Vladimir Vasilyev: ''The Mass by Bach is the best thing created by man''

The great dancer and choreographer participates in the Nureyev festival

Vladimir Vasilyev: ''The Mass by Bach is the best thing created by man'' Photo: Roman Khasaev

The Mass in B minor by Bach was staged on 19 May in the framework of the ballet festival named after Rudolf Nureyev on the scene of the Tatar State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Musa Jalil. Vladimir Vasilyev called his performance Dona nobic pacem.

A gift for the anniversary

The iconic dancer and ballet master Vladimir Vasilyev staged the Mass by Bach for his anniversary. As he says, ''The Mass by Bach is the best that has been created by man.'' Having heard it many years ago, Vladimir Vasilyev became obsessed with the idea of staging the Mass in B minor.

At first, it was planned to do on the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, the pontiff also expressed interest in this idea. According to the Vasilyev's idea, the Mass, which is the quintessence of the ideas of humanism and the triumph of goodness and light on earth, was to bring together artists from different countries and continents. Unfortunately, the idea failed to be realized in Vatican.

Later, in the conversation with the director of the Opera and Ballet Theatre named after M. Jalil Raufal Mukhametzyanov, Vasilyev told about his unrealized dream and suddenly received an offer to stage the Mass in B minor in Kazan. Moreover, with him as a choreographer they have long been familiar — in the repertoire of the Kazan ballet troupe there has long been the staging of Vasiliev the ballet by Valery Gavrilin Anyuta.

So it happened that the premiere of the Mass was at first in Kazan and only a few days later, on the anniversary of the ballet master, was shown on the historical stage of the Bolshoi Theatre.

The orchestra of 60 musicians had a room on the stage. Behind it, there is the choir of over 70 singers

High Mass

Grant us peace is a two-act performance where ballet dancers, vocalists, choir, corps de ballet and orchestra participate. The orchestra of 60 musicians had a room on the stage. Behind it, there is the choir of over 70 singers.

Bach wrote the Mass in 1738, although its fragments were performed in 1733. The Mass in B minor — High Mass — is the mass-cantata for soloists of choir and orchestra. It is written in Latin, and it is the canonical text of the Catholic Liturgy.

According to Vladimir Vasiliev, only a successful theatre that has a good choir, orchestra and corps de ballet can afford to stage such performance. Fortunately, the Kazan theatre meets all these requirements.

The design of the performance was in the hands of two artists — Victor Gerasimenko and Svetlana Bogatyr. The first one created the scenery — a sort of ''all seeing eye'', the prototype of the universe, which rises above the stage. Bogatyr gave the idea of metaphorical move — the decision through notes and numbers.

The design of the performance was in the hands of two artists — Victor Gerasimenko and Svetlana Bogatyr

The history of one love

The curtain is still closed, the hall is with the lights off, and the voice of Vladimir Vasilev is being heard which tells the story of the creation of the performance Grant us peace, he says what Bach's the Mass means in his life.

The curtain opens, and on the stage in the middle of the design we see Vladimir Vasilyev. He makes a waff with his plastic hands, and the scene comes alive. He is like a demiurge with his energy starts action like creating this metaphorical world.

Two years ago, rehearsing in Kazan this performance, Vasilyev said that when he saw on the scene two children — a boy and a girl, they started the action, then suddenly he recognised in them himself and Ekaterina Vasilyeva, his wife and Muse. Once they were the same kids, they stood in a couple in the choreographic school.

In fact, Vasilyev created the performance about love, the one that moves the Sun and stars, the young creatures come into this young, only created world, filled with light, love, disappointment, loss, and again great love that unites everything and makes spiritual.

In place of young artists (Agata Salakhova and Sebastyan Kalashnik) there come three pairs of dancers to tell this philosophical parable about love, goodness and infinity of the world – they are Amanda Gomez and Mikhail Timaev, Kristina Andreyeva and Ilnur Gayfullin, Midori Terada and Koya Okawa. They are young like this eternal timeless world, they love and are loved, they lose and find.

Vasilyev said that when he saw on the scene two children — a boy and a girl, they started the action, then suddenly he recognised in them himself and Ekaterina Vasilyeva, his wife and Muse

The performance of Vladimir Vasilyev, woven from characters, is complex and simple at the same time – it is the hymn to the man and the great feeling of love, it is pure and touching, filled with piety and gratitude to the Creator for the world he created and gave us as a gift.

The Mass in B minor by Bach in the context of the Nureyev festival is an example of a highly sophisticated philosophical drama, the theatre of ideas combined with modern choreographic language, which the ballet troupe of the Kazan theatre was able to master.

By Tatyana Mamaeva. Photo: Roman Khasaev