BY BILLY SUTER
LOVERS of ballet have a special treat this weekend – what has been described as a “riveting new production” from the Bolshoi Ballet company, seen for the first time in cinema, reaches Cinema Nouveau screens in South Africa from Saturday, May 13, for a limited four screenings.
The ballet, A Hero of Our Time, is based on the larger-than-life hero, Pechorin. It has been adapted from Russian Mikhail Lermontov’s literary masterpiece in three separate stories – Bela, Taman and Princess Mary, that each recount his heart-reaking betrayals. Is Pechorin a real hero, or is he just a man like any other?
This production, choreographed by Yuri Possokhov with music composed by Ilya Demutsky, is a tragic poetic journey on pointes, says a spokesman.
Screenings are scheduled for Cinema Nouveau cinemas in Umhlanga (Gateway’s commercial complex), Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town at 7.30pm on Saturday (May 13), 2.30pm on Sunday (May 14) and 7.30pm on Wednesday and Thursday (May 17 and 18).
The running time of the ballet – directed and designed by Kirill Serebrennikov, who is also the author of libretto – is two hours and 45 minutes, including two intervals.
“A Hero of Our Time is one of Serebrennikov’s favourite books. But, however much one might love a book, not everyone is capable of bringing it alive in ballet,” adds the spokesman.
“I find it surprising no one thought of doing it before,” says Serebrennikov, “as it is a quintessentially poetical and inwardly musical work. And where there is poetry, there is ballet.”
The story centres on Pechorin, a young officer, who embarks on a journey across the majestic mountains of the Caucasus, on a path set by his passionate encounters. Disillusioned and careless, he inflicts pain both upon himself and the women around him…
In each one of the three parts of the ballet, Pechorin is quite different. He is changed by circumstance, age, the way in which he is presented – in Bela he is seen through the eyes of another character, while in Taman and Princess Mary, he ‘speaks’ for himself, via the chapters of his diary.
In all these different guises, there can be no question of Pechorin being an integrated character. Each Pechorin has his own character, as revealed in his opening monologue or his own musical characterisation, as conveyed to the audience by a particular solo musical instrument, positioned directly on stage.
The lead roles in the three stories are danced by Igor Tsvirko (Pechorin) and Olga Smirnova (Bela) in Bela; Artem Ovcharenko (Pechorin) and Ekaterina Shipulina (Undine) in Taman; and in Princess Mary, Ruslan Skvortsov (Pechorin), Svetlana Zakharova (Mary) and Kristina Kretova (Vera).
The soloists are accompanied by the Bolshoi Ballet’s principal dancers and the corps de ballet.
Each ballet also features musical solo performances on stage. In Bela, the two solo voices are mezzo-soprano Svetlana Shilova and tenor Stanislav Mostovoy, with a bass clarinet solo by Nikolai Sokolov.
Taman features a cello solo by Boris Lifanovsky, while Princess Mary features soprano Nina Minasvan, with a piano solo by Nadezhda Demyanova and an English horn solo by Vladislav Komissarchuk.
View the ballet’s trailer here: https://youtu.be/f4SzabAQC0I
The Bolshoi principals tell us more about A Hero of Our Time here: https://youtu.be/zDgArB0TWbw