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Nothing Short of Genius

16 May 2011

Boris Godunov premiere at Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre

When an educational theater (and the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre can be called one) takes on one of the most popular Russian operas, it can be one of two things: it’s either very self-confident and unaware of its real abilities or, on the contrary, it’s really strong. Great impressions of the premiere speak of the latter. “Boris…” is not a coincidence. It’s the tenth production of the Opera Centre, so one can envy the theatrical experience the students have there. The production has been of high quality from the outset, when the Opera Centre chose its directors: a Lithuanian conductor Gintaras Rinkevičius, a Macedonian director Ivan Popovski. Their charm, passion and attention to artists are worth mentioning. However, art director Valery Levental leads the way – he did the impossible – his huge cross made of textile icons organized the space of a flat stage and set a tone to the production. The cross served as the central square of the Kremlin, a monastic cell of Pimen, the Kremlin chambers. It was important for such a small stage that conditional production design didn’t look cheap but exhaustive as well as constructive, so that a monastery can be transformed into an inn within seconds.

The most important aim of “Boris…” is to help the students of the Opera Centre, future singers of opera theatres, get theatrical experience. Modest Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov provides students with very serious experience no matter what role they play. The choir made a good showing – The Russian Orthodox Church might take a closer look at the crowd scenes. Two male soloists rose to the occasion – dignified Boris (Alexey Tikhomirov), that was quite expected, and Varlaam (Evgeny Plechanov). The latter showed his stage movement technique as well. The female parts left an unusual impression – the daughter of Boris Kseniya (Maria Makarova) and the Hostess of the Inn (Ann Fateeva) resembled Vishnevskaya. One can only wonder how this happens. It’s a question of professional heredity.

Apart from helping the students get theatrical experience the Opera Centre has managed to fulfill one more task – it brought up a new generation of future students. Of course, not every child of a dozen of those who played in “Boris Godunov” will want to become a professional. However, they will undoubtedly never become “average consumers”. Ironically enough, the fact that aroused most doubts and worries – the size of the theater and a troupe of students – was to the advantage of the performance. It set it aside from a pompous, stuffy premiere of the same name at The Bolshoi Theatre. Students’ desire to do their best compensated for their lack of experience. Thanks to the professionalism of Levental, a huge four-part opera was turned into a psychological drama – chamber and sacred. And it didn’t matter that boyars wore fake sables. What mattered was that the choir’s prayer songs got you thinking of the Time of Troubles.