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A match made in music

Mariinsky maestro Valery Gergiev and composer Rodion Shchedrin are becoming closer collaborators than ever before.

Published: October 31, 2008 (Issue # 1421)

  • Valery Gergiev (l) and Rodion Shchedrin (r) reviewing a score at the Mariinsky Concert Hall.

Rodion Shchedrin, one of the most acclaimed Russian composers, is obviously winning the heart of Valery Gergiev, the artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater.

The Second New Horizons festival opened Thursday with a performance by the Mariinsky Symphony Orchestra of the second act of Shchedrins opera Lolita (as well as Olivier Messiaens LAscention and Pierre Boulezs Four Notations) conducted by Gergiev.

For Shchedrin, the plot of Lolita, Vladimir Nabokovs 1955 tragicomic novel, is a wonderful thriller begging to be transformed into an opera.

Some years ago I was approached by French managers and asked to compose an opera set to a Russian novel for the then newly inaugurated Opera Bastille, Shchedrin recalls. [The late cellist] Mstislav Rostropovich was invited to be the musical director of the production. This Nabokov novel has tangible allusions with the story lines of Carmen.

Shchedrins Carmen-Suite is arguably Shchedrins greatest success and most frequently performed work, so he was keen to develop similar themes.

The composer perceives Nabokovs novel, in which a middle-aged man, Humbert Humbert, connives to kidnap and sexually abuse Lolita, a 12-year-old girl, as a story of stolen beauty.

It feels like a nostalgia for beauty; it is a symbol, really, Shchedrin said. For me personally, Lolita as a character is less of a human being but rather an archetype, a symbol of beauty but a fleeting beauty.

While no specific plans to produce a full stage rendition of Lolita have yet been voiced, Gergiev announced that other works by Shchedrin are on their way into the Mariinskys repertoire.

Speaking to reporters earlier this month, Gergiev sounded enthusiastic when unveiling plans to rehearse Shchedrins opera Dead Souls and stage the composers ballet The Little Humpbacked Horse.

The ballet looks set to premiere during the current season and be choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, formerly the artistic director of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and now with the New York City Ballet. Gergiev said he has already secured an agreement with Yury Temirkanov, the artistic director of Shostakovich Philharmonic, to conduct Dead Souls.

Gergiev devotes special attention to contemporary music and is especially interested in the works of living composers. His recent presentations to St. Petersburg audiences have included, in addition to Shchedrins opera, Thomas Ades Powder Her Face and a series of symphonic pieces and concertos by Henri Dutilleux.

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Friday, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 4

A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of Repulsion at 7 p.m. and Rosemarys Baby at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy The Tenant, the cult comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers and Cul-de-sac among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at

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