The Time Has Come*


Premiere of Sadko at the Bolshoi Theatre took place on 24 October 1906. Since then, it almost permanently remained in the repertoire (with an exception in the period from 1938 to 1949) right up until the last decades of XX Century.

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Dmitri Tcherniakov, director.

Reasons for that are obvious. Opera was perfect for the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre. First of all, from scenic and decorative point of view. Change of the sceneries from Novgorod feast and biddings to poetic landscapes of Lake Ilmen; vessels which were fleeing sea and ocean waters; fantastic sight of the seafloor and the finest music of Sadko have been inspiring artists to create sketches that became masterpieces without exaggeration. Magnificent decorations for the setting at the Bolshoi Theatre were created by K. Korovin and F. Fedorovsky. V. Vasnetsov, I. Bibilin, A. Benois and others have also been set designers for Sadko. Food for inspiration was literally everything: from typical characters in the crowd in Novgorod to the change in scenery of quiet and raging sea; fantastic transformations, swans into Princess, Volkhova into the river...A special pleasure for Korovin (avid fisherman) was to depict fish: “Fish is flapping its tail, playing in hands, it is alive! Oh, Boy! Then you are throwing – and you fish gold! It is burning, while merchants – so fool, ha ha ha, – they do not even realize what is going on, just standing there like fools! So neatly thought through, isn't it? “...’’ ‘’Altitude, altitude is celestial, depth – down to sea and ocean’’. As Rimsky-Korsakov wrote, - what an opera!.. Korovin is thrilled with the piece’’. (V. Shkafer Forty years on the Russian opera stage).

Sadko is an absolute Rimsky-Korsakov’s masterpiece. Balance between melodious folk recitative, which opera heroes use to communicate with each other, and expressive solo numbers indicate master’s maturity. Perhaps, Rimsky-Korsakov has no other operas like this one that would contain that many ‘hits’: divertissement of arias of foreign guests, Varangian, Indian, Venetian; famous aria of Lyubava, Volkhova’s lullaby...Elegant and concise his orchestration is. Discreetly and gracefully, Rimsky-Korsakov reminds of Wagner’s findings (he admitted so numerous times), which is a special joy for a tempted viewer to guess the motifs of Rein Gold and Siegfried from Sadko.

Sadko cast is an ideal match with the magnitude of the Bolshoi Theatre: grand, multi-figure choir, variety of solo singers voices... Georgii Nelepp and Vladimir Altantov were performing a part of Sadko on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre during XX Century; Volkhova – Antonina Nezhdanova, Valeria Barsova, Elena Katulskaya, Tamara Milashkina; Lyubava Buslayevna – Nadezhda Obukhova, Larisa Avdeeva, Irina Arkhipova, Tamara Sinyavskaya and Elena Obraztsova; the Varangian guest – Maxim Mikhailov, Mark Reizen, Alexander Vedernikov; the Indian guest – Dmitri Smirnov, Sergei Lemeshev and Ivan Kozlovsky, the Venetian guest – Pavel Lisitsian and Yuri Mazurok.

And yet, since 1984 Sadko did not appear on stage of the Bolshoi Theatre. We keep details of his entrance onto the stage in deep secret: let it be a surprise for the audience who is looking forward to premiere. In order to ‘heat’ interest even more (and we know this interest is huge), our author in residence, Olesya Bobrik, took two mini-interviews with main heroes – Sadko himself – Nazhmiddin Mavlyanov and Lyubava – Ksenia Dudnikova.

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Nazhmiddin Mavlyanov as Sadko.
Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lubava Buslaevna.
Photos by Damir Yusupov.

Nazhmiddin Mavlyanov:
Sadko is a modern man who goes through challenges, some type of ‘quests’. I personally can relate to this image very well. Basically all my life is the process of reaching specific goals. Sadko aims to become confident person who firmly stands on the ground, and takes right decisions. He gains knowledge about society, interacts with it, acquires experience how to deal with the world, acts in a way that requires immediate reaction. Circumstances change rapidly onstage, so does Sadko’s emotional state – just a moment ago he was a hero (‘’You are capable of anything, come to us!’’), and next thing he knows everyone is teasing him again. The core meaning is in conquering all obstacles and gaining self-confidence. And ultimately, not to quit the game and become ‘the real man’.

Ksenia Dudnikova:
Lyubava’s libretto and music part seems to contain only sufferings. If to do everything literally, there will be one big cry – and only in the end, joy appears out of nowhere. Director came up with an interesting concept for this image. Lyubava is a strong woman who courageously carries through her hardships and turn of events in life. And as any wise woman she is capable of enormous sacrificial patience. Sadko for her is a collective image of all men she had in her life. And they all brought her nothing but a disappointment because they never loved her back. It seems as she finds herself in the space where she tries to solve this problem.
At the beginning (third scene), we hear her confession. It is important to note that she is not weeping, she is confessing everything that is going on in her life: I do not know how to fix it, I do not see any solution. And Sadko leaves again. However, at the end of opera something happens that is possible to describe as a usual story... everyone just remains as they are, without adding happiness to anyone… Speaking of how families are usually saved, and if there is any sense in it.

The first series of shows will be held on February 14–18. The leading artists of the Bolshoi Theatre as well as invited stars such as Aida Garifullina, Ksenia Dudnikova, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Nazhmiddin Mavlyanov, Nikolay Didenko, Andrei Zhilikhovsky and others (full list is here) are going to perform. Conductor is Timur Zangiev. This is the second engagement for a young, yet quickly gaining popularity, conductor at the Bolshoi.