The Stanislavsky Electrotheatre is located in the heart of Moscow, on Tverskaya Street 23, and was founded almost a century ago in 1915 as one of Moscow's first cinema palaces — the ARS Electrotheatre. After the revolution it became home to Konstantin Stanislavsky's opera and drama studio, and not long after that, the Stanislavsky Drama Theatre. The symbolic legacy of these three locations, a cinema, an opera studio and a dramatic theatre, has been fully endorsed by the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre as it launches a new era.
In early 2013, the Moscow Department of Culture ran a competition for the post of artistic director at what was officially called the Moscow Theatre of Drama named after K. S. Stanislavsky, i.e., the Stanislavsky Drama Theatre. The winner of the competition, announced in July 2013, was Boris Yukhananov.
In collaboration with The Wowhaus Studio — the architectural bureau responsible for numerous major architectural and design projects in Moscow in recent years, including the building of the Strelka Institute, the redesign of Gorky Park and the complete relandscaping of the Crimean Embankment on the Moscow River — Yukhananov undertook a full-scale reconstruction of the old interior of the building, creating a new, multi-functional platform not only for theatre, but for exhibitions, lectures and performance art.
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In January 2015, following a major reconstruction of the Stanislavsky Drama Theatre, a new venue named the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre was opened. This was the brainchild of director Boris Yukhananov, who had won a city-sponsored competition to take over the artistic management of the theatre with a dedicated team of like-minded people. The changes were carried out with the support of the Moscow city administration and the private Foundation for Support and Development of the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre.
Originally, this building housed the ARS cinema, which opened in 1915. At that time in Russia all movie houses were called electrotheatres. In 1950 the new Stanislavsky Drama Theatre, successor to Stanislavsky’s own Opera and Drama Studio, the great director’s last major project, took up residence here. These historical facts determined the name of the new theatre, a unique space located in the heart of Moscow.
The concept of the Electrotheatre was to conjoin the age-old operatic and dramatic principles of theatre. This assumes the principle of fostering artistic innovation that is associated with new strategies for a director-centric theatre.
Equipped with the latest technology, the Main stage is designed to present a diverse repertoire. This is where master directors stage performances in the genres of drama and opera. The first Main stage production was The Bacchae by the famed Greek director Theodoros Terzopoulos. In preparation for this production, Electrotheatre actors immersed themselves in the world of ancient Dionysian myth through training in voice and energy management.
Even before the theatre’s official opening, Romeo Castellucci staged here his play The Human Use of Human Beings. It was the first and only production by this Italian artist and director in Russia. The performance was nominated for Golden Mask awards in two categories. Katie Mitchell’s Atmen was presented at the Electrotheatre as part of the NET festival.
The unique technical capabilities of the transformer stage made it possible for German director and composer Heiner Goebbels to stage here his Max Black, or 62 Ways of Supporting the Head with a Hand. It was a participant of the Theatre Olympiad in Wroclaw, and was nominated for the Golden Mask Russian national theatre award. Gobbels’s book The Aesthetics of Absence was published by the Electrotheatre publishing house. It was the director’s first book in Russian.
The Electrotheatre, whose musical director is composer Dmitri Kourliandski, is the only Russian theatre, whose repertoire strategy includes contemporary academic and experimental music.
The Electrotheatre’s first serious musical event was Boris Yukhananov’s staging of the Drillalians opera series. The score for Drillalians was written by six leading contemporary Russian composers, each of whom interpreted the text drawn from a philosophical and poetic novel about a civilization called Drillalia in his own way. Drillalians was received well by the critics, was nominated for nine Golden Mask awards, and was recognized as a milestone in the history of opera.
Octavia. Trepanation, an opera composed by Dmitri Kourliandski and directed by Boris Yukhananov, broke ground as the first co-production between a Russian theatre and a major European festival. The premiere took place at the Holland Festival on the occasion of the centenary of the Russian Revolution. This piece, a conceptual treatment of the nature of tyranny, played in the fall of 2017 at the Olimpico Theatre in Vicenza. The Russian premiere of Octavia is set for Moscow in July 2018.
Prose, an opera in which Vladimir Rannev is not only the composer, but also the director, combined contemporary art animation, a complex vocal score, and texts by Anton Chekhov and Yury Mamleev. Furthermore, Alexander Belousov’s chamber opera Maniozis, performed on the theatre’s Small stage, was a radical experiment with electronic and academic music.
These opera productions, along with many other similar events, made it possible for the theatre to gain a foothold on the international festival stage. The Stanislavsky Electrotheatre is the only venue in Russia where key contemporary composers are intensely involved in the theatrical process.
The dramatic repertoire on the Main stage offers productions by foreign and Russian directors, as well as large-scale projects mounted by Boris Yukhananov himself.
