The Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet theatre has just opened a new season. Why would citizens pay their last money for a ticket to a theatre? What’s so astonishing about the new “Nutcracker”? What new features of the educational project “Open NOVAT” are waiting for the audience? These and many others topics were covered during the radio show “Novosibirsk, main station!” on “Gorodskaya Volna” (101,4 FM) with Dmitry Molotov and Vadim Belinsky interviewing Vyacheslav Starodubtsev, the Chief Stage Director of the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet theatre.
- Good morning, dear citizens of Novosibirsk! As it was promised, Dmitry Molotov and Vadim Belinsky never said goodbye to you. Moreover, we would like to find out whether you love theatre as our present guest. Today in our studio we have a heavily honored guest, marked with numerous awards and titles, which I’m going to list just for the record: Ph. D. in History of Arts, member of Theatre Union of the Russian Federation and the main one – Chief Stage Director of the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet theatre, Vyacheslav Starodubtsev. Good Morning.
— Hello. Good Morning.
— Hello. I just thought: it’s for a reason the locals call the theatre Opera theatre, right? Now we actually have an opera man in charge of the theatre. Even the station will be called “Opera” for one hour.
— It’s good.
— Let’s start from the past season. Let’s summarize it in couple of words, just to move on after one glance behind. What interesting things happen during the season? Which of them deserve to be mentioned?
— We had a lot of interesting things going on — the main things are the premieres of course; because theatre is a type of organism, which constantly needs joy, brought by new performances. And also bring joy to the audience. And we did have intriguing premieres during the past season: for example, an opera “Un Ballo in Maschera”. We also had very special ballet premieres. And of course the closing of opera season on 13th July, and just as interesting as that one – a festival, dedicated to our beloved, amazing singer Veronika Dzhioeva.
—I also wanted to alter our theatre life and bring in something new aside from concerts and performances. Thus I came up with “The Theatre Avenue” thing. And the artists – world opera stars participated in the gala concert associated with the closing of season and Veronika Dzhioeva festival, planted trees for “The Theatre Avenue” along with the rest of the participants.
— We saw the photo report. Some of the participants were not disrupted even by their health condition; I’m talking about fractures and dislocations, which did not interfere with this exciting event.
— It happened all out sudden, like a sacred sacrifice to Novosibirsk two days before the concert. We really wanted to accomplish some good, positive, interesting deeds. We wanted to be open, so the audience could join us, and see what kind of people we are, how interesting and transparent we can be. It is very important for us, because I believe theatre is a place where artists, director, ballet masters, choreographers can put their thoughts into practice.
Theatre is not only a palace of sublime artistic values, which is also true, but it must also live for the audience. And my artistic credo is: all I do, I do for the audience. That’s why this dialogue is very important for me. Apart from performances, we have an educational project “Open NOVAT” where we arrange special meetings called “open dialogues”. During the past season we made meetings with Denis Matvienko, Dmitri Jurowski, Anna Zharova, and artists of opera and ballet companies.
I want to establish a live, vivid conversation between artists and audience. “The Theatre Avenue” is the first step. By the way, 7th September, the opening day of the new season, “L’elisir d’amore” will be performed on the main stage and a new group of trees will be planted for the Avenue. We will set the trees in the name of outstanding artists of the Novosibirsk opera – amazing Valery Egudin and ballet luminaries - Lidiya Krupenina and Anatoly Berdyshev. Those trees will commemorate the great people, who helped create the glory of the Novosibirsk theatre.
What is also important for me is to revere and to understand. Revere heritage of the people and understand that these people put their life, their heart, their health to make this great, astonishing theatre known for its artistic and cultural values.
— Great. It appears that our theatre only distributes culture but also helps urban greening. Not bad, is it? Let’s talk about the theatre’s merits, awards, official achievements of the past year. Things to be proud of, besides the theatre’s own advances.
— You know, I’m proud of the “Paradise” award. This is a prize of the Novosibirsk Theatre Union. Our fashion-opera production “Aida” was called the best performance of the season. The Amazing Olga Kolobova received a special prize for playing the main role in “Turandot” opera, this is also very important for us. Nikita Ksenofontov, young ballet soloist is also a very important figure for us. He also won a prestigious award at one of the main Russian choreographic competitions.
