Ilya Demutsky, perhaps the most popular and popular among young contemporary composers, presented the world premiere of the musical and dramatic theater performance “The Last Day of the Eternal City” at the Zaryadye Concert Hall. In a large-scale multi-genre composition based on texts by famous Russian-American poetesses Olga Maslova and Katya Kapovich, the Moscow State Academic Chamber Choir appeared as the central protagonist in all its glory. Apocalyptic prophecies, a metaphor for the finiteness of being and the illusory nature of “eternity”, man’s search for his place in life against the background of a worldwide catastrophe – these are the themes of Demutsky’s ambitious project, undoubtedly consonant with the present day.
Ilya Demutsky is the author of music for films and plays by Kirill Serebrennikov. Three of his ballets are staged at the Bolshoi Theater – A Hero of Our Time, Nureyev and The Seagull. The composer managed to gain worldwide fame: his ballet “Gabrielle Chanel” was successfully presented in London, and the soundtrack to the film “The Apprentice” was awarded the European Film Academy. The idea of ”The Last Day …” came from the leadership of the Moscow Chamber Choir, who turned to Ilya with a proposal to create a piece for this highly professional group. Demutsky, a choir conductor by education, who knows the choral “kitchen” from the inside, took up the implementation of this project with the intention of doing something comparable to Karl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”.
The genre of the composition combines the principles of oratorio, opera, and dramatic performance. A minimum of decorations – stylized columns of Roman ruins, a giant screen backdrop with a video projection on which “eternal cities” appear in the design of computer games. A small instrumental ensemble is on the stage. Three characters – vocalist Alexander Martynov (Provincial) and dramatic artists – Stanislav Belyaev (Roman) and Pavel Kravets (Joachim) – develop a plot in the spirit of Italian neorealism – three guys wander around Rome – culminating in information about the eruption of Vesuvius and the death of Pompeii. However, this does not come as a surprise: the heroes receive a warning from the Ministry of Emergency Situations about a high level of seismic hazard to their mobile phone.
The combination of academic vocals and dramatic speech is an interesting technique. Moreover, Belyaev and Kramets exist on stage in the technology of realistic, almost everyday presentation of text. Director Daria Borisova very accurately worked with the actors and their characters. The character of Belyaev is a recognizable image of a revolutionary, an eternal rebel, and therefore an eternal prisoner. For the system in which events unfold is totalitarian and ruthless. Is there another system? And is there a chance to defeat her? There is, of course, if you live by the rules of another character – the common man Joachim, who, like most people, seeks ordinary human pleasures – mutual love, generous meals, interesting conversation. The provincial, who got to the Eternal City, does not find confirmation of his “eternity”. And the disappointed one goes home.
As already mentioned, the main character of the action is the people of the Eternal City, who are in constant motion (plastic director Alberts Alberts). The choir under the direction of Timofey Goldberg does not comment on the action, but actively participates in it. Actually, it is the choir that personifies the eternal circular “movement” of the metropolis – people all the time go somewhere, protest against something, bury someone, celebrate something … Svetlana Grishchenkova’s beautiful costumes use a soft “linen” color palette. Scarves with “Roman” patterns, milky-beige range with an elegant, impeccable taste of pale pink and light green. No costume is repeated.
Not only the soloists, but also the choir perform the difficult score by heart. And therefore, a work that is marginal in genre is closest to an opera or, rather, a musical drama.
According to the author, he himself does not perceive the apocalyptic theme as a personal tragedy, feeling himself more like an observer. And this is felt in the music, outwardly very dramatic and even pretentious, but not too imbued with sincere feeling or emotion. The score is masterful, but rather speculative. The author works according to the models of music of the 20th century, which is not at all a reproach: today composers are doomed to operate with the languages of past eras – this is the reality of the 21st century. And therefore, secondary is the lot of any composer writing in the genres of academic music. Nevertheless, there were numbers in which the semantic intelligibility of intonations brought the music to a higher emotional level: the romance “In the morning in my window”, “Running”. The cello solo sounded very expressive at the beginning of the performance. Well,
“The Last Day of the Great City”, which undoubtedly deserves further stage life, will apparently become a genre bridge to the opera for the composer. Ilya Demutsky has already completed work on the score of The Shining World, written by him at the request of the Bolshoi Theater based on the novel by A. Green, and in the foreseeable future we will see the premiere of this opera on the stage of the State Academic Bolshoi Theater.