This is not the first time Cheeky Chastushki, an orchestra concerto by Rodion Shchedrin based on chastushki folk songs, got adapted for stage at the Mariinsky Theatre. Back in the 1960s, Leonid Yacobson turned Shchedrin’s work into a ballet miniature called Malyavin’s Biddies, a reference to peasant women’s portraits by Filipp Malyavin. And now, specially for Rodion Shchedrin’s birthday, the ballet theatre named after Leonid Yacobson has prepared an all-new choreographic interpretation of his music. The production is directed by Vyacheslav Samodurov. Once a principal at Mariinsky’s ballet troupe and now one of the most decorated and sought-after choreographers in Russia, he is returning to his erstwhile place of work as a ballet master for the very first time.
His reading of Rodion Shchedrin focuses not on the folklore motifs that permeate Cheeky Chastushki, but the very structure of this work. Rodion Shchedrin himself likes to say that his concerto is ‘essentially a toccata’, meaning a musical masterwork with a rapid tempo and a clearly defined rhythm, perfect for showcasing the performers’ technique. Its musical fabric is woven out of countless motifs that allow practically each member of the orchestra to truly shine. These intricate, jigsaw-like melodies, with multiple instruments playing off of each other, are reflected flawlessly in Samodurov’s choreography. He has found a way to use the rapid succession of different themes to the dancers’ advantage, leaving plenty of creative room for both the soloists and the corps de ballet.
‘The result is a ballet allegro that does not slow down for one second,’ the choreographer comments. ‘The main features of Shchedrin’s work are humour, energy, and drive, and the dancers have captured them all.’
The new show’s zest is further enhanced by the bold, contrasting colours in the stage design, courtesy of Anastasia Nefyodova By Olga Makarova