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)
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 Shchedrin’s opera “Lolita” (as well as Olivier Messiaen’s “L’Ascention” and Pierre Boulez’s “Four Notations”) conducted by Gergiev.
For Shchedrin, the plot of “Lolita,” Vladimir Nabokov’s 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’.”
Shchedrin’s “Carmen-Suite” is arguably Shchedrin’s greatest success and most frequently performed work, so he was keen to develop similar themes.
The composer perceives Nabokov’s 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 Mariinsky’s repertoire.
Speaking to reporters earlier this month, Gergiev sounded enthusiastic when unveiling plans to rehearse Shchedrin’s opera “Dead Souls” and stage the composer’s 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 Shchedrin’s opera, Thomas Ades’ “Powder Her Face” and a series of symphonic pieces and concertos by Henri Dutilleux. Pages: