An evil sorceress has taken a princess, and three brave men face danger along the way to finding her. That’s the fairytale Bel Cantanti Opera’s “Ruslan and Ludmila” will tell in its first U.S.-produced performance on the evenings of Saturdays, May 7 and 14, at the Randolph Road Theater in Silver Spring.
Dr. Katerina Souvorova, an accomplished pianist and vocal coach as well as Bel Cantanti’s founder and director, decided on the opera as a way to introduce Russian classical music to American audiences. “It’s a rare opera, and this is my heritage,” she said. “This opera is not known by the public here, and I think this music absolutely deserves to be known.”
The opera, based on a poem by Alexander Pushkin, was composed in the 19th century by Mikhail Glinka, who helped champion and influence Russian classical music. It is one of only two operas he composed during his short life. “This (opera) is very happy,” Dr. Souvorova said. “A lot of Russian music is very dramatic. Somebody always dies at the end. This one is a rare, beautiful opera, (with) beautiful music which is just simply happy.”
Audience members will hear the actors perform in Russian accompanied by a chamber orchestra while reading English super-titles to follow the story. Twelve singers will take the stage for the production along with 35 dancers from The Olney Ballet, The Four Seasons Dancers and Carousel Musical and Dance Company. The companies have collaborated on performances with Bel Cantanti previously.
As director and choreographer for Four Seasons and artistic director for Carousel, Elena Indrokova Jones said the collaborations offer her dancers performing experience with a live orchestra as well as a fun time. The choreography took about two months to create, with the dancers appearing throughout the production.
An accomplished dancer in Russia before moving to Montgomery County, Indrokova Jones marveled at Souvorova’s work ethic and her ability to put a complicated opera together in just a few months. “Katerina is so talented,” she said. “She has a lot of energy.”
Dr. Souvorova once worked at an opera house in Russia, where she often saw the two art forms team up for performances. “We all work together (here), and I think it is a great collaboration,” she said.
The performance will have an additional creative element in the form of projections of Russian art to “bring some emotional background to the piece that the singer will be singing,” Souvorora said. “The more art you bring in–opera, ballet, fine art–it all serves the same reason: the emotional input.
When choosing opera pieces to take on, Souvorova said she prefers music from past centuries rather than contemporary compositions. “This is very easy for me to do something that is not really known and introduce it to people, and at the same time, it is written very well,” she said. “…I love this music, and this music is known in Russia, but it is completely not known here. I think it would be nice if people got a chance to hear it. …My main idea is to give singers a taste of Russian music (so the) Russian vocal school and Russian diction and Russian repertoire becomes more and more known in America, so people start singing Russian music.”
For information, visit www.belcantanti.com.