Next weekend’s “Director’s Choice” program is packed with all kinds of excitement- an iconic classic, a Tony Award-winning choreographer, a world premiere- but there’s one thing everyone is buzzing about: LIVE MUSIC.
FBP’s brand new adaptation of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale will feature inventive choreography by Viktor Plotnikov, spoken word narration by local actor Nigel Gore, and live music on stage, played by a septet of musicians from the Rhode Island Philharmonic under the expert direction of Alexey Shabalin.
The Russian-born musical genius has received a number of impressive accolades celebrating his talent, from distinguished awards in Moscow to special performance opportunities here in the United States. Shabalin is currently a violinist with the Rhode Island Philharmonic and Artist-Director of the RI Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. Shabalin has also devoted much of his time to working with aspiring musicians at prestigious universities including Brown University, MIT, Providence College, and Rhode Island College. We caught up with the accomplished conductor to get the inside scoop on this exclusive collaboration…
Hello Alexey! We are so honored to have you on our “Director’s Choice” artistic team. How did you get involved in this collaboration with Festival Ballet Providence (FBP) and The Soldier’s Tale?
The community of musicians and artists here in RI have a tight connection, so I got to know Mihailo Djuric a long time ago. It’s a great pleasure and a privilege for me to celebrate this special occasion – the 40th anniversary of Festival Ballet.
Thank you for helping us celebrate! Now, I have heard multiple versions of the Soldier’s Tale score using different combinations of instruments. Will the “Director’s Choice” audience be hearing the original version of the score?
Yes. There are many versions of The Soldier’s Tale- the play, suite, trio- but there is not a ballet version. In 1918, [Igor] Stravinsky wrote the score for the play The Soldier’s Tale and revised some of the movements several times. In 1924, J.& W.Chester published the final version of the score. Later on, Stravinsky recorded his composition 3 different times using the 1924 version of the piece. We will also be using the original 1924 version of the score.
And what about the changing instrumentations? It seems the arrangements evolved with the piece over the years. How is it decided which instruments will play?
As Stravinsky said: “The discovery of the American Jazz has affected my life to the greatest degree. My piece [The Soldier’s Tale] uses the same instruments as they did in jazz of early 20th century, with the exception of saxophone, which was replaced by bassoon”.
How much of the score has been modified to accommodate Viktor’s vision for this new adaption?
“The involvement of this new component, the art of ballet, gives this composition a new dimension.”
It’s such a special treat for the dancers of FBP to perform to live music. Have you worked on this sort of collaboration or conducted for a ballet before?
I am symphony orchestra conductor, so this is a totally new experience for me. Now I am dealing with the syntheses of expression of human body and art of sound. I enjoy it very much!
What are you most excited about for this production?
We are very excited to present to the audience the different vision of The Soldier’s Tale as a world premiere ballet. I think for all artists, it’s essential to present something that the audience has never seen, heard, or read before.
That is so true. But Stravinksy’s scores are notoriously challenging to perform. How are you working to make sure everything goes smoothly with the dancers and musicians?
All of the musicians are great professionals from the RI Philharmonic, and I believe that we will be able to overcome the many difficulties of the score. Without exaggeration, I can say that the score of The Soldier’s Tale is a concert for seven solo instruments- violin, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, double bass and percussion- as well as a narrator.
Stravinsky himself said: “My musical ideas of the ’20s were directed towards the style of instrumental solos. The sound characteristic of the The Soldier’s Tale is the fiddling of the violin and the rhythmic patterns of the drums, the violin is the soldier’s soul, and the drums are delivery”.
Thank you, Alexey!
To see Alexey and the dancers in action, and hear the magnificent musicians performing Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale
live on stage, click here
This post was written by Kirsten Evans. The author is in her eighth season as a Company Dancer with Festival Ballet Providence. She is also the Company PR & Communications Assistant, as well as the writer of a personal blog, Setting The Barre.