Yukhananov’s first production with the Electroheatre company was The Blue Bird, an esoteric, three-day journey that explored the magnitude of the Soviet experience by way of Maurice Maeterlinck’s play. The main roles — the children Tyltyl and Mytyl — were performed by the theatre’s veteran actors Vladimir Korenev and Aleftina Konstantinova. Their personal memories of the theatre’s and nation’s shared history are sprinkled liberally throughout the performance. Technologically, The Blue Bird is the theatre’s most complex project. It makes full use of all the stage’s possibilities.
Boris Yukhananov’s production of The Constant Principle, based on texts by Pedro Calderon and Alexander Pushkin, engages the timely topic of intolerance and ontological war, employing the language of perfectionism and theatrical beauty.
Yukhananov’s handling of Apuleius’ The Golden Ass was a revolutionary innovation, the embodiment of a new type of theatre strategy based on the rejection of traditional formats. The Golden Ass reinterpreted common modes of communication in theatre whereby the very process of creating a work becomes the production itself. This principle is called the «open-circuited workspace.»
In the three years since it was founded, the Electrotheatre has unveiled 46 new works, directed both by top Russian directors, as well as directors making their debut.
Konstantin Bogomolov, a luminary of contemporary Russian theatre, transformed Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain into a radical artistic gesture. Philipp Grigoryan transposed Moliere’s Tartuffe into a tragic Russian tale — the production is currently nominated for three Golden Mask awards. Film director Alexander Zeldovich staged Psychosis, after Sarah Kane’s play, using video animation by the famous art group AES+F. Vladimir Kosmachevsky and designer Yuri Kharikov composed an expressionist performance about the death of civilization on the basis of E.T.A. Hauptmann’s play Before Sunset. It received a Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper award. Inna Dulerain’s multi-disciplinary project, Songs of the P-tsa, with participation of contemporary artists from Taiwan, Greece and Great Britain, demonstrates the openness of the Electrotheatre to different kinds of arts. Director Oleg Dobrovolsky reinterpreted the Friedrich Durrenmatt’s well-known play The Visit as a myth about the limits of power. A trio of young Russian directors composed The Seagull — a lively experiment in deconstructing Chekhov’s play, wherein each of the directors played the role of Treplev. Nilo Cruz’s Anna in the Tropics, of Broadway fame, was given a sophisticated dramatic treatment by director Alexander Ogaryov. In his directing debut Roman Drobot staged Hristo Boytchev’s The Colonel Bird to explore traumatic aspects of war in contemporary Europe.
The theatre’s newly-built Small stage, which opened in September 2016, has already hosted 12 directing debuts: Faryatyev’s Fantasy by Alla Sokolova as directed by Yevgeny Bednyakov; Klim Kozinsky’s Idiotology, based on Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot; Polina Fractall’s interpretation of The Mark on the Wall by Virginia Woolf; Love Machines staged by Maria Chirkova on the basis of a poem by philosopher Keti Chukhrov; Bunin, a staging by Svetlana Prokhorova of stories by Ivan Bunin; Georgy Grishchenkov production of For a Wise Man, based on a play by Alexander Ostrovsky; Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, directed by Alisa Seletskaya; Zoikina’s Apartment, a play by Mikhail Bulgakov directed by Olga Lukichyova; A Boring Story, based on a Chekhov story and directed by Vasily Skvortsov; Racine’s tragedy Andromaque staged by Leisan Faizullina; and Alexander Belousov’s opera Maniozis.
The Small stage is equipped to host film and video screenings. This is where the theatre showed Jacques Rivette’s famous OUT 1, which was attended by the legendary actor Jean-Pierre Leaud.
Galileo. Opera for Violin and Scientist opened in the summer of 2017, christening the new Theatre Yard, Moscow’s «little Avignon,» an outdoor venue suitable for concerts, performances, film screenings and lectures. Galileo is nominated this year for Golden Mask awards in three categories.
The theatre’s foyer is where the so-called Electrozone happens. Here a cafe, a bookshop, the wardrobe, and the stairs around them are the sites for lectures, performances, concerts of contemporary music, film screenings, exhibits, installations and performances. Two major installations have included Five Truths by Katie Mitchell and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Fading Apocalypse, a video installation created by Boris Yukhananov, Dmitri Kourliandski and Yelena Koptyaeva that portrays Yukhananov’s dialogues with Romeo Castellucci, Heiner Goebbels and Theodoros Terzopoulos . The theatre’s intellectual interests are supported in the publishing activities of the Theatre and its Diary series, which publishes books on the theory of theatre and related arts. The educational and creative activity of the Electrozone attracts a wide audience and creates the context that contemporary theatre requires.
The Stanislavsky Electrotheatre joined the Union of European Theatres in May 2017.
Its unique status and artistic policy make the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre a place where a new manner of communication is coming into being. The Electrotheatre’s work reflects the essence of contemporary culture, presupposing an open dialogue among individuals.