interviewed by Larysa TARASENKO

Kyivan artists and their Belarusian colleagues performed the ballet Swan's Lake on stage of Ukraine's National Opera House within the framework of the Belarusian Days of Culture. The leading parts were performed by Irina and Oleg Eromkin, principle dancers of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater of Belarus. The performance was conducted by the theater's chief conductor, the Ukrainian Viktor PLOSKYNA, who has been living and working in Minsk for three years. Music lovers emphasized the professionalism of the experienced conductor, his attention to details, and his ability to find a common language with the orchestra with the help of expressive and finished gestures.

"When I went to work at the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater in Belarus, I did not know the specifics of theater very well," the master admitted, "for in Ukraine I mainly dealt with symphonic conducting. In Minsk I had to plunge into the new job, and organize everything from the arrangement of a ready performance to the production of a new one. During my time there the theater's repertoire acquired Rustic Chivalry by Pietro Mascagni (staged by the Swiss director Aleksandr Stroem), Macbeth, Nabucco, Giuseppe Verdi's Troubadour, Modest Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov with its concert performance edited by Dmitry Shostakovich (incidentally Boris' part was performed by the baritone singer from Odesa Stanislav Tryfonov), and Sergei Prokofiev's Cinderella (choreographed by Moscow ballet master Yuri Puzakov).

"I think it is worthwhile to describe in greater detail the opera Troubadour - this was a Dutch-Belarusian project, where the director, and costume and lighting artists were Dutch, and two Italian tenor singers were invited. The performance was staged in a modern style, and it was immensely enjoyed by the audience. Then the production was shown 13 times in Holland. Our tour received acclaim from the press and was warmly met by the audience. The opera Nabucco is very memorable. I was its music director, and it was conducted by the Muscovite Milhail Pandzhevidze (Bolshoi Theater). The production used all the technical capacities of our theater - after the revamp they are the best in the entire post-Soviet space. The performance was very nice, and the audience wanted to see it again. The montage of the decoration is so complicated that we show this opera two days in succession. In this season we plan to show Tosca and Snow-Maiden three times in succession. This is convenient and economically advantageous for the theater."

People say wonders about the restoration of the Minsk Theater.

"President Lukashenko allotted 160 million dollars to renovate the theater. You know, when people blame high echelons of power for not taking care of culture, I disagree: for culture it is not so important whether the powers that be attend plays and concerts. The most important thing is that the appropriate conditions be created and that projects receive funding. Our theater has been restored and equipped with the latest innovations: the mechanics were produced by German engineers, there are 23 plungers, everything can be lifted and pulled down, it is possible to make 3D format decoration. Frankly speaking, at the moment we do not use all the equipment. We are studying it and adjusting the old plays to the new stage. The theater was reopened on March 8, 2009, after a three-year renovation period. During the repair the performances took place in the House of Officers at the Palace of Republic. They arranged a great place for rehearsals. Besides the main stage, we have an additional one of the same format, with the same orchestra pit and even an audience hall for 200 places. So, we can rehearse pieces of opera and ballet simultaneously. None of the artists or musicians is ruffled, performers don't disturb each other. This is very convenient for creative work. Today I am working in an orchestra comprising 160 musicians, and this makes it possible for the group to work on opera and ballet performances simultaneously. In the future we are planning to create a Chamber Opera on this base. The audience hall has a capacity of 1,280 and is always full - when less then 95 percent of the audience comes, everyone panics. We are actively touring. The theater has close connections with Holland. Recently we have brought Bohemia from there. The impresario liked the production by director Georgy Isaakian, winner of several Golden Mask awards, very much. He invited two Italian soloists for the parts of Mimi and Rudolf. Our troupe has scant possibilities of our own, whereas the foreign impresario who funded the tour could afford to invite stars to take part in the performance."

Is the troupe of the theater strong enough?

"It is strong enough to maintain a variegated repertoire on a high level. Recently wonderful soloists joined the company, specifically tenor Yurii Gorodetsky, winner of the Stanislaw Monuszko International Competition of Singers (Poland), soprano singer Oksana Volkova who won in the Glinka Competition in Cheliabinsk, and baritone Ilya Silchukov, who won the first prizes at 11 different competitions. At the moment the theater has a problem with drama tenors and bass singers. We have a nice chorus, and the orchestra is highly qualified. Incidentally, apart from repertoire work, I am leading a big symphonic program. We have performed Fantastic Symphony by Hector Berlioz, Oedipus Rex by Igor Stravinsky in the concert version, Manfred, Tchaikovsky's Fifth symphony, Brahm's Second symphony, the Third symphony by Gustav Mahler, the Second and Third symphonies by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

"We also hold chamber performances in the theater. We have a chamber hall with 250 places, where young singers perform, as do elderly singers who cannot adequately perform the main repertoire. There they have the possibility to stay in shape."

How are the ballet dancers?

"The ballet company is quite strong, for 36 years now it has been headed by the highly experienced choreographer Valentin Nikolaevich Yelizaryev. The group has a vast touring experience. In Minsk we have ballets more frequently than operas. Belarusians are fond of ballet. I don't work so much with ballet productions; I conduct only three performances, Romeo and Juliette, Swan's Lake, and Cinderella. I specialize in opera and symphonic programs."

How is it to work with Belarusian music?

"We take deep care of the national repertoire. There is an idea that we are going to implement in the next season - we will announce a competition for composers. They should write music for plays with Belarusian themes, which will later be staged in our theater. Recently we staged the opera Other People's Wealth does not Serve Anyone by the German-Belarusian composer Jan David Holland, who served as a bandmaster in the court of Prince Radziwill. The production was a success; we went to show it at the resort town Nesvizh, the family nest of the Radziwills. It was held open-air in the Nesvizh Castle. The theater repertoire includes a wonderful opera by Smulsky Hoary Legend, and the ballet Passions (Rogneda) by Andrey Mdivani. Both performances are successful. However, I must admit that productions of the world classical works are more popular. Unfortunately, not everything is as good with the national repertoire, like in Ukraine. But I'm deeply convinced that one ought to work with it, and not just preserve it. One should not spare money or energy for new productions."

Do you have a contract with the theater?

"Yes, and for Belarusians I earn a lot of money. But a contract is an ambiguous thing. I went to Belarus not for the money, but to merge two cultures - Ukrainian and Belarusian. On August 31 there was a concert of Ukrainian music dedicated to Ukraine's Day of Independence. The event was organized by the embassy; for the first time it was arranged by the newly appointed ambassador Roman Bezsmertny. Today Belarusians respect Ukraine very much, they like to stay in the Crimea and western Ukraine, but they wonder why we have such bad roads and why the cities are so dirty. I have to say, in Belarus everything is clean and in perfect order. At home I did not have any prospects for self-realization, whereas in Minsk I have found a great opportunity to develop. What I lack is Ukrainian warmth, sun, and energetic people. In Belarus everything is more moderate, calm, balanced, and thorough."


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