PDF NEW A History of Russian Theatre é Robert Leach
O the leading theatres of Russia P386 THE FIRST SIGN OF A The irst sign of a theatrical era was the division of the Moscow Art Theatre instigated in the spring of 1987 The enormous troupe which at the moment of schism numbered 160 artists was to all intents and purposes unemployable Many actors had not set oot on a stage or months if not years yet regularly received their wages and associated benefits p399 Mark Zakharov s A Profitable Post at Lenkom Lenin Komsomol Theatre based on Aleksandr Ostrovsky s play was the confession of a generation The play concerned a young man aced with the choice between a government official s career bribes and the possibility of saving his soul The hero of the production played by Andrei Mironov one of the most popular actors of his generation miraculously walked a tightrope between honesty and baseness did not all off and so beueathed his most difficult of balancing acts to many of those who were orced to live and accomplish things under the circumstances of the so called stagnation The production was banned but or many years Zakharov was irmly labelled unorthodox or dissident p400 Within the ramework of the then regime dissidence reuired a perpetual moral balancing act Like the hero in A Profitable Post the director pulled off this circus act not just successfully but also with a certain panache When in the 1970s he headed the Lenin Komsomol Theatre he very uickly made it one of the most popular in Moscow p401 Mark Zakharov was the irst to have the courage to create together with the composer Aleksei Rybnikov the Soviet rock operas Yunona and Maybe During the Gorbachev thaw Mark Zakharov became the undisputed leader of the renewed theatre He inspired the so called experiment 1986 8 when or the irst time in the history of the Soviet regime a string of theatres were allowed to choose their own repertoire and to take responsibility or their own inancial policy Robert Leach Russian Theatre and Western Theatres pp 407 419p407 almost all the performance techniues which are known in the West today derive rom models developed in Russia p408 Consider the case of dance In ive years before the First World War the Western world came to recognize Russian performance as probably the most spectacular example yet seen of what could legitimately be called total theatre Diaghilev s Russian seasons in Paris wrought this transformation single handed he presented Russian opera eaturing the charismatic and brilliant singer Fyodor Chaliapin and even impressively ballet choreographed by Mikhail Fokin with settings by Leon Bakst and Alexandre Benois Though the dancers Anna Pavlova Tamara Karsavina and Vaslav Nijinsky created continuing amazement the d cor and costumes initially at least made an eual impact p409 If these men and other Russian migr s disproportionately influenced Western dance the influence in the West of Meyerhold and the theatrical revolutionaries who supported him in the development of political and epic theatre is perhaps to be expected This is often reckoned to have begun with the work of Erwin Pescator in Berlin but it is worth noticing that his productions or the Proletarian Theatre and then the Central Theatre were based in naturalism which admittedly was occasionally interrupted or at least jolted by a kind of anarchic Dadaist streak The Proletarian Theatre s manifesto at its oundation indeed proclaimed that while wishing to break the bourgeoisie s cultural stronghold it still intended to preserve the eternal works which sublime spirits past and present have bestowed on mankind It was only after news of the Russian revolutionary theatre s extraordinary experiments especially those of the mass spectacles and the work of Meyerhold and Eisenstein had reached Germany that the political theatre began to change Piscator always denied the Russian influence on his work but the act is that he was extremely pro Soviet rom 1918 onwards and he had many connections with people such as Berhard Reich and Asya Lacis German theatre practitioners and communists who were working both in Russia and Germany p410 Brecht s debt to Meyerhold and the Russians has never been ully recognized p412 More successful and significant or the West was Fyodor Komissarjevsky who left Russia in 1919 In 1925 he was appointed to the tiny theatre ormerly a cinema in Barned west London and here in a remarkably short space of time he had a major impact on British theatre by presenting Anton Chekhov s plays in a way uick startling to English play goers Chekhov was largely unknown in the West but Komissarjevsky ound a way to present the plays which maximized the tragicomic ambivalence which lies at their heart In his company were John Gielgud Martina Hunt Claude Rains Charles Laughton Jean Forbes Robertson and all leaders in the British theatre in the ollowing decades so that although Komissarjevsky went on to work in Startford and London Rome Vienna Paris and New York it is unlikely any of his later work was as influential as those two years in Barnes p413 The Moscow Art Theatre tour in 1922 1924 astounded its audiences irst in Europe and then even deeply in the USA In New York especially the critic s encomia drew capacity audiences of spectators who knew no Russian but remained spellbound by the performances Members of "the theatre profession responded even enthusiastically John Barry who was playing Hamlet on Broadway at "theatre profession responded even enthusiastically John Barry who was playing Hamlet on Broadway at time asserted that this was the most amazing experience I have ever had by a million miles in the theatre p415 Andrius Jilinsky If you want to create truth on the stage you must be acuainted with your own truth and the truth of your life It is something that belongs not only to the tradition of acting but to the moral content of the theatre. From puppet theater to ballet and grand opera A key eature of the History is the collection of rare photographs some published or the