Dmitry Shostakovich "Master and Margarita" Ballet in two acts
Premiere of this production: 21 May 2020
Libretto by Edward Clug after Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel of the same name.
The Master and Margarita is a novel by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, written in the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1940 during Stalin's regime. A censored version was published in Moscow magazine in 1966–1967, after the writer's death. The manuscript was not published as a book until 1967, in Paris. A samizdat version circulated that included parts cut out by official censors, and these were incorporated in a 1969 version published in Frankfurt. The novel has since been published in several languages and editions.
The story concerns a visit by the devil to the officially atheistic Soviet Union. The Master and Margarita combines supernatural elements with satirical dark comedy and Christian philosophy, defying a singular genre. Many critics consider it to be one of the best novels of the 20th century, as well as the foremost of Soviet satires.
The Master is devoured by his work. He makes the image of Pontius Pilate come to life. The Master wakes up to reality. He is in hospital.
At the Patriarch’s Ponds Annushka spills the oil. Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz and Ivan Bezdomny have a heated argument. An elegantly dressed gentleman appears: Woland himself. He predicts Berlioz’s upcoming death. The prophecy is instantly fulfilled: Berlioz gets his head cut off under a tram.
Bezdomny is shocked. He is stalked by a weird pair: Behemoth and Fagot. Trying to shake them off, he gets into a series of awkward situations, but the uninvited companions keep following him everywhere. Terrified, Ivan jumps into a river.
Woland and his entourage – Behemoth, Fagot, Azazello, and Hella – come to Berlioz’s flat. Styopa Likhodeyev, administrative director of the Variety Theatre, is asleep in one of the rooms. Woland’s henchmen wake him up and remind him of his invitation for Woland to perform at the theatre, although he recalls no such agreement whatsoever.
Writers have a good time at the so-called Griboyedov’s House. Ivan Bezdomny spoils their fun by bringing the news about Berlioz’s death.
This news is regarded as a joke or a mad prank. Voland appears, which eventually drives Bezdomny mad, and the writers send him to hospital, to the care of the famous psychiatrist professor Stravinsky.
Professor Stravinsky tries to calm Ivan down, but the man is haunted by a vision of Woland.
A stranger appears. It is the Master. He tells Bezdomny a story of his life and his relationship with Margarita and disappears. Bezdomny is left in the care of the hospital’s keepers.
The audience of the Variety Theatre is excited: master of ceremonies George Bengalsky announces ‘a performance of black magic’. Bengalsky also tries to participate in the show put on by Woland’s henchmen, and gets his head screwed off by Behemoth. The audience cheers, while Bengalsky begs to place his head back.
Woland appears. Entranced by his performance, the audience gets undressed. Having made sure that the audience is completely under their spell, Woland and his entourage disappear, leaving all the exits locked.
Pontius Pilate and Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoy (Berlioz’s house-manager) appear before the mesmerized crowd. Bosoy throws counterfeit banknotes in the air, the crowd goes mad, and everyone is hospitalised.
The Master recollects his life and his love affair with Margarita, his story is heard by Ivan Bezdomny.
Woland and his entourage have settled in the late Berlioz’s flat which is now an eerie place. Berlioz’s uncle Maximilian Andreyevich Poplavsky comes to his nephew’s funeral, but Woland’s henchmen send him away.
The funeral takes place without Poplavsky. The bier is followed by the writers.
There also are critics who have been scrutinizing the Master’s output, especially one named Latunsky. The critics’ criticism makes the Master feel crucified.
But he keeps thinking of Pilate, and the Pilate enters into a dialogue with his creator, eventually setting the Master free.
Margarita prevents the destruction of the Master’s work, but fails to make Latunsky recognize its worth.
Margarita accepts his gift and undergoes a miraculous transformation. Now she can be in several places at the same time, and fly above the city, and destroy Latunsky the critic.
Woland introduces himself to Margarita and leads her into an eery and uncanny waltz. In the name of her love Margarita is willing to sacrifice her soul and to become the queen of the Satan's ball.
The ball begins. Margarita is the queen.
A night among the demonic creatures takes a heavy toll on her, but she finds it in herself to pity Frieda who strangled her own child and obtains a pardon for her.
Margarita is given a skull-shaped goblet filled with blood. She swallows it and passes out in Woland’s arms.
Woland and his entourage reconstruct for Margarita the love nest of a dwelling she used to share with the Master.
The Master is reunited with Margarita, his masterpiece intact. An eternity of peaceful rest awaits the two lovers.
1 Teatralnaya ploschad (1 Theatre Square), Moscow, Russia
Bol'shaya Dmitrovka Street, 4/2, Moscow, Russia