The Astana Opera House is continuing its triumphal journey across the world. This time, rounds of incessant applause filled the main opera house of Genoa – Teatro Carlo Felice, one of the largest in Europe. The capacity of the main hall is 2 500 seats, and on November 8 there was not a single free one – an unprecedented full house. The Genoese audience greeted the national classical masterpiece – A. Zhubanov and L. Khamidi’s opera Abai with particular delight: the artists received numerous cheers, shouts of ‘Bravo’, and the long line for the autographs of the principal soloists formed after the performance.
The tour is taking place within the framework of the program “Rukhani Zhangyru” with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan from November 8 to 10.
Due to prolonged standing applause from the audience in the five-tiered auditorium, the artists did not leave the stage long after the performance has ended. The Consul of Kazakhstan in Italy, representatives of the major media outlets, as well as Kazakhstanis now living in Italy attended the performance.
After the opera has ended, the audience discussed what they saw and heard for a long time.
“I was greatly impressed by the scene where Aidar (Nurlan Bekmukhambetov) is dying. The soloist sung his aria lying down, which requires special training, because singing in this position is not easy. Sundet Baigozhin in the role of Abai was certainly one of the best performers. He has a very beautiful and resonant baritone, and from an acting point of view he was able to show his character’s wise nature. Overall, I liked the performance very much. It is a great joy for us to get acquainted with the Kazakh opera for the first time, to learn about your art. I was surprised that animals were involved in the production, everything was very spectacular,” Gustavo Neri shared his impressions.
“The tickets cost from 18 to 33 Euros, and one week before the performance all the seats were sold out, which indicates a tremendous interest in the Kazakh art. Undoubtedly, the artists met the audience’s expectations, holding the attention of the auditorium until the last note. I had already attended a performance of your ballet company last year, when the Astana Opera presented the ballet Notre Dame de Paris. After today’s performance, it became clear that the level of the opera company is just as good as the ballet. My family and I also plan to attend L. van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which Kazakh musicians will present on November 10,” Chiara Saltaformagio said.
A national art gem – Abai – has combined in itself the rich traditions of the Kazakh people, European stage direction and, of course, the virtuoso performance of Kazakh artists and their excellent vocals. Outstanding maestro Alan Buribaev – a great-grandson of Akhmet Zhubanov – was able to convey all the nuances and colors of the musical material. The sound, produced by the symphony orchestra and chorus under his leadership, was powerful, finely nuanced, brilliant and striking.
Overall, the opera was presented as a vision of human passions. This concerned Aidar and Azhar, who fought for their love, overcame their pursuers, managed to avoid execution, as well as Abai, the spiritual teacher of the nation, who always was on the side of justice. National dances were widely represented in the performance. Incidentally, the interesting choreography impressed the sophisticated Italian audience.
The title role was performed at a very high level by the Honored Worker of Kazakhstan Sundet Baigozhin. The audience has rewarded the singer with prolonged applause and shouts of ‘Bravo’. It is safe to say that this difficult in all respects role comes easy for the artist, he quickly gets into character and conveys the nobility of the hero with his warm, deep timbre and powerful voice. Despite his young age, Sundet Baigozhin portrayed mature Abai with all the subtle nuances of the character, and was able to divulge his rich spiritual world. Honored Worker of Kazakhstan Nurlan Bekmukhambetov gave a brilliant interpretation of the part of Aidar. The skill of the performer of the role of Azhar – the Honored Artist of Kazakhstan, opera prima Maira Mukhamedkyzy is worth special mention. The singer’s voice, with its’ powerful high overtones, sounded great that evening. Furthermore, Maira Mukhamedkyzy has also shown excellent acting. Azim – Beimbet Tanarykov; Zhirenshe – Yevgeny Chainikov; Karlygash – Tatyana Vitsinskaya; Kokbai – Talgat Galeyev; Syrttan – the People’s Artist of Armenia Barseg Tumanyan; Narymbet – Ramzat Balakishiyev; Mes – Shyngys Rassylkhan. All the artists were able to worthily show vocal and acting skills, convey the feelings and emotions of their heroes.
The set design emphasized the beauty of the expanses of the Great Steppe. The audience admired the yurts with their golden embroidery under high blue sky. Abai’s large library made an enormous impression on the Italian viewers. Modern technology allowed the massive set pieces to unfold onstage, and this sudden effect made the audience gasp with delight. For a long time after that they admired the details of the magnificent library: tiers of books, columns, and sublime spiritual ambiance.
Along with Kazakhstani specialists, Italian masters Ezio Frigerio and Franca Squarciapino worked on set and costume design. Stage Director – Giancarlo del Monaco. Sergio Metalli was in charge of video projections, and Vinicio Cheli was in charge of lighting design. Large-scale sets were developed according to the measurements of the Astana Opera’s massive stage, which allows for monumental scenery. The stage space of the Teatro Carlo Felice was smaller in size than the Astana Opera’s stage, but the management of the design and production complex was able to think everything through to the smallest detail, so that the performance would look the same as it was presented at the premiere at the Astana Opera. The costumes were authentic to the era, and their uniqueness was also in the fact that they were created by the Academy Award winner Franca Squarciapino.
Let us remind that on November 10 L. van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 will continue the tour program of the Astana Opera.
It is important to note that the bulk of the material costs of the tour was financed by the ticket sales. Italians have shown tremendous interest in the Kazakh culture, having entirely bought up the tickets a week before the start of the performance.