Passion in the Khan’s Harem

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In Anticipation of the Premiere

The Astana Opera House is getting ready for the grand premiere of B. Asafyev’s ballet «The Fountain of Bakhchisarai». The main hall of the opera house will welcome true balletomanes, critics and ballet lovers on April 11 and 12. Kazakh choreographers Tursynbek Nurkaliyev and Galiya Buribayeva have created a new redaction of the famous ballet. Outstanding Italian masters Ezio Frigerio and Franca Squarciapino have worked on the design of the production. As we all know, each work of Maestro Frigerio is original, therefore the sets that he has created for the Astana Opera House are unique and no other theatre in the world has the same.

The Stream of Love, the Stream Alive     

Despite the large scale of the scenery, its combined weight is relatively small – only 8 tons. This was possible with the use of durable and lightweight material – aluminum. The workshops of the Astana Opera House made the rigid set pieces, concubines’ and the main characters’ beds and all the props for the production.

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The Astana Opera Scenic Projects Implementation Management made the basic working drafts. The set shop workers took the creative approach to the process of making even the smallest details.

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For example, it takes one day to mold a jug and dry it, and about two more hours to paint it.

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The Italian masters did all the sketches as well. Most of the set pieces were made in Italy. Painstaking work was done by hand. Thus, the viewers will be able to see on stage the design constructions comparable to five-storey buildings. The width of the scenery is about twenty-three meters and the height is about twelve. The entire aluminum frame was covered with unique fiberglass finish. Master craftsmen did original hand-sculpting. They applied fiberglass coating onto the drawings on the different parts of the scenery, getting excellent shapes and then painting them. Ezio Frigerio, in love with the Eastern theme, also realized his artistic vision in the beautiful and complex art form of fabric painting.

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– There is highly advanced technology available in Italy that we are making confidents steps in reaching for at the moment. According to Maestro Frigerio’s plan, a screen the size of which hits any imagination will be used in our theatre for the first time. The set designer’s vision is for the audience to be able to see the three-dimensional picture of a very frightening fire at the Polish castle. Such a spectacle is almost never encountered in the world theatres, – said Viktor Karare, the Head of the Astana Opera Scenic Projects Implementation Management.

The production uses a lot of light – the work of Italian lighting designer Vinicio Cheli; the projections designer Sergio Metalli was responsible for the special effects. The upper machinery is involved in the first and second acts – all the large-scale set pieces will go up. This entire set design miracle – there is no other name for it – was traveling to Kazakhstan directly from Italy in four heavy-duty trucks for about ten days. Costumes from Milan arrived by plane, successfully landing in Astana after having spent 8 hours in the air.

«Oscar» winner for the best costumes Franca Squarciapino worked on their creation.

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The costume designer used fabrics from Italy; their unfamiliar names surprised our costume shop workers – Mexican raffia, acetate and others. Ms. Squarciapino also used traditional, customary for our seamstresses fabrics, such as silk, linen, organza, viscose, jacquard (one of expensive fabrics, as its production is labor-intensive) boucle (rough, plain weave fabric of fancy yarns with large nodules, located at some distance from each other) and many others. The colours do not allow for bored eyes – white, red, green, marsh, orange, natural blue, yellow, pink, gray and black.

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In total, the designer has created 186 costume sketches. The costume shop of the Astana Opera House made twenty-six outfits for the characters – the eunuchs, slaves, servants, Circassian infantry, Catholics and old Tatars.

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The fabrics for this small number of costumes were also purchased in Italy. Each character is written into the texture of the production with precision and accuracy.

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Oh, Go, Go, Dear Flowing, Sing, Sing to Me Thy Saga Fair.

The production of «The Fountain of Bakhchisarai» triumphs on the world stages for 80 years. The composer Boris Asafiev specifically wrote the music for the special stage language of choreographic drama, accurate and easy for understanding.

Music Director of the new redaction of «The Fountain of Bakhchisarai» is the Honored Worker of the Republic of Kazakhstan Aidar Abzhakhanov. A lot of attention in this ballet is paid to the pantomime. The production involves 92 people including all the soloists, corps de ballet, actors and supers.

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Three ballet artists – Baurzhan Mekembayev, Zhanibek Imankulov, and the Honored Worker of the Republic of Kazakhstan Zhandos Aubakirov are preparing the role of Khan Girey. However, on the first day of the premiere, the choreographer himself, the Honored Worker of the Republic of Kazakhstan Tursynbek Nurkaliyev will perform this role. The choreographer danced this part for thirty-six years, debuting in 1979 in the production of the creator of this ballet Rostislav Zakharov.

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The leading soloist of the Astana Opera House, guest soloist of the Op?ra National de Bordeaux (France), the Honored Worker of the Republic of Kazakhstan Madina Basbayeva will perform the role of Princess Maria. The ballerina will create a multi-faceted character. At the beginning of the ballet, she is a gentle and happy bride, ready to give all her love to her fianc? Vaclav. After her capture, surviving the pain of losing loved ones, she is an unhappy girl, living in constant state of fear.

Another very bright, interesting and complex character is Girey’s beloved wife – jealous Zarema.

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People’s Artist of Russia, artistic director of the «Astana Opera» ballet company Altynai Asylmuratova prepared the leading soloists of the Astana Opera House – the guest soloist of the St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet Aigerim Beketaeva, the Honored Worker of the Republic of Kazakhstan Gauhar Usina and Anel Rustemova for this role.

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– Rostislav Zakharov staged the wonderful ballet «The Fountain of Bakhchisarai» in what was then the Kirov Theatre, and since then it runs non-stop. All of the inherent traditions are handed down very carefully. The outstanding Russian ballerina Tatyana Vecheslova created the perfect image of Zarema and flawless execution of the scene by Ulanova (Maria) and Vecheslova (Zarema) is a benchmark for young artists today. People’s Artist of the USSR Olga Moiseeva took over the skills from Vecheslova, and, in turn, with thorough explanations and great love gave all the details of this role to me. Now I am working on this part with three dancers, they are all different, and I like that. Aigerim Beketaeva is a capable and gifted professional. Typically, these roles are not done immediately, as most of the roles in general, and I think that she will be a very good Zarema very soon. Gaukhar Usina is different Zarema, she is more impetuous, understands everything correctly, and we are looking for form of expression with her right now. Anel Rustemova is soft, feminine; she feels the character of the heroine in the right way. I try to explain the essence of Zarema’s character, who she is and why she does certain things. It is necessary for the ballerinas to be organic, to give them the right direction, so that they can try themselves as artists creating the image. They have to put this role on as the clothes that they wear; they need to be comfortable and free in it. The viewers who are not versed in ballet have to be clear which emotions are being conveyed and why. Art is made of little things. Not tours and height, but namely every little thing is important – how the artist stands or turns his or her head. I want the soloists to have enough strength, as, I repeat, the part is very complicated.

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The Repertory Classic

The world premiere of «The Fountain of Bakhchsarai» took place on September 28, 1934 in the Kirov State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Leningrad (Mariinsky).

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