Libretto by Valerian Shirkov and Mikhail Glinka with the participation of Konstantin Bakhturin, Nestor Kukolnik, Mikhail Gedeonov and Nikolai Markevich after the poem of the same name by Alexander Pushkin
Ruslan and Lyudmila will be the first première to take place on the refurbished, historic Bolshoi Theatre Main Stage. And this outstanding opera with its truly epic scale is ideally suited to the opening of the Theatre. One of the high points in the Russian operatic repertoire, it is an integral part of Bolshoi Theatre history. On the Theatre’s Main stage there have been over 700 performances in 9 different productions (not counting revivals!) of this opera. Its Bolshoi Theatre debut was 165 years ago. Members of the Ruslan and Lyudmila production teams have included the following illustrious figures — director Boris Pokrovsky, conductors Vyacheslav Suk, Nikolai Golovanov, Alexander Melik-Pashaev, scenographers Konstantin Korovin, Alexander Golovin, Vladimir Dmitriev...
And today this list is continued by Bolshoi guest conductor in residence Vladimir Yurovsky and director and scenographer Dmitri Tcherniakov.
The new production promises to live up to the historic occasion which will precede it — the ceremonial opening of the Bolshoi Theatre Main Stage.
It ‘records’, as it were, former productions of Ruslan and Lyudmila at the Bolshoi. But at its core is an absolutely authentic psychological account of the ordeal of love, and of faithfulness and strength of spirit. The spectator will find not one enigmatic twist, attributable solely to magic, in the storyline. At one and the same time, Tcherniakov steeps the opera in the space of its myth and frees it of its shackles, presenting the story in an exceptionally lively and ‘true-to-life’ way.
In so far as concerns the scenography, designer Tcherniakov remains true to himself too: his sets are maximally functional, serving in the first instance his staging concepts.
Maestro Vladimir Yurovsky, together with his assistants Ralf Sochaczewsky and Alexei Bogorad, is responsible for the musical side of the production. The opera which, as is well known, is fairly lengthy, will be presented in slightly cut form by comparison to the original score (and this has been a tradition ever since its first staging), but the musical structure will in no way suffer: all the musical numbers are preserved, the cuts being limited to repeats of music within the form.
When it comes to interpreters, this opera has always been lucky at the Bolshoi. Here is a list of some of the stars who have appeared in it: Stepan Trezvinsky, Georgy Baklanov, Leonid Sobinov, Elena Stepanova, Mark Reyzen, Bronislava Zlatogorova, Ksenia Derzhinskaya Maxim Mikhailov, Nikandr Khanayev, Valeria Barsova, Irina Maslennikova, Ivan Petrov, Elizaveta Antonova, Sergei Lemeshev, Evgeny Nesterenko, Bela Rudenko, Tamara Sinyavskaya, Alexei Maslennikov, Artur Eizen. And among those who participated in the dance scenes are: Marina Semenova, Vera Vasileva, Maya Plisetskaya, Evgeniya Farmanyants, Lyudmila Cherkasova, Rimma Karelskaya...
The title roles in the present-day cast will be sung by: Bolshoi Young Opera Program graduate and today soloist with the Opera Company Ulyana Aleksyuk and Albina Shagimuratova, a young singer who has already left her mark on the world opera stage; and Mariinsky Theatre soloist Mikhail Petrenko and Helikon-Opera soloist Alexei Tikhomirov, who have likewise garnered for themselves a successful international career; Finn will be sung by the American Charles Workman; Finn’s eternal antagonist Naina will be performed by Elena Zaremba. The part of Ratmir will be interpreted by two marvelous counter-tenors — Yury Minenko and Vladimir Magomadov, while the Bulgarian singer Alexandrina Pendachanska and Bolshoi guest soloist Veronika Dzhioeva will sing the part of Gorislava. Mariinsky Theatre soloist Vladimir Ognovenko and former Bolshoi soloist Gleb Nikolsky will sing Svetozar, and the Lithuanian singer Almas Shvilpa and Mariinsky Theatre soloist Alexei Tanovitsky — Farlaf.