|2017 | Tuesday||
"The Bright Stream" Comic ballet in two acts
Ballet in 2 acts
Premiere of this production: 18 Apr 2003
The performance has 1 intermission
Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes
<p>The Bolshoi's Bright Stream is a ballet unlike any other.</p><p>It does not happen often that you burst out laughing while watching a ballet, nor is it common to see a male dancer in a tutu.</p><p>Yet The Bright Stream has it all. It successfully premiered at the Bolshoi and now still amuses, surprises and enchants the audience.</p>
Libretto by Adrian Piotrovsky and Fyodor Lopukhov
Pages ofВ History
DANCE ofВ DEATH
With its dancing farmers and cycling dog, Shostakovich thought his balletВ The Bright StreamВ would delight Stalin. Instead, one ofВ its creators was sent toВ the gulag. Now the Bolshoi has finally resurrectedВ it.
InВ the mass ofВ Shostakovich centenary events that have taken place this year, ballet fans havenвЂ™t had much toВ celebrate. ItвЂ™s not that the composer ignored the formВ вЂ” between 1929 and 1935, heВ wrote aВ trio ofВ full-length ballet scores: The Golden Age, The BoltВ
andВ The Bright Stream
. All three, though, were banned shortly after their premieres, leaving ShostakovichвЂ™s reputation soВ damaged, heВ was reluctant ever toВ write for the lyric stage again.
ItвЂ™s aВ cause ofВ great regret for RussiaвЂ™s monolithic ballet companies, the Kirov and the Bolshoi. Both are aware that, had Shostakovich been given full artistic freedom, heВ may have become one ofВ the great modern ballet composersВ вЂ” asВ inspirational for the dance-makers ofВ Soviet Russia asВ Stravinsky was for choreographers inВ the west. Instead, the two companies must content themselves with acts ofВ restitution. This summer, asВ part ofВ itsВ 10-dayВ Shostakovich festival atВ the Coliseum inВ London, the Kirov isВ performing The Golden Age, while over atВ the Royal Opera House, the Bolshoi isВ presenting the first British performances ofВ The Bright Stream.
OfВ the three ballets, itВ wasВ The Bright StreamВ that was punished most grotesquely. The balletвЂ™s co-librettist, Adrian Piotrovsky, was sent toВ aВ gulag and never heard ofВ again, while the creative career ofВ its choreographer, Fedor Lopukhov, was all but terminated. ShostakovichвЂ™s music was never again played during the Soviet era, beyond aВ heavily edited suite ofВ his most popular tunes.
Alexei Ratmansky, now director ofВ the Bolshoi, first came across the full score inВ aВ recording made byВ Rozhdestvensky inВ Stockholm inВ 1995. HeВ was determined toВ get itВ back onВ toВ the Russian stage. вЂњItВ sounded incredible. IВ couldnвЂ™t believe that noВ one had returned toВ itВ before. The music isВ just soВ danceable, with this wonderful variety ofВ adagios, waltzes and polkas. ItвЂ™s like Minkus but all onВ the level ofВ ShostakovichвЂ™s genius.вЂќ
AtВ the time, Ratmansky knew LopukhovвЂ™s name only from books. But asВ heВ researched the history ofВ The Bright Stream, heВ realised that itВ was more than aВ fine piece ofВ dance music that had been abandoned. ItВ was aВ remarkable ballet, choreographed byВ one ofВ the most sophisticated, subversive talents ofВ the Soviet period.
Born inВ 1886, Lopukhov was among the last generation toВ beВ raised inВ the tsarвЂ™s Imperial BalletВ вЂ” and among the first generation toВ test its wings inВ the 20th century. HeВ was aВ protege ofВ the radical choreographer Mikhail Fokine, and heВ briefly travelled abroad, spendingВ 1910-11В touring inВ American vaudeville with his sister. When ballet was upВ for grabs inВ the wake ofВ the 1917В revolution, Lopukhov was ideally placed toВ leadВ it. AsВ director ofВ the Kirov (then known asВ Gatob) inВ the 1920s, heВ created aВ repertory that may never have been equalled for its balance between traditional classics and avant-garde experiment.
AsВ Russian culture began toВ ossify under StalinвЂ™s rule, however, life became difficult for versatile, inquisitive artists like Lopukhov. Ballet itself was still inВ official favourВ вЂ” Stalin was often toВ beВ seen slipping into aВ performance ofВ Swan Lake. But toВ choreograph new repertory became risky.
