An Interview with Philipp Chizhevskiy
06.04.2016 | News

How do your functions as a conductor vary in Drillalians, and what is most important?

Aside from maintaining rhythm, the conductor’s job is to interpret the music along with the orchestra, the choir and the soloists. I consider the Drillalians series a set of usual opera performances. However, in the third part I ran up against complexities that concern me personally. A film there runs parallel to the live music. Many phrases in the film must be synchronized with the live performance. In this case, the video for me is rather like an opera singer who cannot see the conductor; it is my job to be in sync with it.

How did you collaborate with the composers?

The composers are all my friends, I’ve known them all a long time. Of course we met before we began rehearsals, adding or cutting things, and adjusting the tempo of the musical nuances. It’s easier working with a living author, you can go directly to the source for comments.

The structure of the Drillalians opera is bound up in the concept of time. Does time affect the musical component?

Time certainly is the primary place in which we, the performers, must be very flexible. And each composer has his own sense of musical time.

For the conductor controlling the process time flows quite differently than it does for someone watching the performance from outside.

The very concept of an opera series is new, there are no analogues. We can compare it to Wagner's tetralogy, which is also performed over a few nights.

Our series, as you know, is performed over five nights and each performance is diametrically opposed to the one that follows it. Primarily that is because each marks the appearance of a new composer who appeals to the spectator in a new musical language. Each of the five sections may be viewed separately, outside the greater context, because the structure of each is hermetic. But, of course, it’s far more interesting to have before you the full panorama of events. It is a whole universe.

Is it possible to define the style of the opera series as a whole, or does each part have its own?

Each part has its own stylistic focus. The first opera is characterized by a minimalism of sorts; the second is an opera-oratorio; the third a Singspiel. The fourth was created by two composers - Sergej Newski and Alexey Sysoev and, naturally, these two operas are completely different. It is interesting to have such an experience, two composers in a single evening. Newski’s opera has a cross-cutting structure, which in the end arrives at a linear chant. At first blush Sysoev appears to rely entirely on non-musical instruments. The musicians (aside from the strings) do not play their usual instruments. They drag bows over wires affixed to tom-toms by styrofoam; and they roll “freakshenballs” (rubber balls on wires) over the surface of the tom-toms. Interestingly, these "non-musical" sounds create harmonious musical images. Vladimir Rannev’s opera is punk rock, but at the same time it quite unexpectedly contains a meditative component. He plunges the viewer into a state of Nirvana, relentlessly leading us to an ecstatic climax.

In our time it is difficult to talk about the generic stylistics of the opera genre.

What is opera? Opera is a synthesis of everything. You can employ in it absolutely any means (whether they be musical, dramatic or technical). In fact, that is what we are dealing with now. The one unchanging rule is that in opera you must sing. Meanwhile, anything containing vocals may be called opera.

Did you discover anything new for yourself while working on Drillalians?

There were many discoveries. This is the first time I have conducted a musical tale running five nights in a row. This, in fact, is unprecedented. For me it was important to find the right balance between my inner concentration on what is happening at any given moment, and the possibility of sudden teleportation into a totally different dimension, literally at the click of my fingers.

I really enjoy seeing the scenery by Stepan Lukyanov and the stunning costumes by Nastya Nefedova.

And collaboration with Boris Yukhananov is definitely unlike any traditional alliance with a director. This is life in a very subtle world. Thanks to him, this kind of thing is possible on earth.

The Stanislavsky Electrotheatre is a unique phenomenon. It transforms from a dramatic theater into an opera theatre and back again. Events taking place here cannot be explained by any of theatre’s usual rules. And that is wonderful!