The first international tour of the Astana Opera opened at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia on March 8 with a performance of “Atilla” by Giuseppe Verdi.
Mariinsky Theatre Maestro Valery Gergiyev conducted the performance with Italian production director Pier Luigi Pizzi of the Teatro Dell Opera di Roma. Bulgarian performer Orlin Anastassov played the part of Atilla, Italian Claudio Sgura played Ezio, Kazakh Zhupar Gabdullina played Odabella and Italian Luciano Ganchi played Foresto.
“Attila” first premiered on March 17, 1846 in the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. After that, the opera was rarely performed, despite the complexity of Verdi’s themes. The basis of this premiere production is the performance created by Pier Luigi Pizzi for the Rome Opera.
Verdi’s dramatic themes of love, passion, jealousy and revenge, sacrifice, friendship, treachery, betrayal, pride and death are well represented in this opera. The director portrays Atilla as a determined individual who saved the library from fire and forgave his enemies who conspired against him.
According to Pizzi, the Astana Opera troupe’s extraordinary choir became a revelation for him.
“It is very difficult to find a choir so dedicated to its work, so determined,” the director said. The Astana Opera also performed a gala ballet concert at the Mariinsky Theatre. A collection of the best ballet scenes of the world’s choreographic masterpieces was presented on March 9. The virtuoso performances included works by Adolphe Adam, Ludwig Minkus, Camille Saint-Saens, Alexander Borodin, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Boris Asafiyev, Yevgeny Brusilovsky, Jules Perrot, Tursynbek Nurkaliyev, Galiya Buribayeva and others.
Based on the classics, but not excluding new styles and trends, the young troupe also performed scenes from the recent works of renowned theatre director Charles Jude.
Astana Opera dancers Madina Basbayeva, Tair Gatauov, Aigerim Beketayeva, Zhanibek Imankulov, Gauhar Usina, Serzhan Kaukov, Doszhan Tabyldy, Anel Rustemova, Yerkin Rahmetullayev, Bakhtiyar Adamzhan, Arman Urazov and others were well received at the Mariinsky Theatre. Many of these performers have won international awards.
The troupe’s visit to St. Petersburg also included a March 10 performance of Birzhan and Sara by Kazakh opera composer Mukan Tolebayev. The role of Birzhan was performed by Mariinsky Theatre soloist, honoured artist of Russia and People’s Artist of Tatarstan Akhmed Agadi in tandem with Kazakh laureate and People’s Artist of Kazakhstan and Tatarstan Nurzhamal Ussenbayeva.
Birzhan and Sara first premiered Nov. 7, 1946 at Abai State Academy of Opera and Ballet in Almaty. The first performers of Birzhan and Sara were Anvar Umbetbayev and Kulyash Baisseitova. The Russian premiere took place in 1948.
More than half a century later, the same opera opened the Astana Opera on June 21, 2013 and became the hallmark of the young theatre. The opera tells the story of fortitude and love between folk singer Birzhan Sal and gifted poetess Sara, and reveals the harshness of attitudes from bais (landowners). It centres around the motives of the struggle for freedom of a creative person, the right to love and happiness. The finale of the opera is tragic as Birzhan dies.