• Culture
Mariinsky’s China Month
Text by Wang Danyang


A still of Swan Lake, presented by Mariinsky in Tianjin on October 28, 2016.  CFP

Shanghai embraced one of Russia’s greatest operas on October 18, 2016, when Valery Gergieve, considered an “Arts Tsar,” staged the classic Queen of Spades, a masterpiece of the Mariinsky Theater, at the Shanghai Grand Theater.

The tour group was composed of over 600 elite artists from the opera troupes, corps de ballet, symphony orchestras, and choruses of Mariinsky, composing the grandest-ever Russian group to tour China. During their stay from October 18 to November 9, the Russian artists gave 19 performances in cities including Shanghai, Harbin, Tianjin, and Guangzhou, presenting masterpieces Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and War and Peace, as well as symphonies by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.

Shanghai was lucky enough to receive seven performances including the opera The Queen of Spades and the ballet Romeo and Juliet as well as free or affordable public activities such as back-stage exploration, a fairy-tale symphony and meeting ballet dancers. “We started preparing for the campaign two years ago,” explains Zhang Xiaoding, general manager of the Shanghai Grand Theater. “The dynamic, rich performances that we saw were only finalized after extensive communication between us and Mariinsky.”

The Queen of Spades is based on a short story by Alexander Pushkin, a great Russian poet and writer. It was adapted into an opera by Tchaikovsky, a romantic composer during the late 19th Century, and hailed as a surreal piece of work reflecting his deepest depression, most extreme psychological tension, and diversified style.

The story follows a Russian army officer’s obsession with learning a trick involving three secret cards to win at gambling. He falls in love with a young woman, but his desire for money proves stronger, and the story ends in an asylum.

“The artists of Mariinsky have a perfect understanding of the roles,” comments General Manager Zhang. “The male lead, for example, is played almost exactly the same as it was in the Mariinsky’s premier: sharp but not rich, because the character is sick.”



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