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23.07.2021

The Little Humpbacked Horse premiering on 2, 3and17,18September

Rodion Shchedrins ballet The Little Humpbacked Horse is a new addition to our family-friendly repertoire. This full-length three-act production will be a treat for children and adults alike, and a delight for all those who appreciate ballet performed in the classical tradition. This production offers a wily, mischievous take on a story familiar to all Russian children.

Vladimir Kekhman, Artistic Director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre, says: Children are our favourite audience, and in the season that will be an important anniversary for me as the Theatres artistic director, I asked if I could stage a performance for families. Our timing is perfect: the President and government have just launched the Pushkin Card scheme, an unprecedented opportunity for teenagers and young people aged 14 to 22 to make use of a government grant to attend cultural events. I very much hope that these young viewers will become our main audience.

The Little Humpbacked Horse, Ivan and his envious brothers Danila and Gavrila, the Tsar Maiden, and the ballets other characters come straight from the pages of the wonderful fairy tale by Pyotr Yershov. Nothing is too much for peasant boy Ivan with his loyal (if rather unprepossessing) friend Horse by his side: he climbs up to the clouds, travels to the bottom of the sea, admires the wonders of the underwater kingdom, and finally bathes in a boiling cauldron, which miraculously turns him into a handsome man. Having carried out all the orders issued by the brainless Tsar and catered to his every whim, the ingenuous but lucky young man takes the Tsars place and marries the Tsar Maiden.

Rodion Shchedrin composed the ballet at a young age, while still a student at the conservatory. This early work is considered to be a milestone that played a significant role in affirming his creative identity. The music sparkles with fun, and allows choreographers and performers a great deal of freedom. The director, Mikhail Messerer, has drawn from choreography by Alexander Radunsky, who was the first to use Shchedrins score when he staged the ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1960. The audience will appreciate the variety and freshness of the dancing in Alexander Radunskys ballet, says Messerer. I hope they will also be charmed by the ballets good-natured humour, sense of fun, and elements of the grotesque. Radunsky grew up in a family of circus performers and one gets the feeling he knew what makes a good joke. The characters are expressive and lively, and the action is easy to follow.

Stage designer Vyacheslav Okunev has included in his stage design motifs from traditional Russian Palekh murals, with their distinctive take on fairy tales and folklore. Palekh designs have been used before in Mikhailovsky Theatre performances, says Okunev. I turned to the Palekh tradition because it really makes the characters seem larger than life. The flight of fantasy inherent in this ballet has powerful national roots, and our staging blurs the boundary between fact and fiction.

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