OnВ the face ofВ it, The Bright Stream should have been aВ riotous success with StalinвЂ™s regimeВ вЂ” itВ was set onВ aВ collective farm. But Lopukhov had also worked out aВ clever comic libretto ofВ romantic flirtations and theatrical encounters that allowed his choreography toВ range from virtuoso classical variations toВ moments ofВ buffooning vaudeville, including aВ dog riding aВ bicycle (the first bicycle inВ Russian ballet, thinks Ratmansky) and aВ man dressed upВ inВ Sylphide costume.
ShostakovichвЂ™s writing reflected aВ similar populist balance, with snatches ofВ folk melody and familiar dance numbers elegantly refracted through the score. AsВ Ratmansky says: вЂњThey both wanted toВ make aВ ballet that was easy toВ understand, but ofВ aВ very high quality.вЂќ And whenВ The Bright StreamВ was premiered inВ Leningrad, the two men thought they had succeeded. Not only was every performance sold out but, according toВ Ratmansky, вЂњAll the critics raved about new horizons opening upВ and about this being the first major success ofВ Soviet ballet.вЂќ
The problems arose whenВ The Bright StreamВ was transferred toВ Moscow, and became vulnerable toВ the paranoid scrutiny ofВ those closest toВ the Kremlin. Lopukhov had guessed inВ advance that heВ would have toВ make aВ few discreet changes, including cutting out the man inВ the Sylphide frock, which heВ suspected could beВ aВ cross-dressing joke too far. But itВ seems that the ballet was marked out asВ aВ scapegoat even before itВ arrived.
One ofВ its main offences was simply toВ beВ composed byВ Shostakovich. вЂњClouds were already hanging over the composer,вЂќ says Ratmansky. вЂњStalin had hated his operaВ Lady Macbeth ofВ Mtsensk, and heВ had aВ lot ofВ rivals who wanted him brought down.вЂќ But the ballet was equally imperilled byВ its attempt atВ socialist realism. AtВ that time, noВ one had yet formulated strictВ вЂ” and safeВ вЂ” guidelines asВ toВ what that genre entailed. Lopukhov may have thought that putting farm workers onВ pointe was aВ stroke ofВ politically correct genius, but his enemies decided toВ interpret itВ asВ anВ act ofВ bourgeois false consciousness.
Immediately after the Moscow premiere, anВ editorial inВ Pravda condemned Lopukhov and Shostakovich asВ вЂњslick and high-handedвЂќ fakes who had insulted the Russian farmers byВ representing them asВ вЂњsugary paysans from off aВ pre-revolutionary chocolate boxвЂќ. Rather than having studied the real вЂњway ofВ lifeвЂќ onВ aВ collective farm, and respected the real вЂњfolk songs, folk dances and gamesвЂќ ofВ their comrades, they had produced aВ work that indulged the worst crimes ofВ Soviet art, вЂњcoarse naturalism and aesthetic formalismвЂќ. Given the true state ofВ Russian agriculture, the party ought toВ have been grateful for the balletвЂ™s tact.
ItВ was only the tragic co-librettist, Piotrovsky, who suffered physically inВ the gulag, but the professional consequences for the other two were devastating. Shostakovich never wrote another ballet score (his 1975В work,В The DreamersВ was almost entirely cobbled together out ofВ previous material). And Lopukhov (who may have been saved from the gulag byВ the fact that his ballerina sister Lydia was married toВ the celebrated British economist John Maynard Keynes) not only had his appointment asВ director ofВ the Bolshoi Ballet stripped from him, but during the remaining 37В years ofВ his career would choreograph only aВ handful ofВ works, mostly for ballet students.
For Ratmansky, the act ofВ rehabilitating Lopukhov was very important. вЂњThe richness ofВ his ideas, his courage inВ using contemporary stories inВ ballet, are still aВ real source ofВ inspiration,вЂќ heВ says. Even though heВ could doВ nothing toВ restore the original choreography ofВ The Bright Stream, which was never notated, inВ 2003В he created aВ new version, working from LopukhovвЂ™s libretto, which was, heВ says, вЂњbrilliantly detailed, brilliantly constructed with the musicвЂќ. Those who have seen the ballet feel heВ has captured some essence ofВ the original, something that matters toВ Ratmansky not just for LopukhovвЂ™s sake but also for the BolshoiвЂ™s. вЂњThese days soВ many companies look the same, itВ isВ hard toВ have anВ individual style and identity,вЂќ heВ says. вЂњBut Soviet ballets likeВ The Bright Stream, noВ one else has them. They are unique toВ us. WeВ need toВ treasure themвЂќ.
