The following was transcribed from the July 17, 2012 National Press Club Newsmakers event with Oleg Vinogradov, Russian Master Choreographer and Emeritus Kirov / Mariinsky Artistic Director, speaking to the audience with the assistance of a translator. This final installment of the series features Mr. Vinogradov answering select questions from National Press Club attendees on current politics, ballet under communism, and his next ballet.
Question 1, from The Weekly Standard
For some years, since around the time of the height of the Mariinsky/Kirov Theatre, life was dangerous—you were afraid for your personal safety. How has the political world changed in Russia now that there is a president from St. Petersburg? How have things changed in relation to the arts, because in the past, things were unsafe & turbulent for the arts; theatres couldn’t do certain things, the government decreed certain restrictions, etc.
Oleg Vinogradov responds: I love being in Russia now and lots of things have changed. I am very involved in the art of ballet and know all about the new operas & modern musical theater productions. Personally I cannot attend Pytor Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta because it’s a story that is now set in a concentration camp and the King of France wears and performs in a Nazi uniform.
This is part of the western school that was brought to Russia recently but it’s a democracy so these types of shows can be presented.
I said once that Czars and Communists are better for ballet than democracy because the peak of the development of and the life of classical ballet was during the time of the Czars and Communists. They didn’t understand anything about the ballet, but appreciated its beauty. So when I was Artistic Director at the Kirov, I never had to think about money. We were always funded to do whatever we wanted to do. Today, in democracy, Artistic Directors have to search for funding and sponsors. This is in part why there are only 10 ballet companies still in Russia… C’est la vie.
Question 2, from Rob Sachs of Voice of Russia–America What are your thoughts on America showing ballet in high definition 3D (something like the operas are now doing worldwide)?
Oleg Vinogradov responds: It depends on which type of ballet…if it is a good show, a good story and high quality 3D then I would would support any technologies that would develop public interest in ballet and classical art. The book I wrote four years ago about my life, career, and work process, has more detail about my views on the next steps for ballet and the classical arts. It is only available now in Russia—it sold out in America.
Question 3, from Ballet Reviewer George Jackson
I spoke with you about creating a new Sleeping Beauty a few years ago, with music by Tchaikovsky’s great-nephew. Are you still thinking about that?
Oleg Vinogradov responds: Thirty years ago, when I was in Berlin, a competition was announced to create a new story ballet forSleeping Beauty. I wrote one based on the classic fairy tale, but it was still different and I sent it to the competition. Surprisingly they liked it and it won. I wanted to tell the same tale but about a modern kingdom and its characters. I was invited to stage it to Tchaikovsky’s music but I declined because I didn’t think it would be good. After 25 years, I came back to the idea and at the time was involved in work with modern composer Alexander Tchaikovsky.
Alexander is a wonderful composer who has won prizes in American competitions, and when I heard his music I wanted to work with him to create Battleship Potemkin on the Mariinsky/Kirov stage in 1986. Later he composed music for a ballet based on a story of the 19th century writer Nikolai Gogol. He also arranged music for a ballet set to Grieg’s music for In the Hall of the Mountain King. Alexander also agreed to create the music for new Sleeping Beauty and right now, the ballet has been accepted for the staging in Stanislavsky Theater in Moscow.
In 2011 and 2012, Moscow Ballet has sponsored a fine art contest focusing on ballet-inspired contemporary work with Oleg Vinogradov and the St. Petersburg (Russia) State Conservatory.
Vinogradov is one of the three judges and six artists (three each year) who have won awards of cash prizes. Moscow Ballet highlights their art to North Americans through the annual Great Russian Nutcracker tours to 70 cities.