Libretto by Alexander Medvedev
based on the novel of the same name by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Name Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919, Warsaw - 1996, Moscow), the author of 22 symphonies, opera 7, as well as the music for the film "The Cranes Are Flying" and the cartoon "Winnie the Pooh", is little known both in Russia and in the West. The explanation is contained in the biography of the composer: escape
from the Nazis to the Soviet Union, his friendship with "suspicious" Shostakovich, his marriage to the daughter of Solomon Mikhoels, arrest because of the connection
with the "doctors' plot" almost miraculous escape from the Gulag. Weinberg worked hard and productively, but "in the table".
In 2010, opera Weinberg "Passenger" performed at the Bregenz Festival produced the sensation, and in 2013 a small theater of
Mannheim dared to stage "The Idiot", which became a real discovery.
Welcome, Prince Myshkin!
Throughout the XX century Dostoevsky's philosophical and expressive prose - namely his major novel The Idiot - aroused keen interest among composers. Taking Dostoyevsky's novel as its starting point, Mieczysław Weinberg made Prince Myshkin the protagonist of his opera. We can assume that a naive, compassionate Prince is preaching the composer’s own ideals. The libretto was created in collaboration with the musicologist Alexander Medvedev, a permanent librettist and a close friend of the composer. It is a substantial work, over three hours of music (208 minutes), for sure, such huge amount is above the strength of contemporary audience. So, the piece was turned into a cohesive story suited for the stage.
The story line of the opera reflects almost every twist and turn of the novel. The authors focus on the most vivid scenes of the novel, and feature only the main characters: there are only twelve sung roles. Nevertheless, one significant character was introduced - a Knife-Grinder. His haunting, monotonous tune is echoed in the music, he appears before the Prince Myshkin in the last scene, heralding the tragic final. The director of the production at the Bolshoi Yevgeny Arye strongly focuses the viewer's attention on this character: ‘Grinder’s voice becomes the part of delusions of Rogozhin and Myshkin. In this production there are three Grinders who really appear in the first and penultimate scenes.’
The stage design becomes essential element of the production. According to the score, ‘the action of the opera occurs on the three sites, located on the main stage. Events at each of them are taking place in isolation, with instant transitions.’ This cinematic technique becomes a kind of landmark of Weinberg. His soundtracks for movies and animated films were indeed popular in the Soviet Union. (Weinberg wrote music for more than sixty films, including the world-famous The Cranes Are Flying and The Last Inch).
The Idiot at the Bolshoi is staged by a well-known theatre director Yevgeny Arye, founder and artistic director of Gesher Theatre (Tel Aviv). In a dramatic theatre he has staged performances on the works of Dostoyevsky twice, but it is the first time he works with an opera. Artistic Director of the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra Michał Klauza serves as music director of the production. He made his debut at the Bolshoi Theatre as music director in production of Donizetti`s Don Pasquale. Set designer Simon Pastukh in alliance with his wife, costume designer Galina Solovieva work on the design of the production. They both have already worked at the Bolshoi - in 2005, they were members of the production team for Shostakovich’s Bolt (choreographer Alexei Ratmansky). In 2008, Galina Solovieva worked on the production of Desyatnikov`s Russian Seasons, the ballet was revived at the Bolshoi in 2015 and soon it will be back on our stage.