The XVI Chekhov International Theatre Festival went on in Moscow fr om 24 May to 8 October 2023. The World Series included unique productions from Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, which revealed some little-known facets of performing arts and the multiform life of humankind which is reflected by them.
The XVI Chekhov International Theatre Festival was dedicated to the memory of Valery Shadrin, the founder and Director General of the Chekhov Festival from 1992 to 2022.
The programme comprised the following sections: World Series, Chekhov Festival on Moscow Streets, Moscow Programme, Educational Programme and Regional Programme, as well as open-air photo exhibitions devoted to the 30th anniversary of the Chekhov Festival.
Festival Programme 2023
The XVI Chekhov International Theatre Festival has sent both Muscovites and visitors on a grand theatrical tour. Our World Series programme consisted of 15 productions of different genres, from 13 countries — Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. Our audiences could enjoy the many undiscovered facets of global theatre: the real Argentinian tango; Indian drama; Chilean ethno dancing; Vietnamese puppet theatre on water; South African Requiem in dance; the Chinese Tea Spell; the grand-scale Cuban-Russian Carmina Burana project; Palimpsest, a subtly dramatic Brazilian glance at Russian classics, and the Argentinian dancing show Malevo Extreme — all of the above, and much more!
The XVI Chekhov International Theatre Festival got under way with Germán Cornejo’s dance show Wild Tango. It thrilled the viewers’ senses and imagination with its Argentinian colours, artistic innovations, original costumes, charisma of the performers, and acrobatics which defy gravitation.
The Festival has presented several interpretations of works of classic Russian literature by foreign directors, i.e. Mumu, a joint production of the Taganka Theatre (Moscow) and the Chekhov Festival, based on Ivan Turgenev’s short story of the same name and directed by Narine Grigorian (Armenia). Another example was To Moscow! Palimpsest, based on Anton Chekhov’s play Three Sisters (directed by Ada Luana, Setor de Áreas Isoladas company, Brazil).
The soundrama Kulager, directed by Farkhad Moldagali, was presented by the company of the G. Musrepov State Academic Youth Theatre (Almaty, Kazakhstan), and the ethno-modern-jazz band “Steppe Sons”. This production is based on the poem by Ilyas Dzhansugurov, which is devoted to the 19th-century poet and singer Akhan Sere and his steed Kulager.
The theme of theatre art in post-Soviet countries was continued with The Stone of Folly by the Belorussian playwright Konstantin Steshik. It is a joint project of the Republican Theatre of Belorussian Drama, the International Confederation of Theatre Unions, and the Regional Public Foundation for Support of the Chekhov International Theatre Festival.
Gardenia, based on the play by the contemporary Polish writer Elżbieta Chowaniec, and directed by Gor Markarian, is a moving and dramatic story about four women of different ages whose destinies are closely entwined. It was staged by the K.S. Stanislavsky State Russian Drama Theatre of Yerevan (Armenia).
The Indian director Rajat Kapoor, known for his unique ability to make comedies based on sombre or even tragic subjects, has staged his Macbeth, what is done, is done after William Shakespeare’s play, albeit in the genre of clownery: the actors interpret the great tragedy as mimes with whitened faces, but their laughter is mixed with tears.
Especially on our viewers' demand, extra performances were held by the Vietnamese Thăng Long Theatre, the most famous puppet show on water. The number of their shows had to be increased to 17.
Having travelled more than 14,000 kilometres, the Ricardo Curaqueo Dance Company from Santiago, Chile, made its Russian debut with Malen, which won the award of the Chilean Circle of Art Critics as the best production of Chilean dance.
The Vuyani Dance Company from South Africa has brought its own unusual version of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, wherein the choreographer Gregory Vuyani Maqoma has discerned the ritual funeral marches of South African natives. Maqoma is the leading expert on contemporary dance in South Africa.
The Tea Spell, directed by the renowned Chinese choreographer Zhao Liang, was inspired by the contemplation of the ancient tea service excavated in a temple of the Tang Empire. It became a real revelation for Russian audiences.
Carmina Burana was the most grand-scale event of the festival programme. It was a joint Cuban-Russian project which brought together more than 200 performers, dancers and musicians. The participants included the Cuban Theatre of Contemporary Ballet as well as Russian performers: the Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic, the Minin Choir, the Vadim Sudakov State Capella of Moscow, the Spring Children Choir, and Russian soloists Yaroslav Abaimov, Maria Buynosova and Pavel Yankovsky. Tickets for this production were sold out half a year before the Festival started.
