Can an opening of a production in a small theater, attended mostly by invited guests with only 25 people in audience who bought their tickets at the box office and with 30% of the seats empty, become a major event, covered and discussed by most of national media?
The event that took place on July 10th in Sankt Peterburg Opera.
Yury Alexandrov, the artistic director of the theater and a prominent Russian theater director, started working on the producing the opera “Crimea” immediately after annexation of Crimea by Russia. And since then his work have been in the center of attention of Russian media.
Alexandrov found a forgotten opera about a WWII battle of Crimea, created in 1946 by a mediocre composer Marian Koval, who is mostly known for his active participation in the Stalin-inspired campaign against Dmitry Shostakovich.
The original opera was performed once in Bolshoi Theater, flopped,and disappeared.
Alexandrov completely changed the libretto of the opera. His new version covers history of Crimea from the moment Russia first acquired Crimea by defeating the Turkish army in the 18th century, includes WWII, and ends with the events of this year.
Josef Stalin was one of the main characters in the Marian Koval’s opera. In the Yury Alexandrov’s version Stalin is replaced by Vladimir Putin.
Alexandrov planned staging the opera in the center of St. Petersburg on the historical Palace Square.
But later the director changed his plans, probably worrying about the possibility of not attracting a large enough audience, and decided to start from his own theater.
“The only subject of the opera is love”, say the director. “Love to Motherland… We created a new genre, which had never existed before. It is an opera / rally, with participation of military-historical clubs and several additional choruses… and a lot of children. “
The culmination of this modernistic opera is a chorus of Ukrainian refugees pleading Russians: “Take us along to Russia! Don’t leave us without help!”
At the end of production actors invite members of the audience to join them in the “referendum” about their attitude to Putin’s Ukrainian politics. Alexandrov envisioned a great political re-action: he was spread the rumors that Ukrainian nationalists were preparing to ruin his opening with a demonstration. But opera was received very peacefully. And in the final “referendum.” 100% of the audience approved Putin’s actions.
Here are some excerpts from the opera “Crimea”, as they were presented by the Russian propaganda television RT:
Sankt Peterburg Opera is a repertory theater. Every day a different opera is performed. There is no “Crimea” in the repertory announced for the coming month. It was performed only one time on July 10. It is difficult to predict its future.
Most of theater critics were not impressed by the production. Nicolay Poliansky, critic of the popular paper Moskovskiy Komsomolets wrote: “It is hard to call this opera a masterpiece, it is rather a political act”.
The well known St. Petersburg theater critic Eugenie Khakhnazarov disagrees: “This is not just propaganda material, it is also a work of art. I think that it will enjoy success.”
Yury Alexandrov stated that he still hopes to perform the opera in one of the largest public spaces in Russia, such as St. Petersburg Palace Square or even on Moscow’s Red Square.