Bolshoi Theatre’s first die Fledermaus


The Bolshoi Theatre continues its ’Viennese’ theme, introduced this season by Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, with a production of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, the quintessence of operetta as a genre and of Vienna as a cultural myth. This operetta, so popular at leading opera houses, with famous singers and very ’serious’ conductors (among whom are such giants as Herbert von Karajan, Karl Bohm, Carlos Kleiber, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Andre Previn) has never been done by the Bolshoi.

And it will alight on the Bolshoi stage thanks to a very young production team: namely, the Swiss conductor Christoph-Mathias Mueller, leader of the Gottingen Symphony Orchestra, well-known to Moscow audiences for his appearances with the Russian National Orchestra, and director, Vasily Barkhatov whose work, despite his tender years, attracts constant attention. Mr. Barkhatov has already produced five operas at the Maryinsky Theatre.

Moreover, his Maryinsky debut was Dmitri Shostakovich’s operetta — Moskva, Cheryomushki. And his production of the musical Les Parapluies de Cherbourg at Petersburg’s Karambol MusicTheatre has been nominated for this year’s Golden Mask (or his opera productions he has already had two nominations). Thus our producer, without doubt, has a taste for the ’light genre’ so-called.

In his own words, in his production of Fledermaus Barkhatov’s aim was to emphasize the humor of the classical “comedy of mistaken identity” and to bring out the ’operatic’ theme in this operetta. However, this declaration in no way conveys the fountain of directorial fantasy which can only be appreciated at full value from the auditorium. We promise the action will be very lively — even for such a spirited work as this.

Vasily Barkhatov: “Die Fledermaus gives the false impression of being a simple and unsophisticated work when, in point of fact, it has a very complex structure. For me this score amounts to a sort of Da Vinci Code, there is an incredible quantity of information hidden in it. The history of Europe, national conflicts, social sparring — Strauss manages a laugh, while talking about all this. This is a work about the global destruction of barriers, about how easy it is to break all human laws and commandments, apologize, putting all the blame on the champagne which had clouded one’s mind) shake it off and continue on one’s way”.*

In so far as concerns the staging of the production, at a technological level it may be rated as a real challenge to the art of scenography. A record amount of time has been allocated to mounting the sets: the New Stage will be closed to the public for more than two weeks prior to the premiere. These state-of-the-art sets have been conceived by the well-known designer, Zinovy Margolin, who has won many prizes and awards, including the Golden Mask and the Crystal Turandot.

For the famous courturier, Igor Chapurin, who has done the costumes for Die Fledermaus, this will be his fourth work at the Bolshoi, though his first in the operatic genre. And this is fairly important: for this time round, his fantasy, not hampered by the specifics of the ballet costume, will be able to work at full power, all the more so in that the plot itself is very conducive to this.

Lighting is by Damir Ismagilov, and choreography by Denis Boroditsky, master of the ’contemporary’, with whom Vasily Barkhatov has worked before (as, incidentally, he has with Zinovy Margolin).

Dinara Aliyeva (Bolshoi audiences have heard her in Turandot) and the Byelorussian Theatre of Opera and Ballet soloist Anastasiya Moskvina, make two enchanting Rosalindes; Bolshoi Theatre soloists Anna Aglatova and Darya Zykova are no less fine as Adele; while the English baritone William Dazeley, whose taste is for 20th century music, and the Horvatian tenor Kresimir Spicer, who sings mainly baroque works (known to the Moscow public for his recent performance in the title role of Mozart’s Idomineo) make two very different Eisensteins. The part of Dr. Falke is sung by Elchin Azizov (Bolshoi Theatre) and Igor Golovatenko (Novaya Opera), Prince Orlofsky — by Bolshoi Theatre soloists Yelena Manistina, Svetlana Shilova and the English mezzo-soprano Anna Stephany (who recently gave a successful performance with the Novaya Rossiya Orchestra), Alfred — by the young Australian tenor Andrew Goodwin (one of the Bolshoi’s resident Lenskys) who has already captured Muscovites’ hearts, and the very young Samara Theatre of Opera and Ballet soloist Anatoly Nevdakh.

Also on the podium, apart from Mueller, will be Bolshoi Theatre conductor Mikhail Granovsky.

The premiere series of performances will run from 17-21 March 2010.
Supported by VTB Bank.

* From Vasily Barkhatov’s interview to Dmitri Renansky, the full text of which is published in the production program.