Orlando at the Bolshoi: What You Need to Know About the Plot, the Source and the Producer of the World Premiere

Orlando at the Bolshoi: What You Need to Know About the Plot, the Source and the Producer of the World Premiere

On March 24, the New Stage of the Bolshoi Theater will host the world premiere of the ballet Orlando, based on the modernist novel by Virginia Woolf. What do we know about the production?

The ballet has been staged by the German choreographer Christian Spuck, who has been director of the Ballett Zürich troupe since 2013. This is the choreographer's first collaboration with the Bolshoi Theater, but the Russian audience could’ve already seen his infernal Nutcracker at the Dance Inversion festival on stage of the State Academic Bolshoi Theater, Winterreise at the Dance Open in St. Petersburg and the Anna Karenina ballet at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater. The name of this choreographer is widely known in the ballet world, his performances invariably evoke a wide response and are awarded prestigious awards, from the German Faust to the international Benois De La Danse prize. Many ballet companies dream of getting Spuck - the choreographer accepted the invitation from the Bolshoi without hesitation.

In his work, the director often refers to literary works, but the choice of Orlando can, probably, be considered the most non-trivial. Virginia Woolf's novel, published in 1928, describes the life of an English aristocrat who began his career as a page at the court of Elizabeth I.Orlando falls in love with the Russian princess, but gets disappointed in love. The story covers a period of 350 years. During all this time, the main character remains fantastically young, and at the beginning of the 20th century he turns into a woman and continues to live in a new body. The writer touches upon the themes of feminism and gender identity in a light satirical manner.

Christian Spuck told the Bolshoi Theater in an interview about his attitude to this novel, “Orlando has exactly what I, as a choreographer, find so appealing: it is rich in voluminous and expressive characters. The story is more like a dream than a reality. And it has an almost weightless lightness and humor. Finally, it virtually questions the roles that we are born into, raising the question of whether the transitions between male and female gender identities are not much more smooth than they are recognized by society. Virginia Woolf is actually asking some startling and crucial questions here: What is a person's gender? How quickly does the subjectively perceived lifetime pass? Or: How many different “I” live in the personality of an artist?”

The Bolshoi Theater proved to be open to creative experiments and gave Spuck absolute freedom, not opposing the "same-sex pas de deux" and other unusual solutions justified by the plot. In his interview with the Stuttgarter Zeitung, the choreographer was pleased to note that “the management proved themselves to be bias-free”.

The ballet is set to music by the 19th century composer Edward Elgar, as well as contemporary composers Philip Glass, Lera Auerbach and Elena Kats-Chernin. Alexei Bogorad has been announced as the Music Director and Conductor. To work on the ballet, Spuck brought in his permanent team: set designer Rufus Didwiszus, costume designer Emma Ryott and lighting designer Martin Gebhardt.

Orlando was staged during the pandemic, and, despite all the precautions, the choreographer fell ill with coronavirus and had to spend 3 weeks in his hotel room. But Christian Spuck was happy to have the opportunity to create even in such a difficult time, as theaters in Zurich were closed altogether. The choreographer was delighted with the Bolshoi ballet company, as he told IngoDance in an interview, “I was amazed at the technique of the Bolshoi dancers and the pace of their work. They were surprisingly quick to master new choreography and caught on fast."

Orlando will be on the New Stage every day from March 24th to 28th. If you love ballet, please hurry up - it is always interesting to become one of the first spectators and witness an event that is historic for the art world.