April 18, 2007

State Ballet of Georgia


Choreography and Libretto by Vakhtang Chabukiani, based on Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna

Music by Alexander Krein

New choreographic version by Nugzar Magalashvili

Conductor – Revaz Takidze

Stage Designers - Alexandre Vassiliev,

David Monavardisashvili

Costume Designer  - Natia Sirbiladze

Lighting Designer – Amiran Ananeli

Stage Producer – Niala Godziashvili

Based on Lope de Vega’s play Fuente Ovejuna, this two-act ballet is considered the masterpiece of Georgian ballet legend Vakhtang Chabukiani (1910-1992), a virtuoso of immense power and temperament who danced with the Kirov Ballet from 1929 to 1941. Created in 1939, the piece was an instant success at the Kirov, where it had its premiere on March 22, 1939, with Natalia Dudinskaya and Chabukiani in the lead roles. It was first staged in Tbilisi in 1949; in 1956 the ballet was performed at the Bolshoi Theatre, with Chabukiani partnering Maya Plisetskaya.

The story can best be summarized as a Don Quixote that ends not with a wedding, but with a rebellion. Along the way, Chabukiani gives two sets of lovers and their friends plenty of opportunity to show off their mastery of classical technique in intricate variations ranging from lacy and delicate for the women to dramatic and heroic for the men. The finale shows the whole company in a rousing assemblage, waving arms and flags in defiance of oppressive authority.

This revival features some new choreography by N. Magalashvili, who also supplied connective stage action for narrative purposes. About eighty percent of the original choreography remains.

ACT I, Scene 1

In Fuente Ovejuna, a village in Spain, a holiday crowd gathers on the main square, where the locals are dancing.

Youngsters tease Laurencia (Lali Kandelaki) and Frondoso (David Khozashvili); he is in love with her, but she rebuffs him gently. Mengo (Lasha Khozashvili), a violinist, enters and Pascuala (Tsisia Cholokashvili), a friend of Laurencia’s, asks him to play. The couples continue their dance flirtations, but they are interrupted by the arrival of the Commander (Iuri Sorokin), who is the military governor of the village.

The Commander ignores the villagers’ salute but instead surveys the populace. The beautiful Laurencia catches his eye, and he courts the girl. She responds coldly, infuriating the Commander, who leaves abruptly with his soldiers.

ACT I, Scene 2

Outside the village, by a communal well, Frondoso comes upon Laurencia, who has been washing clothes. He declares his feelings for her, but she declines to give a positive answer and tells him to go away. The Commander, out hunting, comes upon Laurencia near the well. This time, he means to have his way with her; as he tries to abduct her, Frondoso returns and using the Commander’s own crossbow, defends Laurencia. As they both escape, the Commander vows revenge.

Other village girls arrive to do their laundry. However, they seem more interested in chatting and dancing, especially when Mengo arrives with his violin. After their work is done, the girls return to the village, leaving Jacinta (Nino Gogua) behind, as she has not finished her washing.

Suddenly, two of the Commander’s soldiers appear and attack her. Mengo, who has come back to look for her, tries to defend the girl but he is no match for the soldiers. The Commander appears and Jacinta appeals to him. However, when she resists his own advances, he gives the girl over to the soldiers.

Laurencia, won over by Frondoso’s bravery, consents to marry him.

ACT II, Scene 3

The whole village celebrates the wedding of Laurencia and Frondoso. Led by the betrothed couple, dances succeed one another, only to be followed by those of a band of Gypsies. Jacinta, however, dances with sorrow, lamenting her lost honor. The festivities are halted abruptly by the arrival of the Commander, who orders his soldiers to arrest Frondoso and take Laurencia to his castle. The village elders appeal but are brusquely pushed aside.

ACT II, Scene 4

The men of the village gather in a forest, but they are too afraid to make a move. Laurencia, who has managed to escape from the castle, comes upon them and shames them to action. She also exhorts the village women to rebellion and they arm themselves to attack the Commander in his castle.

ACT II, Scene 5

The villagers break into the castle and free Frondoso, who kills the Commander. The people celebrate their victory. Later, they defy the authorities by proclaiming that the whole village killed the tyrant.

The current production’s realistic scenery and charmingly simple costumes set the right tone for this piece of “choreodrama,” in which Chabukiani used his own blend of folk movement and classical dance. The story of a peasant revolt was obviously the ideal subject for a Soviet ballet. Yet the piece’s strong dance components and genuine sentiments are cause enough to celebrate its revival.  In Laurencia herself, we find a strong woman not afraid to assert her rights. Surely she was remarkable in her own century (the 15th), when the actual events dramatized by De Vega took place.

Lali Kandelaki displayed great strength and dramatic projection in the title role, showing why she is the leading, homegrown female principal in the company. Her sustained series of turns was particularly notable. David Khozashvili was also impressive as Frondoso, his portrayal served by energetic leaps, steady spins and a strong stage presence. The soloists were uniformly in command of their variations. Revaz Takidze led an exuberant reading of Alexander Krein’s melodious and rousing score, making the performance a truly exciting one.


 Vakhtang Chabukiani Museum

Chabukiani’s former home has been converted into a museum honoring his life and accomplishments. A life-size image of the dancer on a stage-like setting dominates the first room of exhibits---photos chronicling his studies and first appearances; his return to Tbilisi after he had become an established Kirov star; his founding of the Georgian National Ballet (now State Ballet of Georgia).

Other rooms recall his salon, where famous figures of modern Georgian culture gathered---writers, composers, directors and actors who all shared Chabukiani’s views and nurtured his creative endeavours.

Photos of the dancer in his various roles are powerful reminders of the strong personality that enriched the characters he danced onstage. Personal mementos and newspaper clippings about his career are also preserved and are available to visitors and scholars.

The curators are eager to have a qualified dance historian write a biography of Chabukiani.

The museum is a labor of love, made possible by the efforts of Eteri Gugushvili and David Jangveladze. It is a must-see for ballet lovers visiting Tbilisi.

Address: 83 Agmashenebeli, ent. 2, second floor.

Tel. (995 32) 95 19 63; e-mail: