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Culture news, 12.10.2004 11:50

Baltic songs

baltic_songs_festival St Petersburg Times

By Angelina Davydova

Special to the St.Petersburg Times

Baltiiskiy Dom

The 14th International "Baltiisky Dom" Theater Festival winds up on Sunday true to its international spirit with a performance in Lithuanian of William Shakespeare's tragedy "Romeo and Juliet" by the Oskaras Korsunovas Theater.

The 11-day festival gave theatergoers in St. Petersburg the chance to see world-famous, front-line drama theaters from the Baltic States, Norway, Ukraine, Bulgaria and also Russia performing well-known and new works. The festival kicked off with a premiere of Eimuntas Nekrosius's "Song of Songs," based on the Old Testament book the Song of Solomon. The show has not even been seen in Lithuania, where Nekrosius's theater company Meno Fortas is based.

As with most performances directed by Nekrosius, "Song of Songs," despite being a striking spectacle, proved quite challenging for the ordinary viewer.

Using only the original Biblical text in Lithuanian, the director sets the action in a Lithuanian village at the turn of the last century, where the main characters sing, weave, saw, build and demolish, love and kill, swim and die, to the extent that the plot has little to do with the original text. In this way "Song of Songs" leaves a space in which the audience's fantasies can develop.

Coincidentally, quite a few of contemporary Russia's most beloved theater directors come originally from the Baltic States. Many of them have already staged some of their works in Moscow theaters while others work in Europe. This year's "Baltiisky Dom" festival welcomed Lithuanians Nekrosius and Oskaras Korsunovas, and Kama Ginkas, orignially from Latvia, as well as a number of forward-thinking Russian directors such as Anatoly Praudin, Andrei Moguchy, and Klim. Theater companies from Norway, Bulgaria and Ukraine also performed.

The Baltic directors brought quite a few Shakespeare plays including "Macbeth," "Hamlet" and "Othello," or at least what was left of them after they were radically reconstructed. In some cases less than a quarter of the original play remained.

On Friday and Saturday the Bulgarian experimental theater company "Sfumato" will give two performances - "Alyosha" and "Ivan" - based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel "The Brothers Karamazov." Also on Saturday the St. Petersburg-based theater company Potudan, which combines live actors and puppets on stage, will perform a version of Alexander Pushkin's play "Feast During the Time of Plague."

Finally, on Sunday, Korsunovas presents "Romeo and Juliet" in a version where the feuding families are the owners of competing bakeries. The characters, covered in flour, fight for dough, tearing it into pieces and leaving material proof of the tragic story.

14th International "Baltiisky Dom" Theater Festival at Baltiisky Dom Festival Theater, 4 Alexandrovsky Park.

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