But our main achievement is our sold out shows. You know, there are professionals who evaluate your work, and their opinion is important and essential, no doubt. They are like a mirror that we use to look at ourselves. And there is also an audience, and to tell you the truth, I think a spectator who comes to a theatre, opens his heart, his soul, probably spends his last money for the ticket – this person is more important for me; I didn’t mean to offend music and theatre critics, but it’s true. This is important for me – this dialogue, this sincerity of eyes and hearts. That’s my point.
— As one of my favorite cartoon characters said, “Let’s move on”. Now, let us have a look at the new, 73rd season. It will start with the premiere of opera “L’elisir d’amore”. I love its genre – “opera degustation”.
— I wanted to intrigue the people. We try a lot of things in movies, restaurants. And I though - it’s time to taste opera for those who has no idea of what opera is. This is why it’s written here, “the opera degustation”. If we talk serious, opera is a grand art, dramatic art, where majestic music performed by the orchestra gets into subconscious parts of a soul, of a heart and affects it in particular way.
— I can see you love opera.
— Yes I do! We did a lot of thinking before the start of the new season. We thought of a performance to open the season with. And after a profound research and analysis we decided to stage a comic opera. Actually, there has been no comic opera on the Novosibirsk stage for ten years already. I think it’s a disaster, because each self-respecting theatre must have a diverse repertoire. This masterpiece was written by Gaetano Donizetti 185 years ago and it was the previous time staged in Novosibirsk in 1977, 40 years ago.
— Well that is a gap.
— We decided to restore justice and to open the new season on 7th and 8th September with Gaetano Donizetti’s opera “L’elisir d’amore”. That’s a peculiar opera with light and amusing plot. This opera is like sparkles of champagne. In my opinion, Gaetano Donizetti’s music already contains premises of the genre of operetta. It is so vivid, bright, interesting and easy to listen that it will leave no one indifferent.
— Are there any surprises in this production? Should one expect unusual surprises from this opera?
— You want me to uncover all secrets.
— Let me reveal one detail. I saw the photos, and there will be a car on the stage
— Not just a car, it was built in 1954, it is a vintage car.
— I try to see the full picture: the opera was written 185 years ago, the car is from 1954. It already looks intriguing.
— However, it will be quite a modern and bright performance. I decide to do so after analyzing the repertoire of musical and dramatic theatres. I came to a conclusion that Novosibirsk deserves to face the genre of Musical, and I decided to put the features of this brilliant genre into this opera. Gaetano Donizetti’s music contains patters. I cut them out and replaces with dialogues in Russian. That was our mutual decision with Dmitri Jurowski, the Musical Director. This is our fifth cooperative production. The most important thing is why we did it.
— Why did you do it?
— Easy. It’s for the audience to better understand the plot, because few people pay attention to the supertitles, that’s the first. The second thing is the Novosibirsk opera company. I’m happy to work with these amazing artists. They are highly talented, each new production stimulates me to open new planes of their skills. And so, they perform these dialogues as dramatic actors. I think this move would gratify the opera admirers, and particularly fans of these artists: Alexey Zelenkov, Olga Kolobova.
It came out to be a juvenile performance, because my way of management is to develop the company and its artists without inviting the stars, which come and go. However, we will have a lot of this, also: big interesting projects, intriguing cooperation. For example, with Dmitry Korchak, who will visit us a lot. We have our own young soloists: Kirill Nifontov, Nadezhda Nesterova, Daria Shuvalova. Those are the upcoming little stars that will shine real bright, apart from Alexey Zelenkov, Pavel Yankovsky, Olga Kolobova, Maria Belokurskaya. This a great cast.
Of course, Dulcamara the quack doctor is a peculiar character, and an interesting story happened to it. It’s performed by Alexey Laushkin and Vladimir Ognev. So, in my opinion, we got a nice synthesis of dramatic dialogues, bright musical aesthetics and choreography, which is designed by a pretty famous choreographer Artur Oshchepkov, who has worked with top Russian directors. He produced a show with Bari Alibasov, and he is an interesting person himself. He made our amazing chorus and soloists dance.
— So, despite the title “opera degustation” the audience will have an opportunity to taste the opera in full. Degustation means only trying a bit, and here we will have a full meal, am I right?
— Yes, you are.
— What is the difference between the first night and all the rest? Are there any improvs, or everything is prepared?
— Of course not, everything is prepared. This is a serious process: when we see how smooth the action goes on stage, we must understand, there is a lot of work behind it. Opera singer is a unique specialist, who spends about 16 years to come to the stage. Seven years at school, four years at musical college, five years at conservatory and only then a person may sing in the theatre.