The stage version of Chinghiz Aitmatov’s famous story Mother’s Field, which the writer devoted to his parents, was presented by the director Nigora Gaibnazarova and actors of the Syr-Darya Regional Theatre of Musical Drama (Uzbekistan). This work deals with the issues of human destiny, grief and happiness, courage and fortune.
Paper Airplane Letters, a story about charity intended for both children and adults, was performed by our guests from Kyrgyzstan. The director, Aynura Kachkynbek Kyzy, has created a theatre production about childhood, death, life and dreams, based on the works by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Oscar et la Dame rose and Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran. This moving narrative about a little boy who is aware of his impending death is played out by actors and puppets. Ticket proceeds from Paper Airplane Letters were donated to the Science for Children Foundation, which supports research in the field of child haematology, oncology and immunology.
Our programme was triumphantly concluded with the powerful music and dance show called Malevo Extreme by the Argentinian Malevo Company. It was a virtuoso performance of malambo, a typical male folk dance of the gauchos, which requires an ideal sense of rhythm. Making use of folk traditions, these dancers blend the classical technique with flamenco style. The choreography implied the use of hunting slings and drums.
Chekhov Festival on the streets of Moscow
As part of the Chekhov Festival’s Moscow Streets programme, with support from the Government of Moscow, between 20 May and 27 August our Festival was spilling outdoors again. At all the Moscow Seasons venues in different parts of the Russian capital all those interested (absolutely free of charge) could enjoy the skills of many performers. The latter included both the World Series participants and such specially invited companies as the Drishtikon Dance Foundation headed by the famous Indian dancer and choreographer Aditi Mangaldas, the Flamenco Ballet of Barcelona, the InZhest Plastic Theatre from Belarus, and the Nobushi taiko drum group from Japan. The schedule featured companies from eight countries — Argentina, Belarus, Chile, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Spain and Vietnam.
The Chekhov Festival’s Moscow Streets programme was launched at Ploshchad’ Revoliutsii by the Germán Cornejo Dance Company. These virtuosic performers, some of whom are regular tango world champions, invited everyone to join their fiery Argentinian dance, to appreciate their show Milonga, and even to dance together to the sounds of the bandoneon.
Performers and musicians of the G. Musrepov State Academic Youth Theatre (Almaty, Kazakhstan) have presented a special open-air musical programme at various street venues of Moscow, with a range of ethnic and contemporary musical instruments.
The musicians of the Thăng Long Theatre, which has a history of over half a century, acquainted Muscovites with traditional Vietnamese musical instruments and folk melodies.
The unique choreographic production called Mollfun was offered by the Ricardo Curaqueo Dance Company from Santiago. It carefully preserves and brings to the wider world the ethnic, ritual and musical traditions of the mapuche – the native people of Chile.
The Drishtikon Dance Foundation, headed by the celebrated Indian dancer and choreographer Aditi Mangaldas, brought their Utsav – A Celebration of Life. This colourful, inimitable dance show has brilliantly demonstrated the ancient art of Kathak.
Visitors of the Moscow Urbanistic Forum in Luzhniki had a unique opportunity to admire Luxuria, the amazing show of music and dance performed by the Flamenco Ballet of Barcelona. It recreated the world of passion, love, madness and tragedy by means of classical flamenco, blended with elements of contemporary choreography and live modern music.
The InZhest Plastic Theatre from Minsk has brought The Golden Age, a fairytale for children and adults, with elements of fantasy and splendid fireworks. The performers used an improvised stage to tell a story of great all-conquering love in the Golden Kingdom, wh ere good was inevitably rewarded, and evil creatures eventually punished by the intervention of superior powers.
The crowning event of our programme was the performance by the world-famous Japanese taiko drum group, Nobushi, at the venue of the Moscow Urbanistic Forum in Luzhniki. The traditional Japanese drumming was here enriched with their own unique style and character, which does full justice to their very name. Taiko translates from Japanese as “the great drum”, and nobushi as “wild samurai”, and this is precisely how they have done it – with complete determination, fantastic power, and amazing plasticity.
Open-air photo exhibitions
From 22 May to 25 June 2023 Moscow’s Nikitsky and Gogolevsky Boulevards hosted two open-air exhibitions entitled “The Faces of the Chekhov Festival” and “Russian Classics at the Chekhov Festival”, and devoted to the 30th anniversary of the Chekhov International Theatre Festival. Photos of Festival shows of various dates were displayed on 64 stands. The exhibition “Russian Classics at the Chekhov Festival” was devoted to the best interpretations of Russian literary works by leading figures in foreign theatre during the previous Chekhov Festivals. Among these there were Luc Bondy and Frank Castorf, Tadashi Suzuki and Christoph Marthaler, Mats Ek and Matthew Bourne, Wajdi Mouawad, Alessandro Serra, and others.
