06 / 06 / 2024

Ballets, Pushkin-Style

The birth anniversary of the great poet Alexander Pushkin is a monumental occasion for the entirety of Russian culture. This year’s celebration on 6 June is particularly special, as the legendary Pushkin was born exactly 225 years ago. It may not be a round date, but it just means the festivities will be full of warmth rather than stiff pomp and overblown speeches. You cannot help but recall how playwright Alexander Ostrovsky referred to Pushkin’s birthday as a grand holiday in our streets.

Perhaps one Pushkin’s most widely known creations, with countless adaptations for the stage, is The Queen of Spades. Its ballet version was included on the Yacobson Ballet Theatre’s playbill at the end of the last decade. The show was inspired by Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s music and brought to life by a passionate international production team. In his iteration of the ballet, the Argentina-based choreographer Iñaki Urlezaga livened up St. Petersburg’s ambience with the fervour and unabashed emotions of Latin America. His version of the protagonist, Hermann (spelled with two n’s, like in Pushkin’s text), has cast off the morose broodiness of his literary predecessor. Instead, he sweeps across the stage like pure energy incarnate. The production’s visual elements are the brain child of the legendary Italian set designer Ezio Frigerio. The plinths of giant black pillars reach high up towards the rigging system, and are moved around from scene to scene to transform the space on-stage. In turn, Franca Squarciapino crafted over 150 luxurious costumes for the ballet. While mostly historically accurate, they do require some suspension of disbelief, typical of theatre.
The Queen of Spades will be playing at Alexandrinsky Theatre on 26 and 27 July. The ballet is part of our Gold Collection annual festival.