irst time chronicling the development of Russian theat. Of ceremony p193 Both musically and choreographically The Sleeping Beauty is crowning glory of Russian century ballet and includes some of Petipa s inest work The resounding success of The crowning glory of Russian nineteenth century ballet and includes some of Petipa s inest work The resounding success of The Beauty led to another collaboration with Tchaikovsky this time on The Nutcracker The choice of theme again came rom Vsevolozhsky but this time he prepared the libretto jointly with Petipa Petipa once provided the composer with detailed instructions and was to have started the ballet early in the season of 1892 3 The libretto of The Nutcracker provided a difficult challenge or choreographer and composer p194 Telyakovsky became the new director in 1902 making his principle concern the modernization of opera and ballet Subseuently in 1903 Petipa was informed that this contract as ballet master would not be renewed Petipa s memoirs recall the bitterness he elt towards Telyakovsky and he lived on until 1910 planning yet revisions of his old ballets p195 Alexander Gorsky became the irst choreographer to treat the entire stage ensemble as members Of A Choreographic Drama a choreographic drama the manner of Stanislavsky Instead of rozen symmetrical lines typical of Petipa s corps de ballet each performer was given an individual action to ormer was given and individual action to orm a living crowd p196 A key actor in Fokin s ormative years was his association with The World of Art a group of cultured men including Benois Bakst Korovin and Nouvel but most notably the ounder Sergei Diaghilev The World of Art magazine was largely devoted to painting although it claimed to reflect art in all its realms During its six years rom 1899 1906 it devoted pages to literary and musical review so it is perhaps surprising that it spoke little of reforms in the world of ballet Arkady Ostrovsky Imperial and Private Theatres 1882 1905 pp218 50p219 Many private theatres were launched by women with an eye on their careers In 1889 a young provincial actress Maria Abrmova opened her own theatre using the proceeds rom a recent inheritance It closed a year later as a result of bad management a weak repertoire poor acting and lack of artistic purpose The same year another actress Elizaveta Goreva set up a theatre with a repertoire of Western plays already produced at the Imperial Theatres Despite a good company that too closed after eighteen months Private theatres improved the uantity not the uality of performances None of them challenged existing traditions or introduced new artistic ideas Most of them except or the Moscow Art Theatre were mediocre copies of the Imperial theatres with similar repertoires and very often the same acting techniues p235 St Petersburg was European than Moscow not only in repertoire and attitude to theatre but even in stage euipment The actors at the Aleksandrinsky were skillful and effortless and had greater lexibility subtlety and sense of style and rhythm In act many actors at the Aleksandrinsky learned their craft touring in provincial theatres p237 From the 1880s the dominant position at the Aleksandrinsky Theatre belonged to Maria Gavrilovna Savina p241 Komissarzhevskaya elt and expressed the uality of the approaching twentieth century with a orce similar to the poetry of Aleksandr Blok When she died it was a national tragedy and Blok wrote a poem in which he compared Komissarzhebskaya to the Promised Spring p245 In 1904 in the electric atmosphere that preceded the irst Russian revolution Komissarzhevskaya opened her Drama Theatre in St Petersburg Her passionate desire or changes both in art orms and in life orms made her join the group of revolutionary playwrights who were led by Maksim Gorky and his publishing house Znanie Their plays were supposed to make up the repertoire of the Drama Theatre The revolution or Komissarzhevskaya had ethical rather than political meaning It was the romantic symbol of a new and better life not a power struggle p246 In 1908 Komissarzhevskaya renounced the stage Her ambition was to ound a drama school where she wanted to teach irst of all new people and after that actors This was not to be In 1910 touring in Tashkent where she was trying to earn money or her school Komissarzhevskaya caught smallpox Anatoly Smeliansky Russian Theatre in the Post Communist Era pp382 406p384 In circumstances of relative reedom Russian theatre lost its special significance It disappeared along with the transcendent political power Transcendent theatre became simply theatre All manner of spiritual activities experienced this lowering of status The circulation of the better newspapers ell rom 20 million down to a ew thousand Great literature banned or decades and suddenly unloaded in one ell swoop upon the head of the dazed reader gave way to the gutter press The cheapest examples of American trash wasted no time in taking over the artistic market p385 That theatre should be condemned to a secondary role as one arm of the contemporary entertainment industry Long since the case in countries with a sound tradition of democracy was something entirely new or those involved in Russian theatre and was keenly elt Freedom of artistic effort was no longer perceives as something exceptional and beneficent people uickly grew accustomed to it as they do to the presence of air Further the absence of censorship allowed an orgy of base instincts those market regulators supply and demand began to dictate their own terms to the life of the theatre The majority of Moscow theatres in an attempt to survive began to surrender their premises to the new Russians as the newly created businessmen were being called Inside theatres casinos were opened night clubs oreign currency offices Heavy with symbolism signs saying Exchange adorned the entrances Arch into all areas of Russian theater history Of particular interest will be the chapters written by senior Russian academics The