The show must go on

  • 2005-08-31
  • By Elizabeth Belozerova
RIGA - The bastions of Latvian culture are gearing up for their fall seasons. The red velvet seats and glamorous foyers are being touched up to welcome the crowds of theater lovers to the hallowed halls of both the National Opera and the National Theater.

This year, the Opera celebrates 10 years since renovation, while the National Theater has spent almost a year within its elegantly reconstructed walls. But fresh settings demand updated repertoires: a theatergoer today is in the minority and theaters are, thus, revising their old ideologies in favor of contemporary interpretations to attract wider audiences. This year in Latvian art, experimental, challenging and provocative will be the key words to mark the season opening in September.

Since 1995, when the Opera opened after reconstruction with a new adjacent stage, it has had time to experiment with new styles. Hence, to mature. A variety of opera from baroque to a 20th century "Turn of the Screw" has been covered and a balanced coexistence of modern and classical ballet presentations has been premiered. From Sept. 26 to Oct. 2 a retrospective examination of the opera's history will throw light on the last 10 years

of artistic creativity and will feature film and book presentations, as well as a photo exhibition and open access to the backstage. The last three days of September will be marked by nostalgic concerts that will show pieces of ballet and opera that have been produced in "the new era".

While the Opera has successfully exposed itself to modern influences, the National Theater, with its small but devoted audience has been a stable reservoir of authentic Latvian drama. Yet this cradle of old values hasn't escaped the modern plague either - a pop celebrity on the actors' list or a bit of nudity in the right places always seems to be what it takes to attract the capricious audience. "Every era has its inherent theatrical language" says Viesturs Rieksts, the ideological coordinator of the theater, "and it follows from the definition of the National Theater that it is a theater, wherein each group finds an appropriate performance."

Seeking to connect modern audiences with the national past, the central production of the new season will be an ultra modern interpretation of a philosophical play by Rainis based on the biblical story "Joseph and his brothers." Rieksts explains the play and its modern interpretation "without fake moustaches and pseudo Egyptian props" were chosen "because it touches on eternal subjects such as forgiveness and reconciliation."

Those who are not yet ready to encounter Latvian drama in full force or who may not have mastered the language yet, will be pleasantly surprised by a purely musical version of the Latvian national dramatic love story "In the Fire" by Blaumanis.

The new season's theatrical plate will be garnished with a selection of Russian classics such as Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" and a pinch of theatrical dandyism - "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess.

While the opera experiments with new artistic forms, it has also been cherishing its past. The new opera season will open with a 75th birthday concert to honor the famous tenor, Karlis Zarins.

Ballet fans get ready for some passion and vengeance 's "Liaisons Dangereuses," Laclos' scandalous peep into the keyhole of society's dirtiest deeds, returns on the 23rd of October. Ballet lovers can also expect "Giselle," "One Road Crossroads," Shostakovich's "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk," Wagner's "Das Rheingold," and Mozart's "Le Nozze di Figaro."

The National Theater will host provocative Russian director Masha de Valukoff's premier musical dedicated to the life of the legendary French composer and singer Serge Gainsbourg. His scandalous life will be played by Bi-2's Liova. Local favorites will include celebrity maestro Raimonds Pauls together with the actors from the theatre in the cabaret-style "Tikai Muzikants."

Both theaters feature new productions for children this year. The National Theater will show Maeterlinck's "Blue Bird" by Ilze Rudzite, and the Opera will show "Amahl and the Night Visitors" by Italian composer Menotti.

Striving for new methods of expression that will keep audiences coming, it seems that both the Latvian National Opera and the Latvian National Theater have found the secret recipe. Everything that is entertaining sells well. And entertainment won't be lacking in the upcoming season as both venues gear up to delight and amaze. The show must go on and so it will.

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