A new season of worldwide cinema screenings from the Bolshoi Ballet opens on October 26th with a revival of Yuri Grigorovich’s The Legend of Love, the work that confirmed an entirely new approach to classical ballet in Russia, and set a trend for its future development.
Regarded as one of the most outstanding Russian choreographers of the 20th century, the enigmatic but brilliant Grigorovich dominated Russian ballet for over 30 years. He choreographed A Legend of Love for the then Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet) in 1961, following his first creation for the Company – The Stone Flower, written in 1957 – which was acknowledged as an unqualified success, and also gave an indication of the path which Grigorovich was to pursue.
Yuri Grigorovich joined the Kirov Ballet straight from the Leningrad Ballet School (now the Vaganova Russian Ballet Academy), rapidly rising to the position of lead dancer, which he held for 18 years. In 1961, he gave up his dancing career to concentrate on choreography, but within three years he fell foul of Konstantin Sergeev, artistic director and choreographer of the Kirov, who vehemently opposed any drastic changes.
Fortunately for him – and for Russian ballet – Grigorovich was appointed chief choreographer of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1964, an appointment which heralded some of the greatest artistic achievements by the Company. As its Director, Grigorovich established a position of international authority for the Bolshoi Ballet, initiating over 90 tours during his 30-year tenure, and taking the widely acknowledged brilliance of its dancers to the stages of the world.
The Legend of Love returns to the Bolshoi stage after a long absence from the Company’s performance repertoire – the premiere of this major revival having taken place at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on October 23rd. With a Middle Eastern setting, the ballet tells of the conflict between its two heroines – Queen Mekhmene Banu and her younger sister, Princess Shyrin – who is dying. To save her sister, the Queen is instructed by a stranger to sacrifice her beauty to Princess Shyrin, which she does out of love for her, but when both sisters fall in love with the same man – the court painter Ferkhad – Queen Mekhmene Banu realises that without her beauty, she cannot win his heart. This sets in train a sequence of events involving jealousy, forbidden love and heartbreak.
Bolshoi principal dancer, Svetlana Zakharova dances the role of the Queen, leading Bolshoi soloist, Anna Nikulina, is Princess Shyrin, Ferkhad is danced by Denis Rodkin, and the Vizir by Vitaly Biktimirov.
The Legend of Love is set to a score by Azerbaijani composer, Arif Melikov, libretto is by Turkish poet and writer Nazym Hikmet and Yuri Grigorovich, design is by Simon Virsaladze and the Music Director is Pavel Sorokin.
The first of seven HD productions by the Bolshoi this season, The Legend of Love is brought to the cinema screen by BY Experience and Pathe Live. Tickets are now on sale for all seven productions – The Pharaoh’s Daughter on November 23, La Bayadere on December 7, The Nutcracker on December 21, Swan Lake on January 25, 2015, Romeo and Juliet on March 8, and Ivan the Terrible on April 19. They can be bought at participating cinemas or at www.BolshoiBalletinCinema.com, where complete listings of theatres and schedules can be found, as well as more information on the productions, cast lists and exclusive videos.