— There is an eternal question – a hen or an egg? We have an opera and ballet theatre: so what is first, opera or ballet?
— Who do you love more: mother of father?
— I see.
— It’s this type of question. I tell you what: ballet is a unique type of art, and opera is a unique type of art, and the main thing, uniting them is music.
We always need a proof of divine presence on Earth. We need to see a burning bush, a miracle. For me, it’s music – a divine feature, for those seven notes can be put each time in a different way and new music will appear, the one that crawls into your subconscious and nonconscious levels.
Music makes our hearts tremble, makes our mind produce unintelligible images and each one of us will see his own images to a given tune of a given composer. This is unique. This structure proves the presence of God on Earth, you see? This unexplainable impact that an orchestra has on your body, how it makes you physically vibrate, this is very interesting, unusual and cosmic. That’s why both opera and ballet are synthetic types of art, especially nowadays, when a contemporary theatre is capable of powerful visual performance.
By the way, we will have a very interesting lighting design in “L’elisir d’amore”: a lot of neon light, adverts, different neon forms, you know. It came out so vivid thanks to a great lighting designer – Sergey Skornetsky. He also designed the scenery for this performance. That’s why this unique, divine musical structure unites all and everything.
Also, I’d like to add that the following premiere, “The Nutcracker” is produced by my favorite contemporary choreographer, who staged classics, the unique Nacho Duato. “The Nutcracker” is one tough call.
We all know this performance as a true Christmas and New Year story, but what makes it unique? Of course it’s an excited narrative about how fast the time flows when childhood is almost overcome by adolescence. Nacho made an interesting twist in this production – he moved the action into prerevolutionary city of St.-Petersburg, the silver age of Russian culture depicted by soft modern scenery created by a French designer Jerome Kaplan. It came out to be a very bright, vivid story and even an insightful tale. We are used to the magic of all this New Year, Christmas tree.. There is a touch of magic in this story, of course, but it’s an intellectual magic. And so the doll turned out to be a charmed prince, as expected. How do we uncharm this doll? With the power of love and goodness. So, I believe this a huge ballet premiere.
— When is the first night?
— It will premiere on 23rd and 24th September and then on 1, 2, 3, 4 October.
— Don’t tell me there will be no “Nutcracker” before the New Year.
— Of course it will be. It’s just we try to think more about the younger audience. We’d want these spectacular shows, outstanding Tchaikovsky’s music, interesting magic moves to educate kids. And in my opinion, Nacho Duato’s “Nutcracker” is a kind of performance that is capable of educating, besides entertaining. I really want the Novosibirsk audience to appreciate it. I think we should be proud of this production.
Actually, Nacho Duato is a unique person, one of the few world class stage choreographers and ballet masters who does not only produce classics freshening it up a bit, but he also makes an intellectual type of ballet, which speaks of sublime things when filled up with classical content. This is an exciting event for the Novosibirsk ballet company. He arrives on 17th September and starts working immediately. Before that we are working with his assistants. That’s why it’s such a big event for us.
— We mentioned two premieres: the opera one and the ballet one. I even thought you were going to reveal whether the mouse king would be killed or not. Anyway, I wonder, what the new season will be like. Are there any interesting plans?
— Sure, there are plans, sketches.. We have actually thought it through to the next two seasons. What I’m really proud of, is the educational project “Open NOVAT”. And my ultimate source of pride is that yesterday we spoke on the phone with Philipp Dzyadko , the founder of Arzamas.academy educational portal - I think it’s the main educational portal here in Russia, known and loved by everyone - and we agreed on making a cooperative project in Novosibirsk. It will include lectures – Philipp and Arzamas.academy are planning to bring the best Russian lecturers and the sessions will be conducted at a new concert hall opening in December. And this is a new interesting story, which will start in NOVAT.
I want theatre to be more than just a building hosting performances from time to time. Theatre is a cultural and intellectual center.
I am grateful to the regional government, to the mayor and the governor for supporting this idea, the idea of developing the theatre as cultural and social center. That’s why we will host not only performances but lectures also. We have an agreement with Moscow State University about cooperative educational projects. We will also have one with Tchaikovsky museum. I believe that young and student audience will join this flow. So, a lot of interesting things are waiting for us in the future.
— A whole lot of plans. Since we mentioned the younger audience, may I ask a rookie question – what’s the thing with all these prefixes quest-, fashion-, degustation? Is it some kind of a trend? A recognized need or the theatre’s distinguishing feature?
