➿ A History of Russian Theatre Free ➶ Author Robert Leach – Thomashillier.co.uk

A History of Russian Theatre This Is The First Comprehensive History Of Russian Theater In English Since The Fall Of Communism Written By An International Team Of Experts, The Book Brings Together The Fruits Of Recent Research 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, From Puppet Theater To Ballet And Grand Opera A Key Feature Of The History Is The Collection Of Rare Photographs, Some Published For The First Time, Chronicling The Development Of Russian Theater


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  1. says:

    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 pp.41 56p.48 The rise of the Russian ballet school dates from the time of Empress Anna Ioannovna 1730 40 , whose 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 pp.41 56p.48 The rise of the Russian ballet school dates from the time of Empress Anna Ioannovna 1730 40 , whose court was exceptionally splendid and brilliant p.49 The foreign 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 the Russian theatre was that of classicism Victor Borovsky, The Emergence of the Russian Theatre 1763 1800 pp.57 85p.59 The Russian State Theatre, founded in 1756, gave performances mainly for the court and nobility In addition, for the ordinary people of St Petersburg, there were folk theatres narodnye teary Andy Adamson, The Russian Imperial Ballet pp.182 198p.182 The first professional ballet appeared in Russia in 1736, as part of Francesco Araia s opera The Power of Love and Hate The performance was given bythan 100 Russian dancers who, since 1734, had been trained under the guidance of the French ballet master Jean Baptiste Land Land was also responsible for founding the first professional dancing school, which opened in St Petersburg in 1738 When the Imperial Theatres became state run, in 1758, their remit included responsibility for ballet p.184 185 In 1847, Marius Petipa and his father Jean arrived in St Petersburg to stage two Western novelties, Paquita 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 for an original choreographer to raise the standards of Russian ballet to a level higher than those in the West Jules Perrot was found 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 for Russian audiences, strengthening the dramatic action and emphasizing realism, particularly in the mad scene p.186 French born Marius Petipa came from a family of dancers His brother, Lucien found fame partnering Carlotta Grisi in the premier of Giselle 1841 In 1847 Marius was offered a one year contract in St Petersburg and remained there for the rest of his life, devoting fifty six years to the Russian stage The so called era of Petipa dates from his appointment as ballet master in 1869 He became identified with the very idea of Russian ballet and was to sustain it as a flourishing 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 fusion 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 p.187 Many of his works were created on a truly grand scale, lasting four or five 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 for an array of contrasting dances These might include national dances evoking the spirit of some far off land, or fantastic character dances inspired by fairy tales He absorbed the tastes of the court and took a strong interest in the traditional folk dances of Russia, incorporating their typically complex and symmetrical patterns into his own choreography for 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 littlethan a framework on which to hang his dance compositions He found himself composing according to a formula, 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 for 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 for the ballerina and her male partner p.189 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 f Alexander II s assassination A reactionary period followed Eventhan before, ballet was to provide safe entertainment for 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 of ceremony p.193 Both musically and choreographically The Sleeping Beauty is the crowning glory of Russian nineteenth century ballet and includes some of Petipa s finest work The resounding success of The Sleeping Beauty led to another collaboration with Tchaikovsky, this time on The Nutcracker The choice of theme again came from Vsevolozhsky but this time he prepared the libretto jointly with Petipa Petipa onceprovided 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 for choreographer and composer p.194 Telyakovsky became the new director in 1902, making his principle concern the modernization of opera and ballet Subsequently, in 1903, Petipa was informed that this contract as ballet master would not be renewed Petipa s memoirs recall the bitterness he felt towards Telyakovsky, and he lived on until 1910 planning yetrevisions of his old ballets p.195 Alexander Gorsky became the first choreographer to treat the entire stage ensemble as members of a choreographic drama, in the manner of Stanislavsky Instead of frozen symmetrical lines, typical of Petipa s corps de ballet, each performer was given an individual action, to former was given and individual action, to form a living crowd p.196 A key factor in Fokin s formative years was his association with The World of Art, a group of cultured men including Benois, Bakst, Korovin, and Nouvel, but most notably the founder 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, from 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 pp.218 50p.219 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 from 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 quantity, not the quality of performances None of them challenged existing traditions or introduced new artistic ideas Most of them except for the Moscow Art Theatre were mediocre copies of the Imperial theatres with similar repertoires and, very often, the same acting techniques p.235 St Petersburg wasEuropean than Moscow, not only in repertoire and attitude to theatre, but even in stage equipment The actors at the Aleksandrinsky wereskillful and effortless, and had greater flexibility, subtlety and sense of style and rhythm In fact, many actors at the Aleksandrinsky learned their craft touring in provincial theatres p.237 From the 1880s the dominant position at the Aleksandrinsky Theatre belonged to Maria Gavrilovna Savina p.241 Komissarzhevskaya felt and expressed the quality of the approaching twentieth century with a force 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, p.245 In 1904, in the electric atmosphere that preceded the first Russian revolution, Komissarzhevskaya opened her Drama Theatre in St Petersburg Her passionate desire for changes both in art forms and in life forms 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 for Komissarzhevskaya had ethical, rather than political meaning It was the romantic symbol of a new and better life, not a power struggle p.246 In 1908 Komissarzhevskaya renounced the stage Her ambition was to found a drama school, where she wanted to teach first 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 for her school, Komissarzhevskaya caught smallpox Anatoly Smeliansky, Russian Theatre in the Post Communist Era, pp.382 406p.384 In circumstances of relative freedom 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 fell from 20 million down to a few thousand Great literature, banned for decades and suddenly unloaded in one fell 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 p.385 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 for those involved in Russian theatre and was keenly felt Freedom of artistic effort was no longer perceives as something exceptional and beneficent people quickly 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, foreign currency offices Heavy with symbolism, signs saying Exchange adorned the entrances to the leading theatres of Russia p.386 The first sign of a new 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 foot on a stage for months, if not years, yet regularly received their wages and associated benefits p.399 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 faced 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 fall off and so bequeathed his most difficult of balancing acts to many of those who were forced to live and accomplish things under the circumstances of the so called stagnation The production was banned, but for many years Zakharov was firmly labelled unorthodox or dissident p.400 Within the framework of the then regime dissidence required 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 quickly made it one of the most popular in Moscow p.401 Mark Zakharov was the first 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, for the first time in the history of the Soviet regime, a string of theatres were allowed to choose their own repertoire and to take responsibility for their own financial policy Robert Leach, Russian Theatre and Western Theatres, pp 407 419p.407 almost all the performance techniques which are known in the West today derive from models developed in Russia p.408 Consider the case of dance In five 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, featuring the charismatic and brilliant singer Fyodor Chaliapin, and, evenimpressively, 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 equal impact p.409 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 perhapsto 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 for 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 foundation, 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 fact is that he was extremely pro Soviet from 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 p.410 Brecht s debt to Meyerhold and the Russians has never been fully recognized p.412 More successful, andsignificant for the West, was Fyodor Komissarjevsky, who left Russia in 1919 In 1925 he was appointed to the tiny theatre, formerly 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 quick startling to English play goers Chekhov was largely unknown in the West, but Komissarjevsky found 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, andall leaders in the British theatre in the following 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 p.413 The Moscow Art Theatre tour in 1922 1924 astounded its audiences, first in Europe, and then evendeeply 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 evenenthusiastically John Barry, who was playing Hamlet on Broadway at the time, asserted that this was the most amazing experience I have ever had by a million miles in the theatre p.415 Andrius Jilinsky If you want to create truth on the stage, you must be acquainted 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


  2. says:

    to finish.Chapter 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.