Opening of the 239th season of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg
Last season most performing companies including the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Companies staged season-long series of both opera and ballet across their performance stages. Today the Mariinsky boasts no less than four stages, two for opera and ballet and two concert halls. Last season, the performances were well attended and there is no reason not to expect full audiences in the forthcoming 239th season.
On Wednesday 8 September, the Mariinsky Theatre opens their new season with Alexey Stepanyuk’s production of Tchaikovsky’s The Maid of Orleans at the New Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre, or Mariinsky II as it is called. Under the baton of the Music Director Valery Gergiev, the main solo part of Joan of Arc will be taken by the outstanding mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk (a finalist at the 2000 World Singer of the Year Competition), while Agnes is taken by Maya Barankina, King Charles is Sergey Skorokhodov, Mikhail Petrenko is the Archbishop and Lionel is Alexey Markov. This production was premiered on 28 May 2021 to great acclaim by audiences and media alike.
Such is the scale of the Mariinsky company that on the same evening a concert performance of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (arranged by Alexander Petrov) will be given in the excellent acoustics of the new Mariinsky Concert Hall. The promising Zaurbek Gugkayev is the conductor in this performance in Russian (using Tchaikovsky’s own translation) which was first seen here on 1 May 2009. This presentation will be given by the Mariinsky Academy of Young Opera Singers.
On the second evening, Gergiev conducts Wagner’s Tannhäuser in a scintillating production by Vyacheslav Starodubtsev with the title role taken by Mikhail Vekua, Elizabeth is Irina Churilova and Yulia Matochkina will be Venus. This staging dates from 17 June 2021 and was very successful in the now famous Mariinsky Wagnerian tradition of matching powerful singing and innovatory production standards. (In November, like he does every year at the Mariinsky Theatre, Gergiev will conduct the entire Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner.)
Giuseppe Verdi’s Atilla is on the bill on the third evening of the new season with the title role taken by Yuri Nikitin and the other characters taken by Tatyana Serjan as Odabella, and Sergei Skorokhodov is Foresto and Ezio by Vladislav Sulimsky. The American conductor Christian Knapp who studied under Musin in St Petersburg and has performed often at the Mariinsky is the conductor for this evening. Interestingly, Knapp is undertaking the performances of Pelleas et Melisande on 18 September), I vespri siciliani, Così fan tutte, Lakmé, and Les contes d’Hoffmann at the Mariinsky this autumn. This production by Arturo Gama dates from 13 July 2010.
On September 10, the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition Gold medal winner of 1990 Boris Berezovsky will be giving a performance of Scriabin and Beethoven at the Mariinsky Concert Hall which promises to be fully subscribed. At the Mariinsky New Stage, on the first Saturday evening of the season, Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss will be given in Russian with the young Armenian conductor Gurgen Petrosyan (appointed here as an assistant to Maestro Gergiev in 2018) in charge with among his cast – Sergei Semishkur as Count Eisenstein, Oxana Shilova as Rosalinde, Antonina Vesenina as Adele and Alfred is Denis Zakirov. Yekaterina Sergeyeva is Prince Orlofsky. This new presentation was premiered on 26 December 2020 in Alexey Stepanyuk’s production with the music preparation by Marina Mischuk.
In the opening month of the season, another Tchaikovsky opera, his final stage work – Iolanta will be staged, and there will also be operas by Puccini, Madama Butterfly, Turandot and La fancuilla del West which will be major events of the autumn season, along with more Mozart in Die Zauberflöte, more Verdi productions of Aida, Rigoletto, Un ballo in maschera, Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Christmas Eve.
The world famous Mariinsky ballet will be performing two productions in the opening month: Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and Rodion Shchedrin’s The Little Humpbacked Horse in a production by Alexey Ratmansky. Other forthcoming ballets include Le Corsaire, Don Quixote, Giselle and La Sylphide.
Prokofiev’s ballet will feature the original famed 1940 choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky with Gavriel Heine as conductor. The title roles will be taken by the stunning young ballerina Olesya Novikova and the Korean dancer Kimin Kim who has been at the company since 2012. The American conductor Gavril Heine (another graduate from Musin’s conducting class) has been a staff conductor here since 2009 and has toured frequently with the company and has his own Northern Lights Music Festival in Minnesota.
Originally staged at the Bolshoi Ballet in 1960, Shchedrin’s comic ballet – The Little Humpbacked Horse was staged in Ratmansky’s choreography on 14 March 2009 and has become a popular part of the company’s repertoire. The main characters: Ivan the Fool is danced by Yevgeny Konovalov, Elena Yevseyeva is the Tsar-Maiden, the title role is taken by Vasily Tkachenko, while the Gentleman of the Bedchamber is danced by Islom Baimuradov and the Tsar is danced by Dmitry Pykhachov, and Maria Bulanova dances the part of the Young Mare. This delightful children’s’ ballet is to be conducted by another graduate of Ilya Musin’s conducting class, and also a distinguished clarinettist – Vladislav Karklin and who will surely ensure the opening weeks of the season get off to a vibrantly popular beginning.
Another performer in the opening weeks – in a matinee concert – will be the fourteen-year-old pianist Alexandra Dovgan (interviewed for Seen and Heard International in 2019) who will be playing Mozart’s 23rd Concerto in A major KV 488. She will be accompanied by Christian Knapp with the Mariinsky Orchestra in an evening also including Mozart’s ‘Haffner’ Symphony KV 385.
On the same evening, on 19 September, a performance of Shchedrin’s Boyarina Morozova – a choral opera will be performed at the Mariinsky Concert Hall. Not known as a major opera composer, Shchedrin’s third opera concerns the eternal problems of Russia, the meaning of life, the fate of human existence, of the human soul, of religion and power based on the life and sufferings of the Boyarina Morozova and her sister Princess Urusova in the 17th century. The score by the composer is written for four soloists, two mixed choirs, solo trumpet, timpani and percussion. Yekaterina Sergeyevna, Violetta Lukyanenko, Stanislav Leontyev, and Sergey Alekshashkin will take the solo parts in this one-hour opera. Premiered in Moscow in 2006, it was first staged by the Mariinsky in 2014.
This opening to the new season will surely reveal the Mariinsky Theatre among the leading ensembles in musical performance and undoubtedly continue to stretch the performance boundaries in both new and familiar music repertoire.