— First, it’s my personal thing. Some people criticize me for this, other appreciate me particularly for this. I tell you what: we cannot lose this young generation, which is destined to come to the opera theatre. We think a lot about how to attract audience to the theatre. Lecture course is one of the way – it’s not marketing only, it’s my life philosophy. With the help of this quest thing we found a group of people, who participated in the quest.
We also have a lecture and a quest-opera “Turandot” at the theatre, and it’s all very important to me as my part of conversation with the audience. Because I want the young audience to come to the theatre and to fall in love with this genre, to come back again and again, to open their hearts for music, for theatre. It’s very important to me, to engage new audience, I work for that. Generally, my work is focused on the opera theatre first timers, my job is not to scare him away and to help him fall in love.
— Do I get it right – it’s not just an abstract idea anymore and you have some solid achievements in this sphere?
— Sure. I’ll repeat it – I follow the social webs, I read comments. Unfortunately I don’t have enough time to answer everyone, I receive 30-50 messaged each day. And I strongly appreciate it. I’m very grateful to those spectators, who maintain a dialogue with me, who love our performances and our artists. I also work for the artists. You see, it’s very important for the artists to be open, to be busy, to have an opportunity to make the audience and themselves happy.
— I think the list of crazy ideas for our listeners to share is not limited by planting trees. We can build houses, deliver kids. Now, a serious question – we all know the theatre is a symbol of the city; but opera and ballet are international types of art. So, what we would like to know – beyond our city, region and even country, how far do you want to go? And what are your plans in particular?
— I would like the Novosibirsk opera and ballet to be recognized and appreciated not only in Russia, but also in Europe, western world, and further. I happened to be a member of jury for the international opera directors competition. There I met Nicolas Payne.
Actually, there are professional societies that create trends. In Russia we have a musical critic association, featured with the main, the lead musical critics, specializing in this sphere of knowledge. There is an organization “OperaEuropa”, the biggest world organization including 142 world leading theatres from 40 countries of the world. This structure is so powerful, every theatre wants to become a part of it. We agreed with Nicolas that the Novosibirsk theatre will join the organization, and this October we meet in Parma to sign this agreement.
This is very important for me, let me tell you why. There is a portal OperaBase. It is a base of opera artists with limited access. Some people have access, but not all of them are true professionals. It is a kind of secret society of top-ranked agents and promoters. It contains information about each performance, each soloist.
I need the Novosibirsk theatre to be known for its performances and artists, not scandals. I really hope we join this association and all agents, promoters and theatres of the world will get to know our soloists. For me it’s very important to open the Novosibirsk theatre to a professional opera society. I think I’ve been charged to accomplish this mission and God helped me meet Nicolas in person and make the agreement. And on 13th October I will represent Russia at the OperaEuropa conference, I will deliver a lecture represent the Novosibirsk theatre. This is my small personal victory.
And this is important, because we have amazing, unique artists, they deserve to be recognized by a world opera community. This is my goal and I hope we will have a lot of international projects with OperaEuropa. This is a goal for me to reach.
— We only wish you success, at first; second, we wish you enough time, energy and health to make it happen. If you don’t mind we will join your victories by watching the performances and participating in all those events that take place at the opera theatre besides performances.
— First thing, the theatre is always open for goodness, love and audience. I have a wish: we are all different and complex. Art is subjective – one prefers apples, other one loves pears, the third one likes oranges. Gauges of an art object are extremely complicated, you can’t measure with a ruler or a weighing device.
I wish you could come to the theatre and open your heart to remember how sincere and naïve you were back in your childhood. Because the artists on the stage are children. A spectator who chose to open his soul for theatre, music, opera ot ballet is a child also. I’d want the man, whether he loves opera or ballet, or theatre in general or he’s an artist – to stay child-like longer, to keep this honesty, sensitivity and faith in miracles as long as possible. Theatre is a miracle, a wonder. Theatre must be a place for things that one will not see on the street, that my point of view. I want the audience to open up and travel back to childhood on the waves of music.
Now I thank you on the behalf of our listeners. And thank you for coming here. Let me remind you, today we had a very special man, I will list his titles for the record – Ph. D. In Art History, member of the Russian Theatre Union and last but not least – Chief Stage Director of the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet theatre Vyacheslav Starodubtsev.
— And the main thing, a man caring about opera, theatre and life itself, as you heard it yourself. And the city of Novosibirsk, to the top of it. So it’s goodbye for now, see you later at the theatre and here, at “Gorodskaya Volna”.
— Thank you.
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