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Theatre Review

New Theatre Seasons Unveiled in Moscow
Marina Lukanina

The beginning of the fall is usually associated with bustling cultural life in Moscow. It is true that Moscow is “culturally active” all year-round and the recent Summer Ballet Seasons was proof of that. Passionate theatre-goers always eagerly await what the directors have got for them for the upcoming season. September is the time when most of theatres declare their plans to the mass media. Here are some of these plans.

The Mayakovsky Theatre opened its 89th season with a new artistic director, the Lithuanian director Mindaugas Karbauskis, who is well-known for several productions at the Tabakov Theatre. The new season opens with Gogol’s “Marriage” and the first opening night will be “The Month in the Village” by Nikolai Turgenev. “Talents and Admirers” by Alexander Ostrovski will also be on at the Mayakovsky Theatre this season, and will star leading actors, such as Svetlana Nemolyaeva, Igor Kostolevski, Mikhail Filippov.

From: The “Scarlet Sails”
Photographer: Galina Fesenko

The new director also decided to incorporate the work of Vladimir Mayakovsky whose name the theatre bears. Young graduates from the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts directors’ department were asked to look at the poet’s art and to introduce him using the format of the theatre. The project is called “New Mayakovsky” and will most likely be performed on the Malaya Stage of the theatre sometime in December.

The Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre opens its new season with “Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov staged by the Hungarian director Yanosh Sas who has created some notable productions both for the stage and screen. Other opening nights include “Zoikina Apartment,” the performance based on Evgeny Grishkovets’s book. This theatre does not forget about its young audience. The musical fairy-tale “The Snow White and Seven Dwarfs” will join the repertoire this season. The Maly Stage will be devoted to Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, and “Demons” will also be staged there.

The Lenkom Theatre will showcase “Peer Gynt” staged by Mark Zakharov, which was on as the last opening night of the previous season. During its 85th season, the theatre will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of its most legendary performance, the rock opera “Yunona and Avos”, which has been part of the repertoire since 1981. Over a million people have watched this show. If you still aren’t one of them, you have a chance to do so this season.

The Satire Theatre opens with Shakespeare’s “The Taming of The Shrew”. The first opening night of the new season will be the play called “Fools” (to be released in November) staged by the famous TV showman Igor Ugolnikov.

From: “Chekhov-Gala”
Photographer: Ekaterina Menshova

The Tabakov’s Theatre starts its season with Ostrovsky’s “Wolves and Sheep”. The opening night for “The Devil” by Leo Tolstoy is planned for November. Overall, the artistic director Oleg Tabakov plans to have seven opening nights this season. He is eager to have the well-known Georgian director, Robert Sturua, and the former artistic director of Taganka Theatre, Yury Lubimov, showcase their work at his theatre.

The Helikon Opera will be moving back to its original building on Bolshaya Nikitskaya next season. In the meantime, due to space constraints and lack of rehearsal rooms it will be having only one opening night this season, for Wagner’s opera “Prohibition of Love”. The Helikon Opera is known as the theatre that stages rare productions. “Prohibition of Love” has never been put on in Moscow before.

The Vakhtangov Theatre opens its 90th season this year with Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya”—a real hit last season. Among the openings of this season is “Medea” by Jahn Anouih starring Julia Rutberg, as well as plays by Miller, Pirandello, Brecht, and Shakespeare. The key highlight of the season according to Rimas Tuminas, the Artistic Director, is planned in November with a play called “The Harbour” featuring Vladimir Etush, Yuri Yakovlev, and Liudmila Maksakova.

The Maly Theatre opens its 256th season this year. Yuri Solomin, the Artistic Director, has his mind set only on the classical repertoire. However, there are also a couple of productions that might be a bit “different” than others, such as “War and Peace” staged by the cinema director, Sergey Soloviev, and Chekhov’s “Boring Story” by Sergey Zhenovach featuring Yuri Solomin in the leading role. Elina Bystritskaya, one of the major actresses of the theatre, will appear in Pushkin’s “The Queen of Spades” directed by Andrey Zhitinkin.

From: The “Scarlet Sails”
Photographer: Ekaterina Menshova

The Maly Theatre has ambitious plans to cooperate with foreign directors, such as Stefano de Lukka from Italy and George Lobodan from France.

The Moscow State Academic Chamber Musical Theatre named after Boris Pokrovsky opened its 40th anniversary season with Albert Lortsinger’s comic opera, “The Tsar and the Carpenter” One of the most popular German operas, this has not been staged in Russia for over 50 years. The opera dwells on the story of Peter the Great studying shipbuilding in Holland and pretending to be a simple carpenter. The opera was staged by the German director Hans-Iaqum Frei. The music is written in the traditions of the German singspiel, a variant of comic 18th century opera where dialogues are mixed with song. The actors sing in German yet talk in Russian so it’s a bilingual performance.

Another opera opening night is planned for the beginning of October at the Novaya Opera Theatre, when an original production based on Rossini’s comic opera, called “Cinderella in 3D”, will be performed. This production is a real theatrical experiment. Instead of decorations, we will see screens on the stage. Set designers have been working on this production for over a year.

The Russian Academic Youth Theatre offers Tom Stoppard’s “Rock-n-Roll” production, a story about the 1968 events in Prague, about young rock-n-roll culture and ultimately about freedom. This production is being staged in Russia for the first time. Two other productions at this theatre are also worth highlighting: “Chekhov Gala” and the musical performance “The Scarlet Sails”.

“Chekhov-Gala” is based on several of Chekhov’s one-act plays: “The Bear”, “Proposal”, “The Wedding”, “The Anniversary”, and “About the Harm of Smoking”. Each story merges into the next, interrupts it and then starts anew. As the director of the play says: “Our life today is a mixture of absurd things. I believe this performance is a hymn to the human’s absurdity.” It is an excellent performance that offers a good glimpse of several Chekhov’s notable works.

From: The “Scarlet Sails”
Photographer: Ekaterina Menshova

“The Scarlet Sails” is based on a famous book by Alexander Green. It tells a story of Assol, a young girl who dreamed about her “prince” coming to rescue her, on a ship with scarlet sails, from a boring life in a village. Maxim Dunaevski’s music creates a special romantic atmosphere in this performance. It is interesting to see a musical production done in such a professional way on the stage of a drama theatre. The actors do a great job telling a revised, more modern and down-to-earth story through dancing and singing. The production received a prize for the “Best Musical Performance”.

The Pushkin Theatre opens its 62nd season with Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing” done in a modern way. It is not recommended for viewers under 16 years old.

In October there will be an opening night of the play “Love Letters” staged by the famous TV host Yulia Menshova starring her parents, Vera Alentova and Vladimir Menshov. They will tell the story of two people who have been writing letters to each other all their life.

So it’s time to check theatre box offices and such web-sites as,, and plan an evening out. And as they say in a theatre world: Break a Leg!

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