The Bolshoi Children’s Theatre

Sergei Banevich — a pupil of Galina Ustvolskaya and Orest Evlakhov who, in turn, studied under Dmitri Shostakovich — continues the traditions of the Petersburg composers’ school, his work probing even deeper to the school’s roots and sources.

A modern classic, who entered the history of Russian theatre and cinema at the end of the 20th-beginning of the 21st century, the author of music for many plays and movies, he, like no one else, has an intuitive feel for the living pulse of drama. His music is always vibrant and, in the best sense of the word, theatrical. Organically interwoven into text, sequence of events and visual images, it imparts added punch to each frame. But it is at children that Banevich’s music has always been aimed. He has composed marvelous operas, musicals and operettas for children (The Young Prince, Treasure Island, The Brave Tin Soldier, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Mermaid and many, many more).

The Story of Kai and Gerda (or The Snow Queen), is one of Sergei Banevich’s most famous operas. It was written in the year the Afghan War started (1979) at a time that, as the composer himself says, was totally unsuited to this appealing story of the warmth of the human heart which ran counter to the ‘official’ social moods of the time. For all this, the Kirov Theatre (today the Mariinsky) decided to stage the opera. And they were right — audiences loved it and it was to remain in the repertoire for thirty years.

Répétitions. Photo by Damir Yusupov

This is the first time The Story of Kai and Gerda has been produced at the Bolshoi. The production team is made up of the very young and the very experienced. Director Dmitri Belyanushkin graduated from the Russian Academy of the Performing Arts (GITIS) just two years ago, but he has already won the NANO-opera international competition for young opera directors and has staged productions at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theatre, the Voronezh Theatre of Opera and Ballet and at the I.M.Yaushev State Music Theatre in Saransk. The Story of Kai and Gerda is not his first work for the Bolshoi, last year he directed a semi-staged version of Le Nozze di Figaro for the Theatre.
Conductor Anton Grishanin is the production’s musical director. A Ural Conservatoire graduate who, for five years was artistic director and chief conductor of the Chelyabinsk Theatre of Opera and Ballet, at the present time he is conductor at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theatre, and guest conductor at the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia, the Novosibirsk Theatre of Opera and Ballet, the Deutsche Oper Berlin and also with the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia. At the Bolshoi, Anton Grishanin has conducted the ballets Don Quixote, Classical Symphony to music by Prokofiev, and Swan Lake.
The sets are by the legendary scenographer, People’s Designer of the USSR Valery Leventhal. And the opera is lit by Bolshoi Theatre Chief Lighting Designer Damir Ismagilov.