February 10, 2017

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Diaghilev Festival — 2017: events you shouldn't miss

Underwater mermaid songs, Stravinsky ballets, the Festival orchestra, Cantos and Svadba (Wedding) operas, concerts at night and at dawn, the Rimini Protokoll project Remote Perm ― just a taster of the events on offer that are not to be missed.

The XI International festival, named after the great impresario Sergei Diaghilev, will be held in Perm from 14 to 25 May 2017. The programme includes world and Russian premiers, chamber and symphonic concerts, performances and exhibitions, an educational programme and informal gatherings.

A Festival orchestra concert, conducted by Teodor Currentzis, will open the Diaghilev Festival programme on 14 May, contrary to the prevailing tradition of previous years. This year, maestro Currentzis presents Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony.

OPERA, BALLET, PERFORMANCE

In its 145th season, the theatre is preparing to showcase great premieres at the festival: Semion Aleksandrovsky’s production of Alexei Syumak’s opera Cantos and Ana Sokolović’s Svadba (Wedding) directed by Anton Adasinsky. Both will be chamber productions, Cantos intended for 120 spectators and Svadba ― 400.

Commissioned by the Perm Opera and Ballet theatre, Cantos (“Songs”) by Russian composer Alexei Syumak, was inspired by the biography and selected works of the American modernist poet Ezra Pound, who in turn, strove to create a new epos, common to all mankind. This is “opera turned on its head”. The main character here is not a vocalist but a musician-instrumentalist; in this case ― a violinist. He is accompanied by percussion and a choir.

Six soloists perform Ana Sokolović’s most important composition ― the opera Svadba (Wedding) ― without musical accompaniment, a cappella. The story follows the Serbian ceremony of a bride’s preparation for her wedding in the company of close females: mothers, sisters, friends and so on. In the Perm performance, the director Anton Adasinsky works at the junction between verbal and plastic theatre. The space where they overlap becomes a performance space in which a word is duplicated by gesture, and opera singers interact with contemporary dancers.

Another a cappella performance will be The Hidden Sayings by the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski (Italy). A creative re-thinking of the interaction between songs from the southern states of America, appertaining to Afro-American traditions, and Christian texts, principally translated from the Coptic language. Grotowski’s theatre troupe’s extreme psychophysiological training intensifies their ability “to transform the performance into an original religious rite”. Thus, the audience witnesses an exploration of the foundations of performance, so simple and so complex ― action, contact, words, singing, dancing.

The ballet premieres of the XI Diaghilev Festival in Perm are “must sees”. On the final day of the festival a special treat awaits all dance connoisseurs: three one-act ballets, choreographed to the music of Igor Stravinsky by three leading Russian choreographers, performed by the Perm ballet company. Vladimir Varnava will choreograph Petrushka, Viacheslav Samodurov — Le baiser de la fée (The Fairy's Kiss), and Alexey Miroshnichenko — The Firebird

Working with the character of Petrushka, Vladimir Varnava focuses on two topics: the opposition to creative individuality of the aggressive crowd and the free will of the artist in the context of a lifelike scenario. The visual concept, developed by Galya Solodovnikova, is constructed using the device of “a theatre within a theatre”: the staging of the puppet show is inserted into the real space of the stage.

The director of The Firebird, principal ballet master of the Perm Ballet Alexey Miroshnichenko, promises to take audiences through the styles of the main choreographers of the XXI-XX centuries in reverse chronological order ― from the present back to Mikhail Fokine, the creator of the first choreographed version of The Firebird in 1910. Supporting this collection of works will be the set design and costumes by Alyona Pikalova and Tatiana Noginova, which are based on the iconic artistic symbols of the eras in which the choreographers worked.

The choreographer of the third ballet is Viacheslav Samodurov, the artistic director of the ballet troupe of the Ekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre. The Fairy's Kiss is the latest of Stravinsky’s aforementioned ballets (1928; rev. 1950) and most romantic in mood. The basis of the libretto is somewhat similar to the plot motif of Andersen’s story “The Ice-Maiden”. The epigraph to the publication of the score was an acknowledgment of the composer: “I dedicate this ballet to the memory of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, identifying his Muse with the fairy. The ballet thus becomes an allegory. This Muse similarly branded him with a kiss, whose mysterious imprint made itself felt in all the work of this great artist.”

NEW FORMATS

One of the highlights of the upcoming festival is the performance project AquaSonic ― an underwater concert in the truest sense of the word. Musicians play and sing underwater in aquariums, arranged on stage. The artists use a special vocal technique and brand new instruments which are capable of making sound under water. Among them are an underwater organ or hydraulophone, hydrocrystalophone, rotacorda, percussion instruments and violin.

A counterbalance to the modern technological experiments of AquaSonic is the performance by Ensemble Micrologus. Musicians use authentic copies of period instruments as well as medieval costumes and decorations in their theatrical performances. Each year they offer the public one or two new performances, alternating between sacred and profane music of the XII-XV centuries.

Twice a day from 15 to 24 May, 50 spectators will be able to join the Remote Perm project of the German group Rimini Protokoll and take a trip into the city, where the theatrical innovator Sergei Diaghilev spent his childhood. There are no actors in this performance. The participants of Remote X are the characters and performers. Before the start they receive headphones; a synthetic voice resembling the voice of a GPS navigator says: “Hi, my name is Alex!” ― and suggests following his instructions. Remote X paves a new route through the city, creating a soundtrack of parks, playgrounds, shopping centres, churches, cemeteries and labyrinthine streets.

CONCERTS

Prominent virtuoso musicians will take part in the concert programme: the cellist Bruno Cocset and pianists Anton Batagov and Alexei Lubimov will give solo concerts, each filled with special meaning and philosophy. In addition, these three performers will take part in night concerts, which have become the calling card of the festival. In the traditional format expected and beloved by the festival audience, retaining the magic, ― only at the end of the concerts will it be known what the musicians are playing ― the musicians will present a piano-gala and cello-gala, presented for the first time.

Also included this year is ethnic music, with a concert by the winner of the UNESCO music prize, Alim Qasimov (Azerbaijan) ― a khananda (solo singer), performing mugham music (traditional Azerbaijani compositions), and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (India) ― a fusion musician playing ragas (classical Indian music) on the bansuri (Indian bamboo flute) accompanied by the piano and other “western” instruments.

Special mention should also be given to the vocal concert Liederabend, where the performance by mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy ― already familiar from previous festival performances of Mahler ― will this year be accompanied by pianist Tanya Blaich (Ireland/USA). 

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMME

2017 sees the return of a series of masterclasses, which were successfully launched last year, with the world’s most prominent musicians, who are attending the festival as part of the educational programme. This year, in addition to pianists, choreographers, directors and conductors, applications are open to cellists (2016 saw a great demand for this speciality).

An integral part of the programme are the lectures and meetings with musicians, scholars and art historians. Modern music will be the focus, with Alexei Parin, Levon Akopyan and Olga Manulkina amongst the guest speakers.

Another very important event this year, directly related to the importance of educational programmes, is the project of alumni of the Diaghilev Festival Educational Programme 2016, which they created together with the graduates of the International Academy for Young Composers in the city of Tchaikovsky. 

As is tradition, the Diaghilev Festival will take place at a number of sites ― on the stages of the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre and the Perm Academic Theatre-Theatre, in the Organ Hall and Perm Art Gallery, in the Diaghilev House Museum and in the Private Philharmonia “Triumph”.

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