At the heart of the 'big' theatre

Sep 01, 2018, 09:44 IST | Snigdha Hasan

Ahead of his maiden concert in India, master conductor Alexander Lazarev speaks of his experience at the iconic Bolshoi Theatre and the art of savouring classical music

At the heart of the 'big' theatre

Russian royalty was onto something when they decided to call one of their imperial theatres in Moscow the Bolshoi Theatre. The word bolshoi translates to big. The venue in question here, however, acquired its iconic status not for its size, but because of the magnitude of importance of the performances it has hosted. Home to the biggest ballet company in the world, it has to its credit some exceptional musical feats. Venues across the world reverberate with the music of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, but it was here that the legends debuted some of their best-known compositions.

A concert in the Bolshoi Theatre in 2011
A concert in the Bolshoi Theatre in 2011

Connoisseurs of western classical music in the city are in for a rare treat as Alexander Lazarev, who was the chief conductor and artistic director of the Bolshoi Theatre from 1987 to '95, arrives in Mumbai for his maiden concert in India. He will be conducting at Symphony Orchestra of India Autumn 2018 season at the NCPA.

Edited excerpts from an email interview:

You've worked with orchestras the world over. How was the decision to conduct in India arrived at?
This will be my first time conducting the Symphony Orchestra of India. I have heard about the SOI from my colleagues and I am thrilled to perform with them. I hope this will be the first of many visits.

How do you view the legacy of the Bolshoi Theatre?
I was thrilled by my experience at the Bolshoi Theatre; those were some beautiful memories. I am proud of refreshing the repertoire of the theatre with several important works, which had not been produced for a long time like the Maid of Orleans by Tchaikovsky, Christmas Eve and Mlada by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. We had a fantastic programme of touring to major theatres like the MET [US], La Scala [Italy], in Japan and all over the world.

You were associated with the theatre during a watershed period in the Soviet history. What impact did it have on the arts?
After Perestroika, the Bolshoi was always able to make artistic plans without political interference. Russian artistes had more freedom to travel abroad.

Has the Internet impacted audiences' tastes?
I believe that the Internet is for information only. To fully appreciate and experience classical music, you must go to a live performance. There is no substitute for it. The situation in Russia is healthy. We have full halls with a lively influx of young concert-goers.

An Indian musician you admire?
The only one I know is Zubin Mehta, whom I admire greatly.

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