More than 500 Artists Are on Tour


The Bolshoi Theatre’s 2008 European tour from July 14 to September 6 is taking it to Greece, Germany, Holland and France. Andreas Schiendorfer asked Vadim Zhuravlev, Head of the Artistic Planning Programming Department of the Bolshoi Theatre, for some information on the tour and on the new season that begins right after it.

In Focus:How important are tours for you? Are they primarily a question of prestige, or do they also bring artistic benefits for the Bolshoi Theatre?

Vadim Zhuravlev: Both aspects are important, and we try to keep them in balance. We are in the happy position that we receive far more invitations from the West than we can accept. So we try to make appearances elsewhere that will strengthen the reputation of the Bolshoi Theatre. In addition, we also get offers that are important for us on artistic grounds. On this tour, for example, we are performing two one-act operas by Rachmaninov (“The Miserly Knight” and “Francesca da Rimini”) that we’re not playing in Moscow. At the moment, tours are even more important to us than they used to be. As is well known, our historic stage has been undergoing renovations since the autumn of 2005. This period of building work is not easy for us if we want to keep our large company together. We have to travel more than usual — through Russia, but also abroad.

How do you put together a foreign tour? Are there partner institutions and ensembles with whom you regularly collaborate?
We maintain very good, regular contact with the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Opйra de Paris and also the Theater Wielki in Warsaw. Furthermore, we frequently stage co-productions, such as “The Flying Dutchman” with the Bavarian State Opera, and “The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh” by Rimsky-Korsakov with the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari in Italy. We are waiting for our friends to come to Moscow — everyone wants to visit us once our main stage there has re-opened. And while touring, of course, we invariably get the opportunity to strike up interesting contacts.

How did the 2008 European tour come about? What are its highpoints?
The planning naturally takes place in all kinds of ways. In 2005, we had a big success in Athens with Verdi’s “Macbeth” in a staging by the Lithuania’s foremost director, Eimuntas Nekresius. Now we’re bringing our latest production of “Boris Godunov” to Greece, along with a concert program featuring music by Prokofiev. After our successful concerts in Munich and Frankfurt in February 2007, we received an invitation to the Schleswig-Holstein Festival with performances in Neumьnster and Lьbeck. Our ballet company, which embarks on a major tour every summer, has not been to Amsterdam for a long time. The highpoints of the 2008 tour from my point of view are the six performances of “Eugene Onegin” at the Opйra de Paris. Gerard Mortier was at our “Eugene Onegin” premiere, and was impressed with the quality of our production. That’s why he has invited us to open what is his last season in Paris — a great honor for us, and a source of joy.

In general, the diversity of the tour program is striking. Is that part of your basic idea — to demonstrate to those abroad the entire spectrum of artistic endeavor at the Bolshoi Theatre?
This versatility in the touring program is a given for us. We have an opera and a ballet company, a chorus and an orchestra. Every ensemble can work with the others, but each also has its own repertoire. We always have a lot to do. But that’s not a bad thing! The Bolshoi Theatre always has to work hard. That is the only possible way of guaranteeing quality with an enormous ensemble like this. And the tours are an integral part of that. Last January, we were working simultaneously on three stages: the ballet was in Paris, the orchestra and the chorus in Milan, and in Moscow we gave performances for our local audience. Going on the road in summer always requires a big organizational effort, too. If you are sending over 500 artists and staff abroad, all at the same time, you have to work out the logistics properly in advance. That is why we have our own professional tour department.

This summer, the Bolshoi Theatre is visiting the Schleswig-Holstein Festival. Can we hope to see and hear your ensemble sometime at the Lucerne or Salzburg Festivals?
Lucerne and Salzburg have shown great interest in concert performances of Russian opera. But these two important festivals need a certain preparation time for the planning — just as we do. We are having discussions about guest performances in Lucerne in 2010 and in Salzburg in 2011. We’ll be in Switzerland before then, however, with our orchestra and chorus, in Lugano.

There is a huge gap between the performances in Amsterdam and Paris. Is the Bolshoi ensemble also having a summer holiday?
Sure, our artists have to finally have a holiday! But at the end of August already, the opera company will start rehearsals for its appearances in Paris. The ballet can rest until early September.

And then, on September 14, the new season begins once more. What are you particularly looking forward to?
Every season is something special. In the coming one, 2008-2009, we are staging four new productions. Regrettably, we now only have a smaller stage on which to rehearse, give our repertory performances and stage new productions. We are excited about the Moscow premiиre of the co-production I mentioned of “Kitezh” by Rimsky-Korsakov, directed by Eimuntas Nekrosius. This opera, so to speak, is the “Russian Parsifal,” and thus occupies a very important place in our society. The other new production is of “Otello” by Verdi, under the young French director Arnaud Bernard. The ballet will give two one-act productions from two different eras: “Grand pas from Paquita” by Marius Petipa, and the modern production “Russian Seasons” that our principal choreographer Alexey Ratmansky created two years ago for the New York City Ballet. We will also be performing “Coppelia” by Delibes-Petipa. I should also mention our subscription concerts in the Moscow Conservatory. The artists performing at these five concerts include Vladimir Jurowski, Gerald Finley, Aleksander Vedernikov, Juliana Banse, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Yury Temirkanov and Vladimir Ashkenazy. And then there are more tours on the program. The ballet is going to Japan, Mexico and America. The opera is showing “Eugene Onegin” in Japan and at La Scala. The orchestra will be touring through France, Switzerland and Italy.

Do you have many foreign visitors to the Bolshoi Theatre? Does cultural tourism play a big role for you?
The Bolshoi Theatre is the symbol of Russia’s cultural tradition. For this reason, we are able to welcome many guests from abroad every evening. Cultural tourism thus plays an important role for us. And look at our touring program! We’re also cultural tourists, aren’t we!

Credit Suisse has been General Sponsor of the Bolshoi Theatre since 2007. From your point of view, what kind of start has the partnership enjoyed?
We’re all very happy and grateful for the generous support and also for the professionalism of the people involved. For example: Credit Suisse organized the first Moscow preview of the Salzburg Festival program. This helped us to establish contact with the directors of the Festival. I can only hope that Credit Suisse is having the same positive experiences with the Bolshoi Theatre. Let’s continue working together on this basis in future!

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