Bolshoi Drama Theatre, St. Petersburg
Presented in the frame of Russian Case 2020
based on Lev Rubinstein`s work “Farther and Farther away”

Composer, director, set designer: Alexander Manotskov
The opera “52” was composed by Alexander Manotskov for the long-existing text “Farther and Farther away” by conceptual poet Lev Rubinstein. Rubinstein writes his poems on old library cards: one card - one piece of text, an empty card - a pause. Rubinstein’s text is perceived very theatrically, it looks like an alternation of voices and remarks from different plays, and the 52 cards it consists of turned into 52 theatrical fragments of the opera, in which two vocalists similar to stewardesses and four musicians participate: flute, clarinet, accordion and violin. Moreover, the pieces are in six languages, including Latin. There is no Russian, thereby in a way the performance itself is distanced from the literary text, while the original poems exist as subtitles.
Alexander Manotskov was not only a composer and director of this play, but also the designer: he came up with the idea of musicians sitting on wagons that are either moved downstage or upstage. We also see layered long narrow ribbon-screens with video projections, sometimes directly illustrating the text, and sometimes supplementing it. These ribbons become a split-screen, on which we see St. Petersburg, its quiet old apartments, streets full of people and noisy protests, which were filmed just before the premiere. The text of 1984 correlates very interestingly with today's visuals and the main theater event takes place in the electrified space between text and video, which is open to interpretation.

Dina Goder

“To discuss the plot of an opera might be taken for weakness. The plot is definitely “about something”, very much about something. Of all my artistic compositions, this is one of the most narratively meaningful. It is not always that an opera has an explicable plot; this opera does have one. I wanted the audience to feature as a hero. At some point they see themselves on the screen. There is nothing new in this idea - Euripides and Aeschylus perhaps tried to do the same.”

From Manotskov`s interview for Sobaka.ru

Fifty two is the number of cards on which Lev Rubinstein’s poems “Farther and Farther Away” are written, and the last few are blank: the authors do this sometimes to indicate pauses. But not in this text, the action ends with the remark “Curtain”. Indeed, this is one of the most theatrical texts by Rubinstein, like a hubbub of voices and remarks from different plays. But Alexander Manotskov, who is both director and designer of the production (which is particularly unexpected), did not follow the more usual theatrical style - and it turned out very cool. Two vocalists participate in the performance, accompanied by flute, clarinet, accordion and violin.

Muzikalnaya Zhizn Magazine

In the classical opera world this performance would be called the "world premiere", but such epithets are not peculiar to drama theatre. Moreover, it is more than an opera, it is a so-called Gesamstkunstwerk, that is a work that incorporates various forms of art.

TV channel “St. Petersburg”

Some of Rubinstein's cards are written directly on the walls, like graffiti. All sorts of human conditions and attempted dialogues were played by the ushers – very cute as if in a home performance for their own friends. The faces of the spectators are also featured on the screens – an amusing fortune-telling, according to Rubinstein, emerges on the cards with descriptions of the mise-en-scenes (No. 47-52). Nobody sings any more, but instead of the text there appears its visualization: tea-bagels, empty rocking chairs, summer at the cottage...

Teatr Magazine

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