ASTANA – Astana Opera will be touring to the cultural capital of Kazakhstan – Almaty. The opera plans to present a rich programme featuring world art masterpieces at the Abai Opera House, the alma mater of opera and ballet. The tour, to be held Feb. 10-18 under the Rukhani Janghyru programme, is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
“This tour is very important for us, first and foremost, because we are performing for the people of Kazakhstan – our native viewers. Most of the artists of our company will appear onstage in front of their teachers, who will assess their professional growth. This is another exam for all of us. In general, every company needs a touring life and exchange of experience,” said Astana Opera Director Galym Akhmedyarov in an interview with The Astana Times.
The tour will begin with the outstanding work of Kazakh musical art – the classical opera “Abai.” The production will be presented 6 p.m., Feb. 10 and 11, led by Astana Opera Maestro and Principal Conductor Alan Buribayev.
“We did not choose the opera ‘Abai’ for the Almaty tour by chance; this work became the hallmark of our national art. By performing this opera, we pay homage to the oldest Kazakh opera and ballet theatre named after Abai,” said Akhmedyarov.
The masterpiece, based on the libretto of Kazakh writer Mukhtar Auezov, is the story of Kazakh poet, educator and philosopher Abai Kunanbayev.
The roles will be performed by Sundet Baigozhin and Zhanat Shybykbayev, Meir Bainesh, Nurlan Bekmukhambetov, opera prima Maira Mukhamedkyzy and Saltanat Akhmetova. Tatyana Vitsinskaya, baritone Yerzhan Saipov, Talgat Galeyev, Barseg Tumanyan, Bolat Yessimkhanov and mezzo-soprano Malika Minisini will debut as well.
The production was fashioned by Kazakh and Italian artists. The staging was created by Italian director Giancarlo del Monaco; the consulting director is Professor Yesmukhan Obayev and Yerzhan Dautov is chief choirmaster. Contemporary set designer Ezio Frigerio and Academy Award-winning costume designer Franca Squarciapino are responsible for the design.
On Feb. 14, Astana Opera will present “Manon” by 20th-century choreographer Kenneth MacMillan. The ballet is based on the novel “L’Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut” by Abbé Prévost. The production was added to the opera’s repertoire relatively recently, as the premiere was held April 28. Choreographers Karl Burnett and Patricia Ruanne, keepers of the Royal Ballet traditions, staged the work at the capital’s opera house. The music director and conductor is Arman Urazgaliyev and the ballet is orchestrated and arranged by Martin Yates, with set and costume designer Nicholas Georgiadis.
The production was added to the opera house’s repertoire thanks to the company’s artistic director Altynai Assylmuratova. She has danced the title role many times at London’s legendary Royal Opera House, working on the portrayal personally with MacMillan. The production team responded to her proposal with great joy to revive the masterpiece on the Kazakh stage.
Madina Basbayeva will perform the part of Manon and Rustem Seitbekov will act as Des Grieux. Bakhtiyar Adamzhan, Zhanibek Imankulov, Anel Rustemova and Arman Urazov will also have roles.
Roland Petit’s ballet “Notre Dame de Paris” set to the music of Maurice Jarre, to be presented Feb. 17 and 18, will conclude the tour. The production is popular throughout the world, yet is not featured in most opera houses. France’s Les Ballets Roland Petit Foundation has granted the Kazakh opera house exclusive rights to recreate the production.