Between January 13 – 20, the Mossovet Theater from Russia will present two plays by Anton Chekhov, Uncle Vanya and The Three Sisters. Both are staged by Andrey Konchalovsky. The prominent 75-yearold Russian/American film, theater and opera director, as well as screenwriter and producer, will come to Israel with the team.
Unlike most Russian plays that come to Israel, Hebrew surtitles will be provided, which means that not only members of the local Russian-speaking community but also non-Russian speakers will have a chance to enjoy classical Russian art.
“I see this ensemble of actors as my own theater within the Mossovet Theater of Moscow,” says Konchalovsky in a phone interview from his home in Italy. “For me, presenting these two plays with the same cast is like performing several different symphonies by the same composer with the same orchestra.”
Konchalovsky finds it difficult, even inappropriate, for a stage director to explain his own productions: “This is for the public and the critics to judge,” he says.
He is also unwilling to talk about Chekhov’s plays in general: “That is like asking ‘What do you think about life?’ It is too complicated, too serious to be discussed in a few words. Chekhov’s work is rather homogeneous and constitutes a very special world of his own. So I wanted to try to understand this world and explain it to the audience,” he says.
That said, Konchalovsky eagerly talks about Chekhov as a personality. The author emerges as a Russian intellectual at its best – a man of vision and of values, which are to be kept and protected in not-so-easy times. And times have never been easy in Russia.
“For me, Chekhov is my inner censor,” confides Konchalovsky. “Seeing himself as a free artist, he was the only person who never belonged to any party, which in Russia was extremely difficult. He never fought for changing this world and openly admitted that he didn’t know what the meaning of life was nor what the truth was. He also said, ‘I think that the essence of his life is to make somebody’s life better’ – meaning somebody close to you.
Speaking about religion, he used to say that it was not faith itself but rather a quest for it that was important; and he was a person who always asked existential questions.”
Konchalovsky, whose initial education was in classical piano, catapulted to the world of cinema in 1965 with his debut film First Teacher, which was a huge success. He later moved to the West, working in the US and Europe. The list of his American movies includes Runaway Train, Tango and Cash and The Odyssey.
Despite that, at some stage of his career Konchalovsky decided to return to his native Russia. Why?
“Honestly, my American career was not so successful. The only film I directed for a major company was Tango and Cash, while others were filmed for independent companies. My films were not so well known in the US, although they ran there, as well as in Europe. I sort of considered entering commercial cinema, but after 15 films to my credit, I thought it would be strange to try to become a Hollywood director.”
With many impressive achievements in international cinema, theater and opera (such as productions at La Scala), Konchalovsky speaks about his artistic career in a very simple terms: “I was a musician, but then it seemed to me that I could be a film director, then an opera director and then a theater director. I just enjoy doing things I’ve never done before, and this widen my boundaries, my understanding of myself.”
Konchalovsky has also made several documentaries, which for him are an opportunity “to make political statements, which are totally out of place in feature films.”
The director says that for him, Israel is not just another country. He displays an impressive knowledge of the European Jewish culture and stresses the importance of the contribution of Jews to Western civilization.
“Granted, Israel is a modern state, but its past is an important page in the Jewish people’s history, and it is not to be torn out of the book. The energy of the young generation of Israelis is amazing. It is a sign of the country’s power and a promise of its future,” he says.
Uncle Vanya and The Three Sisters will be presented from January 13 – 20 in the country’s major cities. More information and reservations – at on-line booking offices.