History covers the whole range of Russian dramatic experience. To inishChapter on theatre post communism was greatincludes discussion of black box theatre degradation of theatre after decimation of censorship and infiltration of western influences Mark Zakharov s public burning of his communist card etc In order to give a precise definition of what art is it is most important that we should avid regarding art as pleasure and look at it instead as one of the necessities of human life If we take this view of art we cannot help but see that it is a way of communicating between people Leo Tolstoy What is Art Victor Borovsky The Organization of the Russian Theatre 1645 1763 pp41 56p48 The rise of the Russian ballet school dates rom the time of Empress Anna Ioannovna 1730 40 whose court was exceptionally splendid and brilliant p49 The oreign companies at court most commonly staged an opera combined with a ballet on a historical or a mythological theme showing the achievements of gods or the nobility and extolling beneficent monarchs These performances would be decked out with ornate sets and elaborate stage effects In the middle of the eighteenth century the dominant aesthetic theory in Russian theatre was that of classicism Victor Borovsky The Emergence of Russian Theatre 1763 1800 pp57 85p59 The Russian State Theatre ounded in 1756 gave performances mainly or the court and nobility In addition or the ordinary people of St Petersburg there were olk theatres narodnye teary Andy Adamson The Russian Imperial Ballet pp182 198p182 The irst professional ballet appeared in Russia in 1736 as part of Francesco Araia s opera The Power of Love and Hate The performance was given by than 100 Russian dancers who since 1734 had been trained under the guidance of the French ballet master Jean Baptiste Land Land was also responsible or ounding the irst professional dancing school which opened in St Petersburg in 1738 When the Imperial Theatres became state run in 1758 their remit included responsibility or ballet p184 185 In 1847 Marius Petipa and his ather Jean arrived in St Petersburg to stage two Western novelties Pauita based on a production by Maziliev and Satanella Despite their success in a dawning age of nationalism they were viewed as un Russian and on the order of Nikolai I a search began or an original choreographer to raise the standards of Russian ballet to a level higher than those in the West Jules Perrot was ound He brought with him to St Petersburg productions of Esmeralda Catarina Naiad and The Fisherman La Filleule des F es La Fille mal Gard e and an associated wealth of world renowned dancers including Fanny Elssler Carlotta Grisi and Fanny Cerrito Perrot co choreographer of Giselle considerably reworked this ballet or Russian audiences strengthening the dramatic action and emphasizing realism particularly in the mad scene p186 French born Marius Petipa came rom a amily of dancers His brother Lucien ound ame partnering Carlotta Grisi "in the premier of Giselle 1841 In 1847 Marius was offered a one year contract "the premier of Giselle 1841 In 1847 Marius was offered a one year contract St Petersburg and remained there or the rest of his life devoting ifty six years to the Russian stage The so called era of Petipa dates rom his appointment as ballet master in 1869 He became identified with the very idea of Russian ballet and was to sustain it as a lourishing art while the remained of European dance was in decline Petipa s creative energy seemed to mature in old age He produced his greatest work The Sleeping Beauty when in his seventies At best his work creates a marvelous usion of emotional content expressed in dance and music though at worst he degenerates into banal bad tast pandering to the demands of his aristocratic patrons p187 Many of his works were created on a truly grand scale lasting our or ive acts but often with only the slightest of stories to tell To sustain an audiences interest during these vast visual panoramas he developed a style that was almost kaleidoscopic in its never ending variety Characters paraded around the stage ceremoniously or arranged themselves in tasteful groupings as a backdrop or an array of contrasting dances These might include national dances evoking the spirit of some ar off land or antastic character dances inspired by airy tales He absorbed the tastes of the court and took a strong interest in the traditional olk dances of Russia incorporating their typically complex and symmetrical patterns into his own choreography or large ensembles The story as such was usually very thin and was conveyed through stylised mime which had lost any real connection with expressive gesture Petipa saw the plot as little than a ramework on which to hang his dance compositions He ound himself composing according to a ormula in which it was necessary to have a certain number of ensemble scenes at least one pas d action per act and most importantly the balanced number of dances or coryph es soloists and the ballerina The premi re danseuse became all important and Petipa became particularly adept at creating variations which suited the talents of individual dancers The highlight of each ballet came in the pas de deux created or the ballerina and her male partner p189 1881 saw the appointment of Ivan Vsevolozhky one of the most enlightened and energetic directors who was ever in charge of the Russian Imperial stages of St Petersburg But this was the year Alexander II s assassination A reactionary period ollowed Even than before ballet was to provide safe entertainment or the aristocracy Petipa s public was a power elite and his dancers world with its strict hierarchy of ballerinas soloists coryph es and corps de ballet reflected the ordered hierarchy of court society The parades grand entrances and large ensembles affirmed the power. This is the irst comprehensive history of Russian theater in English since the all of Communism Written by an international team of experts the book brings together the ruits of recent rese.