The Guardian, 19.07.2006
he Limpid Stream (also translated as "The Bright Stream") is a ballet score, in 3 acts, 4 scenes, composed by Dmitri Shostakovich on the libretto by Adrian Piotrovsky and Fedor Lopukhov and choreography by Fedor Lopukhov, premiered in Leningrad in 1935.
A small wayside halt, in the steppes, on one of the branch lines of the North Caucasian Railway. Early autumn. The local collective farms have completed both their harvesting and autumn sowing.
A brigade of artistes from one of the capital’s theatres is due to arrive in the region to take part in the harvest festival, marking the end of the field work. Some members of the nearest collective farm, The Bright Stream, have come to the halt to welcome their guests. They include the collective farm activist, Gavrilych, who, though advanced in years, is full of the joys of life and a general favorite; the school-girl Galya, and some of her friends, with a bunch of flowers for the artistes; Pyotr, an agricultural student and his wife Zina, a local amusements’ organizer. The last to arrive are two dacha dwellers: an elderly man and his anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is wife. Both of the latter, bored to tears, have come to gawk at the visiting artistes. While waiting for the guests to arrive, the dreamy and thoughtful Zina buries her head in a book. Her husband, Pyotr, who is of a cheerful, buoyant disposition, tries to distract her, inducing the others to share in his efforts. Eventually all, except Zina, proceed to the platform. The excited crowd returns, together with the artistes — a ballet dancer, her partner and an accordion-player.
The amusements’ organizer, Zina, hails the ballet dancer who stops in her tracks. They recognize each other as old friends, for they once studied together at ballet school. Since then Zina has married Pyotr, the agricultural student, and has gone to work with him on the collective farm where no one has any idea that she used to be a dancer. The two friends, who have remained alone, gaze at each other with curiosity.
The ballerina asks if Zina has forgotten her dancing. But, living in the country, she has not forgotten her dancing skills and intends to prove it. The two friends, compete with each other, trying to see who can remember the most of their former lessons. Gavrilych and Pyotr now appear: they have come to fetch Zina and the ballerina. Zina introduces her husband to the ballerina. Dazzled by the ballerina, Pyotr begins to court her. The latter feels her first pang of jealousy.
The day is on the wane. Encamped among the golden sheaves of wheat, a field workers’ brigade from The Bright Stream collective farm joyfully makes plans for tomorrow, which is to be a day of festival. The artistes’ brigade arrives. Gavrilych presents them to the field workers’ brigade.
The two brigades greet each other. An improvised celebration gets underway. The artistes display the presents they have brought with them for distribution to the collective farm’s best shock workers. There is a gramophone for Gavrilych, a silk dress for the best milkmaid. The prizewinners are lustily congratulated, and the jollity merges into a dance. The first to break into a dance are the grey-haired, bearded ‘inspectors of quality’ and their Gavrilych.
The dacha dwellers turn up, late as usual. They are forced to trip a measure and, by way of a joke, they dance an ancient Chaconne. Then comes a number by some young girls, members of an amateur group organized by Zina. But it is the milkmaid who is the center of attention: they want to see her dance in her smart, new dress. The milkmaid dances with the tractor driver. The merriment increases. Gavrilych winds up his new gramophone and asks the guest artistes to dance.
Not wishing to disappoint the collective-farm workers, the artistes agree though they dislike the idea of dancing in their ordinary clothes. They improvise a dance among the wheat sheaves. Their dance gets a mixed reception. The farm workers watch it with pleasure, but the dacha dwellers only have eyes for the artistes themselves (the husband is taken by the classical ballerina, while his wife is attracted by the ballerina’s partner). Zina is jealous of her husband. Pyotr, the young agricultural student, is more and more enchanted by the ballerina who seems so brilliant and talented by comparison to his modest, unassuming wife.
The accordionist is asked to join in the dancing with schoolgirl Galya. Now some young field workers from Kuban and the Caucasus burst into a gay, warlike dance which enthralls all present. The merriment reaches its height. Eventually, the assembled company is invited to partake of refreshment. As all make their exit, the old dacha dweller manages to whisper in the visiting ballerina’s ear that he would like to see her again, his wife makes a similar proposal to the latter’s partner. Meanwhile, Pyotr goes off with the ballerina. Zina is totally distraught, she even starts to cry. The young people, together with Gavrilych, try to calm her down. But now the ballerina returns and assures Zina that she has no intention of flirting with the latter’s husband. She suggests that Zina tell the young people that she too used to be a dancer.
