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The Flaming Angel will fly high at the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater on April 24, Saturday
This mysterious opera, one of Sergei Prokofyev's early music creations, had never before been staged at the Bolshoi. The choice of the opera is in line with the policy of turning to the opera legacy of the 20th century and co-operating with foreign producers, which the Bolshoi has been pursuing since the start of the new millennium. The team of the Flaming Angel producers involves conductor Alexander Vedernikov, who is also Bolshoi music director, director Francesca Zambello, an American of Italian extraction, and Russian scene designer Georgy Tsypin. Sergei Prokofyev fancied to operatise Valery Bryusov's Flaming Angel novel while in the United States in the 1920s. The composer worked at the opera in Germany inspired by the forest covered Alpine mountains of Bavaria, which were reminiscent of witches' Sabbaths. Prokofyev finished the opera in France in 1927, in nearly eight years. The opera plot unfolds in a medieval Europe and is based on myths about witches and other evil spirits, which, however, only make up the background of the psychological intrigue: the struggle between the good and the evil inside Renata, the heroine. Renata is in love with the Flaming Angel, Madiel, but she seethes with madness. Eloquent and colourful music, which is immensely difficult to play, conveys the heroine's anxiety, the dissonance of her feelings. The premiere was to take place in late 1920s - early 1930s in Germany and the USA, but was cancelled both times. The author even turned the opera into a symphony, but it did not help. The Flaming Angel was for the first time shown in Paris in 1954, a year after Sergei Prokofyev's death. The Bolshoi had never before ventured to stage the Angel, unlike St Petersburg's Mariinsky theatre where the opera premiered in 1993. However, the Bolshoi, which has staged nearly all of Prokofyev's operas and ballets and has even made several productions of his Romeo and Juliet ballet, and War and Peace and The Gambler operas each, could not for a long time embark on the composer's early, very complex opera. This season, the Bolshoi has commemorated Prokofyev who died 50 years ago. In December 2003, the theatre offered the public an avant-garde production of Romeo and Juliet, which was a joint project of young Moldovan choreographer Radu Poklitaru and the world famous British producer Declan Donnellan. The Flaming Angel is the theatre's latest production. Vedernikov and Zambello, who ventured to produce the opera, "feathered in" last year, when they were working at Puccini's Turandot, which came as one of the theatre's best productions over the past few years. Alexander Vedernikov, the 40-year-old music director and chief conductor of the Bolshoi, has had experience with top orchestras in Russia and abroad, among them philharmonic orchestras of Tokyo, London, the BBC Orchestra, the Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, the symphony orchestras of the Hague, Montreal and Budapest. He has been invited to work in Covent Garden's Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera. Le Mond wrote that he directed immaculately. New opera and ballet productions, joint projects with foreign opera and ballet celebrities and the emergence of new gifted producers, conductors, dancers and singers in the theatre company are the achievements promoted by Vedernikov over the three years as Bolshoi music director. When Vedernikov took the position in June 2001, he was set to ensure the Bolshoi's "artistic advance," which he did. The western media has dubbed Francesca Zambello, who works with the major world opera houses, an expert on Russian themes. Indeed, Zambello produced Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina by Musorgsky, Prokofyev's War and People, Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Borodin's Prince Igor. The producer said she fell in love with Russian culture when she came to Moscow for the first time in 1976 as a student. Zambello says she knows how to direct Russian performers' artistic search and make them feel confident and believes they understand her and reciprocate. In her productions, Zambello tries to convey her viewing of the theme and, yet, she wants her productions to have a lasting power and to continue attracting audiences in five years. Georgy Tsypin has worked with the leading opera houses in Europe and the United States, in the film industry and on television, and has a great many awards. Tsypin's personal exhibitions of sculpture pieces and drawings were held in many cities across the world, New York among them. For the Flaming Angel Tsypin painted impressive, mystic scenery. The part of Renata is performed by Yekaterina Vasilenko, a young soloist who made her debut at the Bolshoi in 2000, and the experienced Oksana Krovitskaya, who has been singing at the New York opera for the tenth season now. The Bolshoi is continuing to move in the "supernatural" direction. It started the season with Verdi's Macbeth, Eimuntas Nekrosius' production, and is finishing with the Flaming Angel, while in June the theatre will offer the public Wagner's Flying Dutchman, a joint production of the Bavarian State Opera and Russian producer Pyotr Konvichny where Vedernikov is also expected to direct.
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