Two cultural organizations from the Ukraine are visiting our region this month almost like two ships passing in the night: the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine on Thursday, Feb. 13,, and the National Ballet Theatre of Ukraine on Thursday, Feb. 20.
The Orchestra will be returning to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall as part of the Troy Chromatics series having last performed there in 2017, and will bring pianist Volodymyr Vynnytsky in his debut.
Currently on a three-week mostly East coast U.S. tour, the orchestra numbers about 100 musicians, most of them graduates from Ukrainian conservatories. It has a rich history dating back to the 18th century, only becoming official around 1918, when the Ukrainian musicians’ union formally founded the orchestra.
During the 1990s, it began touring the world and once Volodymyr Sirenko became its music director in 1999 and who will conduct the Troy concert, the orchestra became nominated for Grammy Awards in 2005 and in 2009. The orchestra has also recorded more than 50 compact discs.
Vynnytsky, too, is a competition winner, and has lived in the United States since 1991 often working as a visiting member of various universities including SUNY Purchase, the Music and Art Center of Greene County in Hunter, New York and director of chamber music at the College of Charleston, South Carolina.
The program will include Dmitri Bortniansky’s “Sinfonia concertante in B-flat Major” written around 1790; Camille Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2; and Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7.
The Ballet Theatre, however, is on a grueling 61-city, 91-day tour that began in November and will end in late February. Fifty-five dancers and about 60 backstage personnel, including wardrobe, sound and light technicians and make-up artists are on tour to bring Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” to life. The Thursday show will feature Prokofiev. The ballet is in two acts.
“It’s a full staff,” said Igor Levin, the managing director. “The schedule is so hard but it’s a tour. It’s not like at home when the dancers get three performances a week. On tour, there are two casts but they do dance back to back.”
That could mean Prokofiev in one city, on to the bus, then Prokofiev the next night in another city.
“They do get Monday as a day off and some travel days off,” he said.
The company is known for its sets and sumptuous costumes, which number in the hundreds. Mikhail Lavrovsky’s choreography is also “totally new. The production premiered in September,” Levin said. Especially new is the fencing scene.
“We had a fencing master come in to teach the dancers,” Levin said.
Fans of American ballet choreography will notice a difference anyway because traditional Russian ballet focuses a great deal on hand movement.
While the company uses a tape rather than a live orchestra, the music is still thrilling to hear. Prokofiev wrote the score in 1935 basing it on Shakespeare’s tragedy.
Originally, however, he wanted a happy ending but conductor Yuri Fayer urged him to keep the tragic ending. While the full ballet premiered in 1938 in Brno, then-Czechoslavkia, it wasn’t until 1940 that the Bolshoi Ballet gave the premiere in Russia.
The score, which won the Stalin Prize, proved so popular, that Prokofiev went on to create a suite of several of the movements. The Albany Symphony Orchestra under guest conductor JoAnn Falletta will perform selections from the Suite Feb. 14 at Proctors.
Getting the tape in place for the evening’s performance is the least of what Levin has concerns of.
“We will start loading in at 9 a.m. at the Palace until about 1 p.m.; then the dancers will have a two-hour rehearsal or class on stage. We do it this way every day,” he said. “We’ve been to the theater before but with other companies, but we have our own floor. But the theater is good.”
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13
WHERE: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
HOW MUCH: $55, $45
MORE INFO: www.troymusichall.org; 518 273-0038
National Ballet Theatre of Ukraine
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20
WHERE: Palace Theatre, Albany
HOW MUCH: $79-$319
MORE INFO: www.palace.theatre-albany.org; 800 515-2171