A big event

The famed Russian Bolshoi Theater comes to the Israeli Opera.

June 19, 2013 10:41
4 minute read.
Russian Opera in Tel Aviv

big event. (photo credit: Damir Yusupov)

The Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater from Moscow, one of the world's most renowned companies, comes for the first time to Tel Aviv as a guest of the Israeli Opera Theater. Starting on June 24, the Bolshoi will present Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin , arguably one on the most Russian operatic pieces ever.

The Bolshoi, which is one of Russia’s oldest theater companies (it was been founded more than 230 years ago), has not only survived its country’s many tumultuous periods but has emerged as a winner. After the reconstruction of the historic building, it includes three performance hall. The tickets go on sale three months prior to a performance and sell out quickly due to high demand.

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The theater hosts artists from all over the world, while the Bolshoi’s singers star in the world’s leading opera houses.

“We are happy to come to Israel,” says Bolshoi CEO Anatoly Iksanov. “ The Tel Aviv Opera House has an excellent reputation in the operatic world, and we are eager to perform there. Also, in the previous stage of my career, I visited Israel five times as the CEO for the Bolshoi Drama Theater of Petersburg, and I have to admit that the Israeli audience is simply amazing – very sensitive and responsive. As for Onegin , this is one of our trademark productions, which has been presented on the world’s best stages to great acclaim.”

In regard to the Bolshoi’s survival, Iksanov says, “This probably is our multinational people’s traditional yearning for culture, which nurtures culture institutions. Granted, the Bolshoi is our national theater and, as such, it has the support of the state. But again, unlike during the Soviet era, when achievements in the field of opera and classical ballet only served as a façade to hide the ugly aspects of our life, today this is not about false prestige – we sincerely want to show our best.”

Tickets to the Bolshoi’s performances are always in great demand.

“Again, this is the result of a tradition. There are many music schools for children and there are state-funded programs to support and to even increase their number, although you always feel that this is not enough,” he says.

And what about the ticket prices? Are they only for Moscow’s nouveau riche? “Not at all. First of all, 30 percent of the tickets are sold at the nominal price of two euros 2 for students, pensioners, etc. Also, the price for different halls differs. Tickets for the restored historic hall are more expensive, while those for the minor hall where contemporary and experimental pieces are staged,are cheaper simply because the productions there require less investment,” he explains.

The Bolshoi serves as a greenhouse for young talent.

“Several years ago, we started a new project – a two-year young artists studio. We looked for new talent not only throughout Russia but also in the former Soviet republics. For example, good voices traditionally come from Ukraine, and we also have new singers from Azerbaijan. The competition was extremely high, like 250 candidates for one vacant spot All the graduates from the music academies. So from them one can chose some dozen extremely promising young singers,” he says says. “We bring them the best teachers available – our Russian singers, as well as Germans, Italians, French, according to the repertoire.

Getting back to the Bolshoi’s high quality, traditionally the artists – singers and dancers – when they step down from the stage, they continue their career as teachers, passing on the theater’s rich and age-old traditions to their beginner colleagues.”

The Bolshoi works according the stagione system, which is widely accepted in the world.

“Our singers perform throughout the world and are always invited to perform in Russian operas, but not only. While we invite stars from the West, and everything is decided at the auditions, the best wins. It does not matter if he or she is Russian or not,” says Iksanov.

The theater’s repertoire is largely based on Russian operatic pieces, including contemporary operas, as well as major Western operas.

Iksanov, who took on the Bolshoi management some 10 years ago, when the theater was going through hard times, is often credited with the revival of the legendary institution.

“It’s difficult for me to talk about myself,” he says. “Granted, I applied my previous experience and I traveled abroad to learn how to manage theater in the new, non- socialist reality. What I learned is that all over the world, theaters are essentially the same. A theatrical show is an amazing one-time experience; it is something that takes place between the actors on stage and the audience in the theater. I am not an artistic director, I am not the one who creates this magic. My task is different – to create conditions for this magic to happen. And judging by where we as a theater now, I believe that I have been doing my job honestly.”

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