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Bolshoi News>Bolshoi Digest>Bolshoi Digest of 07 April 2014, Monday

07 April 2014, Monday

Fyodor Fedorovsky (1883-1955). Legend of the Bolshoi Theatre

The Tretyakov Gallery at Krymsky Val
The first large scale exhibition dedicated to Fyodor Fedorovsky, whose creative career was connected with the Bolshoi Theatre, will open at the Tretyakov Gallery

Personal exhibitions of this legendary designer were not organized either in his lifetime, or after his death. The large-scale exposition, put together by joined efforts of the Tretyakov Gallery, the Bolshoi Theatre Museum and The A. A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum, is sure to attract general public's attention to the creative work of the master, who has not been forgotten in the theatre community. Recently a new edition of "The Tsar's Bride" has premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre; while giving the set for this production a second thought and re-creating it, the designers based their work on sketches by Fedorovsky.
Fedorovsky's early works from The A. A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum will be exhibited as well. In 1907 he won the bid for creating the set for the opera "Carmen" at the Zimin Private Opera. It was his debut at this famous theatre, where he later created sets for more than 10 productions, including "Demon" by A. Rubinstein (1909), "The Enchantress" by P. Tchaikovsky (1913) and "A Life for the Tsar" by M. Glinka (1914).
The Bolshoi Theatre museum will present the designer's works since 1913; at that time Fedorovsky, together with other designers, worked on the sets for Diaghilev's enterprise in Paris and London. He was the youngest designer of those invited by Diaghilev. His task was to create the set for the opera "Khovanshchina" by M. Mussorgsky, whose music was as powerful as Fedorovsky's artistic temperament. The designer was a great colorist and had compositional and plastique image thinking; with this particular work he demonstrated remarkable set design skills. French museums bought his sketches for "Khovanshchina".

But the majority of Fedorovsky's works, which are stored at the Bolshoi Theatre Museum, have to do with his work at the Bolshoi. In 1921 Fedorovsky was given the position of the technical director; he was also appointed the Bolshoi Theatre chief designer twice.

His sets for the Russian opera classics received special recognition; however, in the beginning of his career at the Bolshoi Fedorovsky created wonderful sets for eight ballets and concert numbers: "The Dance of Salomé" and "Marital Dance" (1921), "Giselle", "La Fille mal gardée" and "Ever Living Flowers" (all - 1922), "The Venus Grotto", "Les Petits riens" and "Capriccio espagnol" (all - 1923).
The only remaining sketch, created by Fedorovsky for the production of the ballet "Swan Lake" (1921), which was never staged, is a wonderful example of the Russian avant-garde theatre costume. Odile's tutu skirt seems to be made of large crystals, their faces gleaming with different colors. The sketch of this costume does not have a single free line; there is only Cubism geometry.
In 1922 the opera "Carmen" premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre. This was Fedorovsky's first full-scale production. In the set for this opera he used scale and volume to highlight the metaphoric and spectacular nature of the performance. His set was an interpretation of Bizet's music; he expressed emotions in colors. However, critics did not particularly like it: "It is impossible to hear any particular singer; it is also impossible to see anything distinct apart from some kind of a colorful chord, which puts so much pressure on you, that you cannot perceive anything else".

The rules of the mass action theatre, which had been formulated by the second half of the 1920s, dictated to Fedorovsky and other designers of his time new tasks when it came to creating sets for performances, inspired by modern issues. In 1927 two ballets of this kind were staged at the Bolshoi Theatre to mark the 10th anniversary of the October revolution: "Red Poppy" and the one-act ballet "Waterspout", which was introduced by an apotheosis "Heroic Action" - allegoric opera performance with complicated set, created by Fedorovsky. The set was designed as a poster, where ideas were expressed by means of several expressive images, and eddy-type movement of the crowd symbolized the spontaneity of the revolution.

Fedorovsky's constructivist pursuit was particularly distinct in the set for the opera "The Golden Cockerel" (1931). The artist considered that the new "mass" art was best expressed with the help of geometrical space and various constructions that were used instead of scene painting.

Starting from the middle of 1930s Feodorovsky and directors V. Lossky and L. Baratov, who worked with him, established the Bolshoi production style. This was "the giant theatre style that a giant country needed and had to correspond to the grandiose scale of socialist construction". The heroic and monumental works of the artist met the requirements of "the new epoch" and were appreciated by "the new audience". The Russian opera classics were represented at the Bolshoi by four "grand style" productions: "Boris Godunov" by M. Mussorgsky, "Prince Igor" by A. Borodin, "Sadko" by N. Rimsky-Korsakov and "Khovanshchina".

To master the new techniques, used to deal with the three-dimensional stagespace, and to improve artistic and extensional principles of the set design, during his work on the opera "Boris Godunov" Fedorovsky abandoned realism and portraying everyday life onstage or using too many historic details. He worked on "Boris Godunov" three times (1927, 1946 and 1948); this mainly happened due to the particular interest that he took in Russian history, as well as his desire to stage operas of The Mighty Handful composers. He was always guided by the desire to make music theatre emotionally loaded.

In the 1948 version of the opera the painting in the first act is truly spectacular and corresponds with the elated music in the scene of Boris Godunov's coronation. There is sunshine, the shining golden domes of the Moscow Kremlin and ceremonious apparel.

In the next few years considerable changes took place in the artist's creative career; those changes became particularly noticeable in the set for the opera "Prince Igor" (1934). The set has more planes, accents on clean colors and authentic costumes.

Fedorovsky became famous at the Bolshoi not only for his work on the productions, but also for the curtains. One was created in 1937, the second one - the golden curtain, embroidered with the Soviet Union coat of arms, which several generations of the Bolshoi Theatre admired - in 1955.

Fedorovsky did a lot for the community and had great organizational talent. The creation of the maquette workshop at the Bolshoi Theatre, chemical-dye shop, props department, spinning department and other departments are associated with his name. In 1918 it was Fedorovsky who initiated the creation of the Bolshoi Theatre Museum; he called on people to donate to the museum not only sketches of costumes and sets, but also the best examples of ready costumes and props that young masters would be able to use in their studies. The designer himself left to the museum a vast collection of cartoons in gouache, coal, water-colors and red chalk, as well as various sketches (canvas, oil), which mostly date back to 1933 and 1943.
For 30 years, starting from 1918, Fedorovsky created sets for the main celebratory events at the Bolshoi Theatre and in the Red Square. In 1936 the artist created the paintings and maquettes of the ruby stars that were mounted on the top of five Kremlin towers in 1937. During the war the artist supervised a camouflage project in Moscow to protect the city from air raids. In 1951 he received the title of the People's Artist of the USSR. He is the only set designer, who has received five State Prizes. In 1947 he was the first set designer, who was awarded the title of an academician and elected the vice-president of the USSR Academy of Arts.


Main Stage 1 Teatralnaya ploschad (1 Theatre Square), Moscow, Russia
New Stage Bol'shaya Dmitrovka Street, 4/2, Moscow, Russia
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