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Puppets Perform Prokofiev at Nuernberg Russian Centre
Opening night of a puppet play “Peter and the Wolf” was held at the Russian Centre of Nuernberg. The opening night was confined to the 125th birthday of one of the most famous Russian composers of the 20th century; Sergei Prokofiev is the author of world-known symphonies, operas, ballets, including “War and Peace” opera and “Romeo and Juliette” ballet. It is the original version of one of the most famous symphonic works in the world.
Sergei Prokofiev wrote the most famous symphonic tale for children “Peter and the Wolf” in 1936. The composer had always dreamt to unite symphonic orchestra and speech – there was no any other work like that before. Natalia Ilyinichna Sats – an art director of the Central Children’s Theatre, director, playwright, writer and teacher – helped him with that. Sergei Sergeevich Prokofiev was a big fan of the Natalia Sats’s Children’s Theatre; he saw all the theatre’s repertoire through. Sergei Prokofiev lived in America for a long time, and he had seen abroad no other theatre, made especially for children. Natalia Sats suggested writing a symphonic tale for the theatre; the tale would make children familiar with musical instruments and the features of their sound. He liked the idea very much. And very soon, on May 2 1936, the stage of the Central Children’s Theatre held its opening night. This masterpiece is acknowledged all over the world and takes the second place after Pyotr Ilyich Chaikovskiy’s “Nutcracker” according to the number of its performances. By the way, the text intended for the reader was also written by Prokofiev. As envisioned by the author, every character had its own melody, which was performed using only one musical instrument. Thus, in a light fairytale form, children start learning music and telling difficult musical instrument from a symphony orchestra, such as French horn, bassoon, flute, clarinet, violin, oboe and other wind, string and percussion instruments.
After years from the emergence of the Prokofiev’s symphony tale, numerous recordings and theatrical performances were made. Modern composers write sequels to the tale, musicians of different genres make jazz, rock and even parody covers.
Yuriy Kostev – a musician, teacher and stage director of many children’s concerts suggested showing a puppet performance of the tale at the Russian Centre of Nuernberg. With this work, he tried to make this tale even more comprehendible and memorable for small children.
Kostev is absolutely dedicated to music and arts, he was born in Samara Region near Volga, finished a music school in Krasnodar and after that - the Krasnodar State Academy of Arts with a degree in conducting a folk instruments orchestra. After that, he worked in the musical education sphere in Sochi for ten years – he was heading the city culture department, founded several balalaika orchestras, held massive folk music festivals. He can play domra, balalaika and accordion.
In 1992 he moved from Sochi to Germany together with his family and continued his musical career here; his main task now is to promote Russian music and Russian folk instruments. In 1994, he created a children’s balalaika orchestra “Druzhba”. In 1995–96 he organized different programs of cultural exchange between Russian and German musicians. He thinks that his main achievement is creation of the “Volga-Virtuozy” orchestra, which includes 12 Russian and German musicians. Together with his orchestra, Yuriy has implemented numerous projects in the spheres of music, dance, theatre and radio. The musicians have made four recordings. The ensemble has also a great success touring – they have performed in the concert halls of Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Here in Germany, Yuriy also continued his teaching activity – he taught music for 11 years at a German school. Now the musician is obsessed with organizing school concerts for children’s music education and promoting Russian classical and folk music in Germany and Europe. “Peter and the Wolf” is just one of his first steps towards his idea of chamber family and school concerts.
As it was originally planned in the tale, the narrator himself and all the characters of Yuriy Kostev’s performance are puppets. They communicate and sing different songs in his hands and with different voices. All the “smart” decorations were designed and made by Yuriy Kostev himself, and marvelous puppets, their costumes and decorations were made by his wife – Tatyana Kosteva.
All the melodies were familiar to all the adult visitors, gathered at the premiere night at the Russian Centre of Nuernberg, but the invading memories of their visiting philharmonic when they were children and genius Prokofyev’s music caused touching nostalgia and joy. And the marvelous actor for all the characters did not only manage to do his work excellently, but constantly addressed children and asked them for help. The children were following the plot of the tale very emotionally, jumped to their feet, repeated the words from the tale, were anxious and laughed. They were most delighted by a scene, where a Bird was flying over the Wolf to weaken its attention, so that Peter could catch the Wolf’s tail with a rope. They were ready to rise to the skies to help the Bird and Peter.
Not only the puppets were admirable, but also constant metamorphoses of the main character. Yuriy Kostev not only changed his voice and tone, but also became an old Grandpa, a vicious Wolf, roaring Hunters, cushioned Cat or tender Bird, using gestures, movements and eye expression. Such a lively and professional actor skills delighted both young and adult viewers. All of them were bewitched, following his mastery. Quite literally, Yuriy Kostev’s imaginative nature and his ability to speak the same language with children, to make them interested, made the performance incredibly vivid.
At the end of the tale, Yuri Kostev played the keynote melody of each character, so that children would remember them and say the names of the instruments. It is to be mentioned, that the small viewers showed their wide knowledge, naming both characters' names and the instruments. Time ran fast, Yuri Kostev held the performance dynamically, no one got tired, everyone saw the stage well and heard everything. It is usually hard for small children to watch theatrical performances because of the people, sitting in front of them, but at this performance, all the young viewers sat on soft mats right by the stage and their parents took chairs behind them.
After the end of the performance, the audience applauded for a long time and came to tell Yuriy their best feedback. Children, who learn the Russian language and culture at the Saturday educational project of the Russian Centre of Nuernberg "Lyceum of the Russian Language", were also present at the performance. They got the tickets to the performance for their successful studies and active participation in regular literary festivals. At the end of the performance, the kids asked Yuriy Kostev to make a photo with them.
Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" remains one of the best musical works for children without a doubt. This joyful musical performance will make easier the next step towards a more difficult musical genre - opera. Our deepest gratitude to people like Russian musician Yuriy Kostev, who are dedicated to music and children so much.