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Mihail Chemiakin (Production design)

Mihail Chemiakin (Production design)

Born in Moscow in 1943, grew up in occupied East Germany, and returned to Russia in 1957 where he was admitted to the Special High School of the Repin Academy of Art in Leningrad. He was expelled from art school for failing to conform to Socialist Realist norms, and from 1959-1971 worked as a laborer in various capacities. He was subjected to compulsory treatment at a mental institution, which was a standard way of dealing with ideological dissidents at that time. For five years he worked on the maintenance crew of the Hermitage Museum. In 1967, the artist founded the St Petersburg Group and developed the philosophy of Metaphysical Synthesism, dedicated to the creation of a new form of icon painting based on the study of religious art of all ages and peoples.

Chemiakin‘s Nutcracker at the Mariinsky Ballet and Opera

AP Photo/ITAR-TASS, (Alexei Panov) Presidential Press Service
AP Photo/ITAR-TASS, (Alexei Panov) Presidential Press Service

President George Bush, left, shakes hands with Mihail Chemiakin as Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, looks on at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg on Saturday, May 25, 2002. Both Presidents, accompanied by their wives, enjoyed a specially scheduled performance of Chemiakin‘s Nutcracker ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre. The two Presidents had just concluded a nuclear arms reduction summit with the signing of an historic treaty on Friday in Moscow.

AP Photo/ITAR-TASS, (Alexei Panov) Presidential Press Service
AP Photo/ITAR-TASS, (Alexei Panov) Presidential Press Service

First Lady Laura Bush looks through the program for The Nutcracker as she talks with Mihail Chemiakin, left, and theatre director and conductor Valery Gergiev, center, at the Mariinsky Theatre on Saturday evening May 25, 2002.

Chemiakin‘s new staging of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, the Nutcracker, premiered at St. Petersburg‘s Mariinsky Theater on February 12, 2001 to enthusiastic reviews by audience and critics alike. The production was the highlight of the inaugural International Ballet Festival slated to be an annual event in St. Petersburg.

The new ballet is much closer in spirit to the original tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann and is a departure from the children’s version with which we are all familiar.

Joel Lobenthal reviews the International Ballet Festival for The New York Times, highlighting the production of the Nutcracker, in the April 8th edition. Nadine Meisner reviewed the Ballet Festival in the February 27 edition of the The Independent (London). Nina Alovert filed a dispatch for the dance magazine Pointe on the Nutcracker premiere. Dance Magazine‘s Arsen Degen reports on the "Rats in the Marzipan" in the June issue. All in English.

For a complete in-depth review of the events leading to the premiere of the Nutcracker see the accompanying article by Geoffrey York of Toronto‘s Globe and Mail. In English. Also see the Moscow Times article by Claire Bigg from Reuters published on March 31. In English.

Nutcracker. Waltz of the Flowers (Act II). Click to enlarge Nutcracker. Masha and the Nutcracker (Act II). Click to enlarge Nutcracker. Mother Gigogne and the Pulchinelli (Act II). Click to enlarge Mariinsky Theatre Stage. Click to enlarge

Russian language press coverage of the premiere was extensive with some 70 articles published in the weeks leading to and just after the premiere. An article published on March 7, 2000 in Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Moscow) devoted to Chemiakin‘s preparation for the Nutcracker. Russian television (NTV) also covered the premiere. In Russian.

The Moscow Times ran an interview with Chemiakin on February 9, 2001. In English. An interview with Chemiakin by Larisa Doctorow was published by the Russia Journal. In English.

Nutcracker. The Snowstorm of Act I. Click to enlarge Nutcracker. A divertissement from Act II - the Petrouchkas. Click to enlarge Nutcracker. In the kitchen of Counsellor Stahlbaum‘s house (Act I). Click to enlarge Nutcracker. A battle scene from Act II with Kryselieu, the Rat. Click to enlarge

Anton Adassinsky, the Russian expatriate whose Dresden based Derevo experimental theater group brings cutting edge works to audiences throughout the world, plays Drosselmeyer in the Nutcracker. See his selection of rehearsal photos.

The Paris premiere of Chemiakin‘s Nutcracker at the Theatre du Chatelet from October 22 - 26, 2002 was both a critical and popular success. The reviews in Le Figaro, Le Monde, Les Echos, and Le Parisiene acclaimed the production and the Chatelet has invited The Nutcracker back for an extended run during the theatre‘s 2005 season. (Also read the review in the Russian newspaper Izvestia)

© Photos: Natasha Razina; © Text:

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