The Tsar’s Bride visits Kazan

The 37th International Shalyapin Festival has opened

The Tsar’s Bride visits Kazan Photo: Dmitry Reznov

The International F. Shalyapin Festival, which is held in Kazan for the 37 th time, has opened on the stage of the M. Jalil Tatar State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. The opera festival traditionally began with a premiere, this time it's Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar's Bride staged by Mikhail Panjavidze.

Two opera jubilees

The oldest music festival of the country, the Shalyapin was the first music festival in the USSR and it founded the festival movement, is dedicated to two jubilees this year: the 145 th anniversary of Kazan opera and the 80th anniversary of the M. Jalil Tatar State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre itself.

However, no jubilee events are scheduled during the festival, the Shalyapin will have its main programme – 10 plays and two gala concerts. A parallel programme is planned at the festival – lectures about Fyodor Shalyapin's persona, about European opera festivals as well as contemporary opera created in the new century. The admission to the parallel programme's events is free. The festival ends on 23 February.

Of course, tickets to the festival's plays sold out a long time ago, people tried to find any seats before the beginning of the play on 1 February, but it's a thankless job to hope for an ''extra ticket''. The premiere of The Tsar's Bride created a special buzz, the play has been absent in the theatre's repertoire for several years, first of all. Secondly, it's Mikhail Panjavidze's staging, some of his plays don't leave the poster of the Kazan opera theatre.

The Shalyapin will have its main programme – 10 plays and two gala concerts

''Fatal love is everywhere''

This time as if expanding the tragedy's space, Mikhail Panjavidze seems to send us back to Sergey Eisenstein's legendary Ivan the Terrible film – titles with the composer's last name and the name of the opera resembling Eisenstein's film's titles were projected during the overture. This is how Ivan the Terrible's era was defined. And the Russian tsar will be present in the opera as a silent sinister figure.

Harry Hummel is the scene designer, and his decorations are one of the successes of the play, he created corners of the 16 th-century Moscow carefully and in detail on the stage. Grey, colourless but with some creativity. The materials the decorations are made of add authenticity to them – it's real wood, metal, homespun cloth.

The love triangle Marfa (Gulnora Gatina) – Grigory Gryaznoy (Stanislav Trifonov) and Lyubasha (Yekaterina Sergeyeva) exists in quite a real world. In the world where human life, freedom, dignity mean nothing. The despotic tsar's will decides fates. Because if Lyubasha didn't substitute the magic potion, Marfa's life would be tragic anyway.

It's impossible not to remember Pushkin's line: ''The cruel age, the cruel hearts.'' But any age is ''iron'' in Russia, but Ivan the Terrible's rule was famous for especial cruelty. By the way, almost every character has real prototypes, and all of them ended their life sadly.

The director is generalising, and there is a feeling that the fate of innocently dead Marfa was a bit symbolic for him, Russia's fate is seen behind it that will have to suffer a lot. It's clear that the oprichniks in the play were dressed in some conditional costumes to increase historical allusions, they seemed to be phantom characters who can pass from century to century, and violating a law is a common thing for them.

Music director of the staging Arif Dadashev is interpreting The Tsar's Bride as a great tragedy, and the director agrees with him in this respect. It's a tragedy of unlimited power that makes people ugly and, as a result, makes them unhappy. ''You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.'' The fates of Marfa, her fiancé Ivan Lykov (Bogdan Volkov), Vasily Sobakin (this role is the next success of Mikhail Kazakov) are those eggs.

The second premiere of The Tsar's Bride was on the stage on 2 February, and the performers were a bit different. The premiere on 1 February ended with a long ovation and ''Bravo!''s, which, however, is logical.

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By Tatiana Mamayeva. Photo: Dmitry Reznov. Video: Kamil Ismailov
Tatarstan