Stage version after Lope de Vega’s play Fuente Ovejuna
Music revised for the Mikhailovsky Theatre
Choreography by Vakhtang Chabukiani revised by Mikhail Messerer
Stage and Costume Design: Vadim Ryndin
Production: Mikhail Messerer
Designers of the revival: Oleg Molchanov (sets), Vyacheslav Okunev (costumes)
Lighting Designer: Mikhail Mekler
Music Director of the production: Valery Ovsyanikov
Sets and costumes produced at the Vozrozhdenie Theatrical Design Studios
Premiere at the Mikhailovsky Theatre: 5 June 2010
To celebrate the centenary of the birth of choreographer Vakhtang Chabukiani, the Mikhailovsky Theatre presents the revival of his masterpiece Laurencia based on the play Fuente Ovejuna by Lope de Vega. Chabukiani created a new choreographic language by means of his own particular blend of folk dance and classical ballet. In this ballet, to the upbeat music by Alexander Krein, Chabukiani asserts the importance of male dance, furthering the notion of the ‘heroic’ style. Laurencia was premiered in 1939 in the Kirov Theatre. Leading roles were performed by Natalia Dudinskaya (Laurencia), Vakhtang Chabukiani (Frondoso) and Tatiana Vecheslova (Pascuala). In 1956, the ballet was staged at the Bolshoi Theatre where Vakhtang Chabukiani partnered Maya Plisetskaya. In 2010, after decades of absence from the Russian stage the ballet was revived for the Mikhailovsky Theatre by Mikhail Messerer.
Scene oneThe harsh sound of military music is heard and the Commander appears. The people give him a cautious welcome, but he does not pay much notice: his attention is drawn to the beautiful Laurencia. Ordering everyone to disperse, the Commander detains only her. Her friend Pascuala remains with her. Laurencia rejects the Commander’s advances. Annoyed, the Commander orders his soldiers to bring Laurencia and Pascuala to his castle, but the girls manage to escape.
Scene twoIn a secluded location by a forest stream, Frondoso reveals his feelings to Laurencia. But the capricious girl responds evasively. The sound of a hunting horn is heard. It is the Commander out hunting in the forest. Soon he appears before Laurencia and tries to kiss her. Frondoso fearlessly throws himself at the Commander, saving Laurencia from her hated admirer. The Commander vows revenge on both of them.
A group of girls come to the stream to wash clothes. They are more occupied with chatting than laundry, especially as Mengo also arrives: it is always fun when he is there.
Jacinta runs in, chased by soldiers. Mengo defends Jacinta, but the soldiers knock him down. The Commander returns. Jacinta begs for his protection, but he hands her over to the soldiers.
Laurencia, now convinced of Frondoso’s faithfulness, bravery and devotion, agrees to marry him.
Scene threeThe whole village merrily celebrates Laurencia and Frondoso’s wedding. One dance follows another, but the merrymaking is interrupted when the Commander appears, looking sombre. He has come to take his revenge. He gives orders for Frondoso to be imprisoned and Laurencia to be taken to his castle.The people are horrified.
Scene fourAt night the men gather together in the forest. They know they must fight the tyrant, but from fear and indecision they merely clench their fists and utter curses, they do not act. Laurencia enters unsteadily, battered and with her dress torn, but her will is strong and she is filled with fury. She shames the men for their inaction and calls on them to rise up and fight. Her impassioned call fills their hearts with courage. All the village women support Laurencia. The people of Fuente Ovejuna decide to enter the Commander’s castle.
Scene fiveArmed with knives, scythes, clubs, and sticks, the people storm in the inner rooms of the castle like a fearsome tidal wave. They free Frondoso from incarceration and set off to get even with the Commander. He tries to flee, but the peasants capture him. He offers them gold to let him go, but is met by an indignant refusal. The dead tyrant’s helmet set up on the pole symbolizes the victory of the people of Fuente Ovejuna.
Debra Craine, The Times
...the finale is fantastic, with peasants armed with clubs, sticks, burning torches and righteous indignation taking on the might of the military. We may not relate to its revolutionary message as much as Soviet audiences did, but its colourful melodrama and resounding vanquish of evil get the blood boiling.
Clement Crisp, Financial Times
Messerer has refreshed the traditional Bolshoi version in a reading that captures the political urgencies of the original and offers a convincing portrait of the choreography. The production is lively, the design decently Hispanic, the score by Alexander Krein be-castanetted and wallpaper-ish, and the Mikhailovsky dancers’ performances eager.
David Dougill, Sunday Times
...a feast of dancing... bravura athleticism with exemplary classical style... theatrically unforgettable — wonderfully uplifting.
Judith Mackrell, The Guardian
…for the Mikhailovsky company, Mikhail Messerer has revisited Chabukiani's Laurencia, first created for the Kirov in 1939. ...in an inspired move he’s added a transitional scene, the storming of the castle, using projected film. Most fascinating, though, is the scene in which the ballet gears into revolutionary mode, as Laurencia incites the village to revolt. The images are jerky and blurred, as if we were watching an old Soviet newsreel; this adds a brilliant period dimension to the work.
Jeffery Taylor, Sunday Express
Messerer takes the huge, heroic spread of movement embodied in every bone of Chabukiani’s body creating the Soviet style, and filters the exuberance through an exquisitely classical language of dance. I’m sure the Soviet Red Army would have welcomed Messerer’s logistical skills.
Laura Thompson, The Telegraph
Above all, Laurencia reveals the strength of the Mikhailovsky as a company. The staging is shapely and intelligent... Laurencia is a total winner...
Judith Flanders, The Arts Desk
Within this story, two separate historical narratives unfold, one dance, one political, both fascinating. The political one is more obvious — the ballet was created as the Nazis threatened in 1939, and the people rising up, only 20 years after they did so in actuality in Russia, makes for fine stirring drama. (This production also uses historical bits of film during the overture and scene drop to good effect.)