Feast Thine Eyes

So. You have joined a new community and learned about the key trends in modern theatre, and then picked a place where the repertoire appeals to you the most. But what is next? Which show should you see? Our theatre experts from Facebook theatre groups recommend a few must-see productions that you cannot miss – or forget.

Don Quixote 

The Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre

This was the very first ballet by Rudolf Nureyev that was brought back to Russia; this alone makes the premiere a historical milestone. For the Western public, Nureyev’s choreography has long since become a classic. In the show, the Spanish passion is intertwined with the French refined elegance, and the plotline structure is almost overloaded with new variations and inserted dances featuring male characters. Other features include voluminous new costumes and sets, a new interpretation of dance numbers that are based on character acting, and a different orchestra arrangement for Minkus’ music. And brought together, all these novelties turn into a truly vibrant ballet epic, which all of us must see at least once in our lifetimes.

Kaash

The Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre, Moscow

Akram Khan is one of the most distinguished and sought-after modern dance choreographers. This premiere is a momentous occasion for the ballet world: among other things, this is the choreographer’s first time working with Russian dancers. Kaash (Hindi for “if only”) is Akram Khan’s first large-scale production that premiered in 2002. Following the complex rhythm of the tabla drums, two men and three women paint an epic cosmology through dance. The British choreographer with Bangladeshi roots was inspired by the imagery of the Hindu god Shiva. The performance blends together Asian martial arts, the classical kathak dance, and contemporary dance, intermingled with meditative solos and trios that feature the intricate wrist gestures to typical of India. Premiere in Russia: June 12, 2020.

Nureyev

Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow

The most striking premiere of 2017. The hype for this production was so strong that you could have thought it was a new superhero franchise rather than a ballet. This ballet biopic about the life of Rudolf Nureyev, an outrageously daring 20th century danseur, has earned a plethora of adjectives: scandalous, brilliant, divisive, innovative. The production team trio – choreographer Yury Posokhov, composer Ilya Demutsky, and director Kirill Serebrennikov – was already well-known at the time. The creators of the Nureyev ballet decided to blend together several genres, which is why dance in the show is combined with elements of opera, oratorio, drama, TV shows, and cinema.

Jewels

Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow

One of the most famous and beloved ballets staged by the American choreographer George Balanchine. In a way, Jewels became a crossroads between Balanchine’s heritage and the Russian dance school. This is a truly gorgeous production that showcases the aesthetic of classical dance while also reflecting the unrestrained, modernist thinking that characterized Balanchine’s choreography.

Spartacus

Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow

First staged in the middle of the 20th century, Spartacus still remains highly popular in the 21st. Just as The Swan Lake, it has become the Bolshoi’s trademark ballet. In this production, the brilliant Russian choreographer Yury Grigorovich brought the male dancers into the spotlight; the scenes that feature the men’s corps de ballet make a lasting impression because of their sheer scale and intense emotion – and even the most jaded of theatregoers will be unable to remain indifferent to Aram Khachaturian’s music.

La Bayadère

Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

La Bayadère is one of the most popular classical heritage ballets. And St. Petersburg is the only place where you can truly witness how it should be performed. The Mariinsky Theatre has been working with a particular meticulousness to preserve all the traditions established by the great Marius Petipa. This ballet is a vast canvas, where the core element is the timeless tale of star-crossed lovers: a noble Hindu warrior and a temple dancer. The exotic flair is in perfect synthesis with purest classics, and the impossibly elaborate patterns of body language make it look like the ballet dancers have to pass a professional exam in choreography and acting every time they perform. The most beautiful part of the production, and a cult classic, is the scene with the shades, which seem to beckon the audience to come back to the theatre again and again.

The Nutcracker

Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow

The world’s foremost Christmas ballet needs no special introduction. This classical show is based on an eponymous fairytale by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann. Seeing The Nutcracker – at the Bolshoi in particular – has become a special winter tradition for ballet fans. For children, this is an excellent opportunity to experience the magic of ballet; and for their parents, it’s a chance to remember how they were young. Everything about this show is stunning, from the wonderfully familiar music by Tchaikovsky to the enchanting scenery and refined choreography.

Daphnis et Chloé 

Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

Vladimir Varnava, a prominent young choreographer, was inspired to stage this ballet by the music of Maurice Ravel and the talent of the Mariinsky troupe. Unlike the eponymous work of literature, the ballet does not have a clear-cut narrative, but it does touch upon one of the important themes: we humans are blessed with beautiful bodies that need exploring, and the characters are at the time of their life when they are trying to find out what their bodies can do. The choreographer himself describes this as “drama of the body”. He paints whole pictures out of human bodies, building the plot right out of the dancers’ poses, and head turns, and touches. The premiere is scheduled for November 16, 2019.