The Moscow Programme of the XVI Chekhov International Theatre Festival was dedicated to those theatres which have regarded co-operation with the Festival as an important part of their activities. In over thirty years of its existence, the Chekhov Festival has developed solid creative partnerships with the majority of theatres in the Russian capital. The Moscow programme comprised 44 productions by 25 theatres. For us, it is of great importance that our participants and guests, including directors, actors, heads of other festivals and producers, should have an opportunity to get acquainted with the best new productions of Moscow theatres.
This extensive programme included a series of educational events for students, theatre professionals and the general public. For instance, performers from Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, China, India, South Africa and Vietnam held meetings with viewers after their shows in order to discuss what happened on stage. The public shared their impressions and asked their questions, while directors and actors, in their turn, shared their experiences and spoke about their art.
As usual at the Chekhov Festival, the International Confederation of Theatre Unions, with support from the International Foundation for Humanitarian Co-operation of Members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), held the tenth Laboratory of young directors from CIS countries. The Laboratory’s global mission is to preserve the common cultural space on the territory of former republics of the USSR, and to promote the involvement of CIS countries in the global theatre process. Vladimir Pankov acted as the artistic director of the Laboratory. Its lecturers included Artyom Kim, Yekaterina Kislova and Sergey Rodyukov. The participating countries were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. As a result of this project, the multicultural production devoted to Anton Chekhov was presented at the Centre of Drama and Direction at Povarskaya st. In 2024 this production will be shown at the World Festival of Youth in Sochi.
The Chekhov Festival, jointly with the Regional Public Foundation for Support of the Chekhov International Theatre Festival, has been promoting Festival programmes and shows in Russian regions. Thus, thanks to our co-operation with the Platonov International Festival of Arts, viewers in Voronezh saw the Wild Tango by the Germán Cornejo Dance Company from Argentina, and Gor Markarian’s version of Gardenia, based on the play by Elżbieta Chowaniec (K.S. Stanislavsky State Russian Drama Theatre of Yerevan), as well as the traditional Vietnamese puppet show on water (Thăng Long Theatre).
For the 300th anniversary of the foundation of Yekaterinburg, the Chekhov Festival had a special honour to contribute to such a memorable event. Accordingly, the following shows were brought to that city — Wild Tango by the Germán Cornejo Dance Company (Argentina); The Stone of Folly, a joint project of the Republican Theatre of Belorussian Drama, the International Confederation of Theatre Unions, and the Regional Public Foundation for Support of the Chekhov International Theatre Festival; To Moscow! Palimpsest by Setor de Áreas Isoladas Company (Brazil), and Malevo Extreme by the Argentinian Malevo Company. These performances were organised jointly with the Engagement Art Holding, with support of the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region.
The International Pacific Theatre Festival
From 21 September to 7 October 2023 the Second International Pacific Theatre Festival was held in Vladivostok. Its programme comprised 10 productions in different genres, from BRICS countries, South East Asia and Europe. The venues were the Primorsky stage of the Mariinsky Theatre (Great Auditorium and Little Auditorium), and the Maksim Gorky Primorsky Academic Regional Drama Theatre. In addition to the shows, an accessible Educational Programme was arranged for visitors and local residents, which comprised lectures, master classes, creative meetings and discussions of events.
The International Pacific Theatre Festival is the central event of the State Programme for development of theatre art in the Russian Far East, initiated by the State Theatre of Nations headed by its Artistic Director Evgeny Mironov, People’s Artist of Russia. The Festival is held with support from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, and the Government of Primorye Region. Festival Organisers are the Chekhov International Theatre Festival and the State Theatre of Nations.
The Chekhov International Theatre Festival is held with support of the Government of the Russian Federation, the Government of Moscow, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and the Department of Culture of the City of Moscow.
General Partner of the Festival: Channel One.
Official Partners: International Confederation of Theatre Unions and Regional Public Foundation for Support of the Chekhov International Theatre Festival.
The Festival is supported by the Embassies of participating countries, as well as by cultural centres and organisations from abroad.
Media support: Rossiya-Kultura TV, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Radio Monte Carlo.