Zina agrees and again the two friends dance together. There is general astonishment. The ballerina proposes that a joke be played on Pyotr and the others: she will dress up in her partner’s costume and go and meet the anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is dacha dweller’s wife. Her partner, made up as a female dancer, shall go to the rendezvous with the old dacha dweller. While Zina shall go to meet her husband in the ballerina’s costume. The plan is approved.
A warm, southern night. A clearing, surrounded by bushes and trees. The young people have assembled. The dacha dwellers turn up too, late as usual. The accordionist has taken a fancy to Galya, the schoolgirl, who had danced with him so merrily earlier in the day. He whispers to her that he will soon be back and that she should wait for him. Galya is quite taken aback. The old dacha dweller, his wife and Pyotr remind their ‘sweethearts’ of their trysts. The young people are now determined to teach them a lesson. They quickly dress up: the ballerina in her partner’s clothes, the latter in female dress, Zina in one of her friend’s theatrical costumes. To add to the fun, the tractor driver puts on a dogskin. All is ready. Now Galya admits that the accordionist has invited her to a rendezvous too.
This revelation threatens to ruin their carefully laid plans, but the tractor driver comes to the rescue. He suggests to Galya that she should meet the accordionist as the latter had proposed, but that he, the tractor driver, disguised as a dog, will not allow the accordionist to approach her. His plan is agreed. Galya, attended by Kolka-‘the dog’, waits for the accordionist. He appears and is much put out by the uncalled-for presence of the dog which seems very fierce and keeps on attacking him. Finally, the accordionist realizes he is being made a fool of but, taking it in good part, he joins in the main plot.
The elderly dacha dweller turns up, wheeling a bicycle. He wants to make a good impression on the ballerina and has donned sporting gear. He is festooned with a gun, ammunition belt and telescope. The thought of the forthcoming meeting excites him. His wife turns up at the same spot. She is wearing ballet shoes to surprise the male dancer. It is time to put the plan in action. Suddenly, the dacha dweller catches sight of his beautiful ballerina , his Sylphide, in the middle of a clump of trees. It is in fact the ballerina’s partner, in female garb, but the old man does not notice this. His wife, who is observing him, objects to his flirting and chases off her husband. But she, in turn, is frightened by the tractor driver who, still in his dogskin, is riding the bicycle. Appearing in her partner’s costume, the ballerina mocks the dacha dweller’s wife. Finally, they both run off.
Enter Pyotr, the agricultural student. He is waiting for the dancer from the distant capital, but instead, he is met by his own wife, disguised as the dancer. He fails to recognize her. Joking and flirting with him, Zina disappears into the bushes. This lyrical scene gives way to slapstick. The old dacha dweller and male dancer disguised as the ballerina now come running in. ‘Romantic passions’ reach an all-time high. The ballerina, dressed in male clothing, comes out from behind the bushes, and makes a scene. She demands satisfaction from the dacha dweller. There follows a comic duel. The first to fire is the disguised ballerina. She misses. Now the old dacha dweller is handed a pistol. Though he is frightened, he takes aim. Simultaneously, Gavrilych bangs a pail, and the old man thinks he has fired. Immediately the ballerina’s partner falls to the ground as though shot. The horrified dacha dweller takes to his heels. No sooner has he disappeared, than the ‘victim’ comes to life and dances amid the laughter of the delighted plotters.
The beginning of the morning of the following day. The harvest festival. In the meadow, an improvised stage for the artistes. All the seats are taken. Pyotr, the agricultural student, is waiting on tenterhooks for the show to begin so that he can see the ballerina whom (he thinks) he met last night in the woods.
But to his great astonishment two dancers, dressed exactly alike, appear on stage, their faces hidden by masks. Their dance over, Pyotr, unable to restrain himself, rushes towards them. They raise their veils and the secret is out. Pyotr, who sees one of the ballerinas is his wife, timidly begs her forgiveness. Eventually they are reconciled. Pyotr has learnt his lesson: he now knows that his modest Zina is both a first-class worker and a marvelous ballerina. The festival ends with a general dance in which alt young and old take part, together with the guest artistes.
© Photo by Damir Yusupov
© Bolshoi Theatre
"The Bright Stream" Comic ballet in two acts
on the schedule
1 Teatralnaya ploschad (1 Theatre Square), Moscow, Russia
Bol'shaya Dmitrovka Street, 4/2, Moscow, Russia