19 August 2010, 14:38

Mikhail Shvydkoy: Russia, US share musical past

Mikhail Shvydkoy: Russia, US share musical past
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The Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York has held a trial performance of a new Russian-American musical. Mikhail Shvydkoy , Special Presidential Representative for International Culture Cooperation, is the author and producer of the project. “Vremena ne vybirayut” (“Times cannot be chosen”) - this is how the musical is called in Russian.

The Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York has held a trial performance of a new Russian-American musical. Mikhail Shvydkoy, Special Presidential Representative for International Culture Cooperation, is the author and producer of the project.

“Vremena ne vybirayut” (“Times cannot be chosen”) - this is how the musical is called in Russian. The American version sounds like “The Thirties forever”. In a phone interview from New York Mr. Shvydkoy explained the meaning of the musical’s title:

"It had been my dream for many years to stage a performance on the music of 1920-1930ss, both Soviet and American, because it turned out that it had always united the two peoples, or if you please, two states."

This music was written by those composers who had spent their childhood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: they revived old Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Hungarian, and Jewish melodies, and after that their music became known in America and in the Soviet Union. Very few people nowadays know that Irving Berlin, who wrote “God Bless America”, was born in Tyumen, in Siberia.

And one of the Pokrass brothers, Samuil, who in 1920 wrote a marching song which became a combat hymn for the Red Army, moved to the U.S. afterwards and there worked as a composer for Hollywood, and wrote music for “The Three Musketeers” movie.I wanted to tell the audiences about these common musical roots uniting Russia and the U.S. So I decided to do this together with young American and Russian actors.The idea was to prove that this music still moves people`s hearts.

Mr.Shvydkoy, who is also the project’s playwright, told the VOR about the plot: "The play has two major lines of narration: the one is about modern life, featuring people working for a retro music radio, a story about an American media group merging with the one in Russia.The other line in the plot features an American music-hall star, her memories of how she had come to the Soviet Russia, found her love there and later was parted with her beloved.

The performance was created by 10 Russian and 10 American actors.They all are young, some of them have just graduated from drama schools, while others are employed by theatres already. They did not know each other before the project was launched. But two weeks was enough for them to start understand each other perfectly and sing songs both in Russian and in English. This is a good sign because we see that we can do something good together."

Mr. Shvydkoy`s opinion is shared by his colleague, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Judith McHale, who attended the musical’s trial performance. Mikhail Shvydkoy comments.

"The mere fact that she and her colleagues cut short their vacation to attend the performance, proves that for many U.S. citizens such kind of joint projects with Russia are quite important, and not only for diplomatic reasons," says Mr. Shvydkoy. 

“The Thirties Forever” musical was staged by the Russian director and set designer, while the American side was responsible for choreography and vocals. First nights in Moscow and in New York are scheduled for April 2011 and 2012 respectively.   

Natalia Viktorova
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