And the seagull crashes against the high bank...


The idea of staging a ballet based on Chekhov’s play belonged to Yuri Possokhov. More and more often he refers to the Russian literary tradition while choosing a plot for a large-scale ballet. It is a need from within his soul as well as a deep belief that it is Russian literature which is best translatable into the language of plastique. However, The Seagull is a special case in his biography: it has become a symbol for that 'art theatre', which was once conceived by his mind, strengthened and materialised in the ballets A Hero of Our Time (the Bolshoi Theatre), Optimistic Tragedy (the Ballet San Francisco), Anna Karenina (the Joffrey Ballet) and others (the scores for all of the ballets mentioned above were from the pen of Demutsky).

In 1982, he was accepted into the ballet troupe of the Bolshoi Theatre. Realising his mission, he was longing to get on stage and was soon getting one leading part after another. He also spent plenty of time backstage watching performances, including The Seagull in the production by Maya Plisetskaya (and with her participation). That ballet impressed his so greatly, he did not miss any performances. It was then, as he thinks, when he felt a hidden desire to become a choreographer, to be part of that extraordinary world and think differently. Perhaps, even look for notorious “new forms”, which did not leave Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplev in peace.

The 1980s disappeared around the bend long ago and Yuri Possokhov has been one of the most respected choreographers in the ballet world for over two decades. Even though the language of his ballets requires performers to have excellent technique, he cannot be called either a reformer or an avant-gardist. (It is shown also by the fact that his priority is a large-scale narrative ballet). He sees Ilya Demutsky, the meeting with whom he calls a gift of fate, as a one hundred per cent like-minded person.

According to Demutsky, topicality is characterised not by language but the theme, which is revealed by the creators in their works. It is unnecessary to be an innovator in every sense, the main thing is to have a broad outlook. However, in Chekhov’s Seagull the words of the protagonist about the necessity of looking for new forms sound like a refrain (the creators bring Kostya Treplev to the centre of the performance with a single heart and deliver Hamlet’s intonation of his mental searches and actions). How, in whose favour would the opposition of two 'camps' resolve: Arkadina and Trigorin on one side or Treplev (and Nina Zarechnaya) on another? The answer is not straightforward. The main intrigue is in the opposition itself. However, as the creators consider, in the play, where, according to the author himself, there are “five pounds of love”, why would the protagonist not prefer the son’s love to his chaotic searches?

To reflect these searches, however, some specific expressive approaches were, of course, created. If there is a true apotheosis of romantic ballet around the ballerina Arkadina (The Seagull will open with a prologue representing 'theatre in the theatre'), then Kostya’s performances have totally different 'colours'. A significant part of his first 'performance' consists of a composition for…a gong solo. A special gong was ordered, three and a half metres in diameter, the biggest of any existing in the world. It is a kind of symbol, some 'divinity' which expresses the most secret and cherished ideas of Treplev, who is looking for his place in the arts. In the first performance (there are three in total), the sound of the gong will 'clash' with the sound of symphonic orchestra. This clash will be reflected in the choreography.

Both Possokhov and Demutsky see their main task in the necessity of delivering the atmosphere of the play – the anxious atmosphere of the Russian province, where everything seems to have been rooted to the spot for ever, and the chamber, quiet character of its sound. This was the first reason why the chamber complement of the orchestra was chosen.

Director Aleksander Molochnikov, who worked at the Bolshoi Theatre before (two years ago he staged a performance, based on Menotti’s operas at the Chamber Stage) but is working for the first time in collaboration with Possokhov – Demutsky, has his personal relationship with this play. At one time he worked on its production at the Moscow Art Theatre, but the production remained unfinished. Now he is even glad about that, since he hopes that his stage ideas will find a more successful and fresh expression in plastique. It is capable of delivering the main idea – the state of the characters, the imagery of events and the dispute between two conflicting powers in the arts. “In any of the productions of The Seagull that I have seen, there was no answer to the questions, whether Arkadina is a successful artist or whether Treplev is talented. Might he be a young Serebrennikov or Dodin, who no one has ever listened to? Could Kostya be simply not talented? Of course, it is more interesting to think about talented people. For me, this ballet is the opportunity to clash strong powers and totally different points of view. What is more important: the love of a mother to her son or a creative dispute? Should one sacrifice one’s life for it?”. As always, it is the audience who has to decide.

The premiere series of the performances will be held on the 1st–4th of July. The cast includes the Bolshoi Ballet leading soloists.