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    BOLSHOI EXCHANGES CLASSICS FOR AVANT-GARDE

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    MOSCOW (RIA Novosti political commentator Anatoly Korolyov) - The Bolshoi Theatre is, apparently, abandoning its classical traditions and intensely searching for new forms of expression. General Director Anatoly Iksanov made several sensational statements at a recent press conference devoted to the theatre's plans for the next season. The world premiere of "Rosental's Children", an opera by the avant-garde composer Vladimir Desyatnikov to the libretto by radical-minded Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin, will probably be the Bolshoi's most extravagant premiere of spring 2005.

    The plot of the opera is rather shocking as its main characters are the clones of some classical composers. Like the cloned writers in Sorokin's novel, the cloned composers are sure to outrage the conservative public. The famous Lithuanian producer Eimuntas Nekrosius is expected to bring this literary Hoffmania to the stage.

    Operas are rarely produced in an avant-garde manner. However, music aficionados will remember this one at least for the team of creators: Desyatnikov, Sorokin and Nekrosius, who are cultural celebrities in Europe.

    Moreover, the Bolshoi has invited Robert Wilson, a classic name in avant-garde art, to put on his masterpiece, Giacomo Puccini's "Madam Butterfly". The world-renowned producer will not merely revive the old production of the opera, but will offer an "updated" version specially for the Moscow public. Stefano Razani is expected to conduct.

    Wilson's appearance in a theatre is like the appearance of a computer in a peasant's hut. He is known for his ultra-modern visual concepts and approach to operas as showy videos. The conventional operas in the Bolshoi's repertoire will, probably, look like cold and unappetising dishes in comparison with Wilson's production.

    These works represent a challenge to the theatre's tradition. Such radical changes in the Bolshoi's conservative classical repertory were undoubtedly promoted by the Bolshoi's young chief choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. In a record time, Ratmansky staged the post-modernist ballet to the young Dmitry Shostakovich's music, "The Bright Stream". In the new season, the master will offer the public "The Bolt", another ballet set to Shostakovich's music.

    The Bolshoi will present all the three Shostakovich ballets to mark the 100th anniversary of the great composer's birth, which will be marked in 2006. Shostakovich's "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" will premiere as early as this autumn. If one remembers that the opera was banned in Stalinist Russia in 1936 and that the composer was openly persecuted in the wake of this, then one can see how the Bolshoi has taken up the challenge to stage more controversial performances.

    The theatre has also invited Yuri Grymov, a scandalous artist and video maker, to design handbills, playbills and cloakroom tickets. The designer has, thus far, behaved himself well, while the Bolshoi's image has become even more grandiose and imperial with his advent.

    The list of new productions shows that the Bolshoi is eager to co-operate with world opera and ballet stars. The theatre also plans to stage Verdi's "Falstaff", a masterpiece from the celebrated Giorgio Strehler. "Falstaff" will be staged in Moscow by the late master's assistant Marina Bianchi. Lorca Massine is expected to revive three ballets that were produced by his father Leonid Massine: De Falla's "The Three-cornered Hat," "The Omen" trilogy to Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and Jacques Offenbach's "Parisian Life."

    "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to Felix Mendelson's music to be staged by the legendary, intellectual ballet producer John Neumeier, is also one to look out for on the Bolshoi's programme. The ballet will premiere on December 22 just in time for audiences to usher in 2005.

    The Bolshoi will also offer new ballet productions by its own choreographers. Late this season, the theatre will show Ratmansky's production of "Leya", Leonard Bernstein's ballet, and "Magrittomania", Yuri Posokhov's production inspired by Rene Magritte's surrealistic paintings.

    Rene Magritte is, probably, the key to the Bolshoi's new policy. This painter did not mirror life, but depicted a magic reality. The modern Bolshoi is repeating Magritte's manner, evolving from a shrine of classical art into an abode of wondrous imagination.

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