An Extravaganza in One Act
The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Cyprus, the Russian Cultural Centre, and the Cyprus Academy of Music present William Walton’s opera “The Bear”, based on the play by Anton Chekhov.
Yiannis Hadjiloizou, Conductor
Vasily Barkhatov, Director
Guest stars from the Bolshoi Theatre Moscow:
Yelena Ivanovna Popova, a Widow: Darya Davidova, Sosoprano
Grigory Stepanovich Smirnov, a Creditor: Pavel Bykov, Baritone
Luka, Popva’s Servant: Artem Borisenko, Bass
Cyprus Philharmonic Orchestra
William Walton’s opera “The Bear” is inspired by the Anton Chekhov’s theatrical play. It is a brilliant transcription, which made it to the operatic stage in great success after the composer’s collaboration with librettist Paul Dehn.
Keeping the caricature-like characters unaltered, Walton and Dehn enriched the play with elements hinting to the Film Music and Cabaret.
Walton subtitled his opera “An Extravaganza in One Act” wanting to emphasise the work’s edgy characters and their emotional charging, while Chekhov dealt with it with innocence and self-deception. In a letter to a friend, he writes: “Just to waste some time, i wrote a little unimportant vaudeville in French style called The Bear. Alas! If people in these “modern times” realise i am writing a vaudeville, they will ostracise me. What do to? I plan something serious and it turns out tra-la-la! Despite my attempts for austerity, zero result; with me everything significant transforms to insignificant.”
During Chekhov’s life, the play received many successful premiers. Following his death, The Bear crosses the Russian borders to London in 1911 and New York in 1915. Walton was commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival and began to compose the opera in 1965, staging two years later in great success. Since then, the work is considered part of the international repertoire, receiving numerous interpretations by leading lyrical artists.
In his edition of The Bear, Walton used the same parodic writing as in his smash hit “Facade”, achieving a faithful reproduction of the Chekhov style and ambience, as well as going a step further by pushing the writer’s temperamental characters to the extend of caricature, under the excuse of an “extravaganza”.
Popova is a widow, remaining faithful to the memory of her late husband, Popov. Her servant, Luka, remarks upon her affected sorrow. Smirnov, one of Popov's creditors, appears. During the course of the story, it becomes clear that Popov was promiscuous and unfaithful to his wife. Smirnov and Popova begin to quarrel, to the point where both aim loaded pistols at each other. However, neither can fire, as they have fallen in love. As the opera ends, Luka looks on in disbelief at the new lovers