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"The Fiery Angel" And "The Flying Dutchman," Or Clones Invade The Bolshoi

Bolshoi TheatreThe new, 228th, season at the State Academic Bolshoi Theater, or the GABT, is going to be another season of changes, or, as its musical head Alexander Vedernikov puts it, of "creative evolution." The repertoire and the troupe will be replenished with new titles and actors, the plays will be produced by new directors, from Russia as well as from abroad. The GABT will be giving numerous guest performances in France, England, Italy, Germany, South Korea, Finland and Slovenia.

Four new plays will be added to the opera repertoire of the "musical Mecca." The first of these, "Macbeth" by Giuseppe Verdi, premieres on October 8. Previously never staged at the Bolshoi, the play is produced by Eimuntas Necrosius, a Lithuanian whom Muscovites knew so far as a fiercely intellectual drama producer. "Macbeth" is moving to Moscow from Florence, where Necrosius staged it for the first time.

His Georgian colleague, Robert Sturua, who is also known for dramatic productions, is busy staging Peter Tchaikovsky's "Mazepa," a story about the love and treachery of a Ukrainian hetman who crossed the line to the enemy's side during the Northern War of 1700-1721 with the Swedes. The premiere of the opera, which was first staged at the Bolshoi by Sergei Bondarchuk, the Oscar-winning creator of an epic film based on Tolstoi's "War and Peace," 20 years ago, is scheduled for January 28.

Sergei Prokofiev's "The Fiery Angel," based on a mystic novel by the Russian symbolist poet Valery Bryusov, is being staged by two world-famed celebrities, American producer Francesca Zambello and Russian scene designer Georgy Tsypin. Their previous creation, Giacomo Puccini's "Turandot," an opera based on a play by Carlo Gozzi, ran in the previous Bolshoi season and was a huge success, thanks to the great voices of the lead singers (the European star Francesca Patane played the Chinese princess), excellent performance produced by the actors, and stage design. The "Angel" is an energetic piece, intriguing and spectacular, with a very difficult score. Right now the GABT is busy casting actors for the leading parts. The premiere is scheduled for April 22.

In June, Bolshoi haunters will get a chance to listen to Richard Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman," an opera the GABT produces jointly with the Bavarian Opera and director Peter Konwitschny. From Moscow, the "Dutchman" will fly over to Munich, along with conductor Alexander Vedernikov, who also conducts "The Fiery Angel" and who told RIA Novosti last year about his and the theater's plans to "pay tribute to the talents of Prokofiev, Wagner, Shostakovich and Mozart." Speaking about choreographic news, the Bolshoi has got a new ballet art director, Alexei Ratmansky, 34, and is busy staging Sergei Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" and arranging a soiree featuring ballet pieces by George Balancine, which premieres on March 12 and will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great choreographer.

Alexei Ratmansky, a gifted dancer and ballet-master who is well known in Russia and abroad, still bound by contract with the Danish Royal Ballet, has been staging plays for many a star. His version of Dmitry Shostakovich's "The Limpid Brook," a comic piece about life in the country that was once banned from the Bolshoi by Josef Stalin, ran in the previous season. The witty and gripping play opened the current (228th) season, while the choreographer himself suspended his activities in Denmark and occupied his new post with a firm intention to "try and do everything that attracts" his attention.

As for "Romeo and Juliet," it has always been a favorite on the Bolshoi's playbills. The great Soviet choreographer Leonid Lavrovsky's version of the play with the exquisite Galina Ulanova starring has become a classic of the world Shakespeareana. Originally staged at Leningrad's Kirov (now Mariinsky) Theater in 1940, it was moved to the Bolshoi six years later and served as a source of inspiration for the rest of "Romeo and Juliets," from the version featuring choreography by Britain's Kenneth Macmillan-inspired by the Bolshoi's 1956 tour of Great Britain and staged at the GABT in 2002-to a motion picture by Franco Zeffirelli. One of the versions was staged by Yury Grigorovich, probably Russia's best choreographer of the 20th century. The current version of the story about Veronese lovers, the one Moscow theatergoers will see on December 13, is presented by Radu Poklitaru, a young choreographer from Moldova, and Declan Donnellan, British producer, specialist in Shakespeare studies and winner of many international awards.

The GABT is awaiting yet another remarkable (and possibly scandalous) event. The country's No.1 theater has ordered popular modern composer Leonid Desyatnikov and notoriously trouble-making writer Vladimir Sorokin to compose an opera about clones, or "copies" of five great composers-Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Musorgsky and Tchaikovsky. It is yet unclear what will come of this idea. But creative evolution at the Bolshoi is already apparent.