Jeanne au Bûcher

Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre, Perm

The controversial opera by drama director Romeo Castellucci (Italy) and the renowned conductor Teodor Currentzis combines elements of performance and post-drama theatre. The first half an hour is not even an opera: the public sits in complete silence. The opera’s creators are not interested in any new facts about Joan of Arc. Instead, they bring forth striking imagery of war heroes, immigrants, and Holocaust victims, so the ending leaves a lot to think about. Maxim Drimling calls this opera “a theatrical masterpiece, plain and simple”.

Waiting for Godot

Vakhtangov Theatre, Moscow

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot tells a touching tale of vagrants who dwell on the very outskirts of life, brought together by their shared fate, hopes, and aspirations. Comical slapstick is organically interwoven with tragedy, the mystical exists side by side with the real world, flesh-and-blood people turn into symbols, and the abstract notion of time becomes tangible.

Kontora

Pavel Novikov’s ProZHekt Production Center, Moscow

Kontora (Russian for “office”) is one of the first projects executed by the ProZHekt creative team. The beginning of the plot is mundane and simple: a group of office employees stays behind late in order to tackle some extra workload, but suddenly, things take a completely surreal turn. The characters develop powers that they never would have thought themselves capable of, and start seeing their colleagues in a completely new light. Maxim Drimling: “This is a fiery show with excellent drive, a great example of high-quality comedy on a highly relevant topic. A must-see for everyone who works at an office or in a study”.

Crimson Sails

The Dagestani State Puppet Theatre, Makhachkala

Director and artist Viktor Nikonenko wrote a completely new story, inspired by Aleksandr Grin’s eponymous story, astoundingly romantic and bittersweet. The social commentary on the hostile environment that the main character, Assol, grew up in, are subdued, and the key focus is on the two lovers, who are both not-of-this-earth daydreamers that were lonely as children. The production’s visuals are captivating: there are the soaring arches of coastal towns, and the enormous rippling “water” canvasses; but the main attraction is the puppets, both big (which fly above the set) and small (which appear in the buildings’ doorways). Maxim Drimling: “There are some people who think that puppet theatre is boring. They think that puppet shows are lifeless, with no human emotion or energy – which is a load of nonsense. I used to agree, until I saw this one puppet show, where I bawled my eyes out and would sometimes forget to breathe”.

Vakhtangov Chekhov

The St. Petersburg City Theatre, St. Petersburg

Vakhtangov Chekhov is a show about the history of Russian theatre, including the creation and development of Stanislavsky’s acting system, the fate of the First Studio opened by the Moscow Art Theatre, and the friendship between Yevgeny Vakhtangov and Mikhail Chekhov. The young actors present this show as “playing” with historical documents, telling the story of their famous peers that lived a hundred years ago and aspired to build a new, vivacious kind of theatre. Maxim Drimling: “This is a unique show that documents how classical Russian theatre began to shape itself. Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Chekhov – if these names make you feel bored, you are wrong. The play has real passion, and humor!”

Elder Son

Russian Drama Theatre named after M. Lermontov, Grozny

The production’s director Dmitry Pavlov explains that this show, based on the eponymous play by A. Vampilov, has everything that your heart desires: love, rivalry, treachery, disappointment, life-changing meetings, and a father-son relationship, which is something so timeless that it makes the story almost Biblical. Maxim Drimling: “It’s very touching, beautiful, and refined”.

Little Red Riding Hood

Taganka Theatre, Moscow

This is an adult version of the fairytale, with strong psychological undertones: a story about Mothers and Daughters, about coming of age, about love and loneliness. There is no Big Bad Wolf here; instead of a literal beast, the characters fall prey to the dread of impending loss. The mothers are afraid of letting go of their children even as they grow up; and the children are afraid of losing their parents. Maxim Drimling: “When parents have a conflict with their kids, they don’t have to go to therapy straight away. I recommend seeing this show first. It will make many things become clear”.

Life of W

The LadYes Theatre at the Bulgakov House, Moscow

Maxim Drimling: “This incredible theatre is a two-lady show run by Olga Anichkova and Viktoria Mustafina. Hence the name, Ladies – or LadYes. They work as an independent troupe, with some friendly help from the Bulgakov House. It’s an incredible pantomime that will have you laughing throughout. A simple story about two women’s life”.

Mom, Don’t Read This 

Alejandro Valensio Theatre, Moscow

The production is based on an eponymous VKontakte public community (in Russian: “Mum, nu ne tchitay!”), dedicated to sharing pictures of children’s diaries, questionnaire games, notes passed to classmates, and secrets about first crushes. The actors pieced the diary fragments together and turned them into sincere and moving conversations.