Art must evolve at renewed Bolshoi, La Scala: Lissner

MOSCOW Tue Nov 15, 2011 3:31pm EST

1 of 3. La Scala General Manager and Artistic Director Stephane Lissner looks on inside the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow November 12, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow's Bolshoi and Milan's La Scala theatres must evolve to meet a growing demand for modern opera and ballet, La Scala's artistic director said on a visit to Moscow.

The 18th century theatres, one born under the rule of Italy's Empress Maria Theresa and the other under Russia's Catherine the Great, are two of the world's best known cultural cornerstones and have both undergone long and costly restorations in the last decade to repair centuries of use and abuse.

The recent modernization programs have equipped them with enough up-to-date technology to enter the 21st century with dignity, but must now extend to the performances which grace their historic stages, La Scala General Manager and Artistic Director Stephane Lissner said.

"It is not the theater alone which creates modernity, but the performances," Lissner told Reuters standing in Bolshoi's white foyer before La Scala's one-night, guest performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem on the newly re-opened stage last Saturday.

"The fact that the theater is newly redone doesn't mean it's a modern theater, but it creates a certain atmosphere for the modernity to emerge," he said.

Honouring its long cultural partnership with the Bolshoi, La Scala became the first foreign company to perform on the historic Bolshoi stage, which opened two weeks ago after a six-year $700-million revamp.

Lissner, whose passion for ballet classics evolved from modern dance, said that while the two centuries-old theatres needed to preserve tradition, it was important not to be bound by convention.

"The role of these two theatres -- two of the most well-known cultural establishments worldwide -- is to address citizens and offer the new generation a cultural plan," he said.

One of Russia's most revered cultural symbols, the Bolshoi confounded its legions of traditionalist Russian fans last month by opening the new season with a starkly modern adaptation of Mikhail Glinka's folkloric romantic opera "Ruslan and Lyudmila."

Nudity, video, puppets and acrobats featured in the first full production to grace the redone Bolshoi stage.

Bolshoi Director Anatoly Iksanov told Reuters the theatre's priority is to maintain its classic repertoire on the main stage, while showing experimental pieces on its neighboring smaller New Stage.

The Bolshoi and La Scala have a more than 50 year-old history of cultural exchanges, which began in 1964 when Milan's opera and ballet troupes first came to Moscow.

(Reporting by Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel)

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