A Ballet to Connect Antiquity with Modern Age

On June 25-26, 2022, a ballet Frescoes by outstanding Kazakh conductor and composer Timur Mynbayev is scheduled to be staged once again at the Abai Opera and Ballet Theatre in Almaty, Kazakhstan. This is the renewed production of the ballet, whose premiere took place on July 9, 1981 at the Leningrad State Order of Lenin Academic Maly Opera and Ballet Theatre. Renowned dancer Zaurbek Raibayev directed its amazing choreography. Outstanding graphic artist Evgeny Sidorkin created its marvelous set design. Such gifted dancers as Ramazan Bapov and Eduard Malbekov performed main roles of the premiere. The last time Frescoes was staged in 2008, also at the Abai Opera and Ballet Theatre. I was among journalists, who were invited to watch its dress rehearsal on June 24, 2022. The ballet company has strived to restore the remarkable production of the early 1980s in its integrity. Below are excerpts of the dress rehearsal.

The ballet is based on The Book of Clay by a Kazakh poet Olzhas Suleimenov. Usually, ballets have been based on fairy tales or adventure stories, which are quite entertaining and easy to grasp. But, the book by the Kazakh poet is a complex mixture of history and philosophy along with Soviet agenda of the 1970s. Basically, it poetically deals with Kazakh ancestors, who lived somewhere in IV-VI centuries of CE. Of course, it would have been impossible to cram all this stuff into one ballet! So, Maestro Mynbayev reasonably chose furious rivalry of ancient tribes as the ballet’s plotline. Structurally, the ballet is divided into nine frescoes, which artfully combine expressive dances, magnificent set design with some light show as well.

As for its music, the ballet is notable for the vigorous use of percussion instruments, resembling a wonderful ballet Arabian Nights, 1979, by great Azeri composer Fikret Emirov. No doubt, percussion instruments better depict the spirit of a military conflict. There are also certain jazz elements, which intimately convey a love theme. In a way, Frescoes was a groundbreaking work of Soviet art, contributing significantly to the development of modern ballet too.

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