Upcoming shows

Ballet in 3 acts
Beginning: 3.09.2019 - 19:00
Completion: 21:25
The Forest Song
Myhailo Skorulsky
The Forest Song
Libretto by Natalie Skorulsky.
 
Based on the Lesia Ukrainka’s extravagant drama of the same name.
 
SUMMARY
 
 
Act 1
 
 
The leaves on the trees had barely fluttered, turning green around the hills and valleys, as He Who Rends the Dikes - a singing spring creek - runs playfully and swiftly into the forest glade and whirls with the Merman’s daughter, begging her to run off with him. But her angry father is on guard and drives off the seducer, taking the naughty little Mermaid to the bottom.
 
 
Uncle Lev and Lukash come to the forest. Lukash plays his flute, noisy forest voices respond, and the forest nymph Mavka wakes up from her winter sleep. She suddenly grows up in front of the young man at the moment when he wants to cut a white birch and captivates him.
 
 
Why shouldn’t I? But see, you’re just the same
As any girl… no… like a lady fair!
Your hands are white, your figure’s straight and slim,
Your clothes, somehow, are not the same as ours…
Why is it that your eyes aren’t always green?
Ah, now, they’re green again… a moment since
They were as blue as heaven… now they’re grey
As thunder clouds… no, now they’re almost black,
Or maybe brown… Why, you are wonderful!
 
 
When the mischievous Mermaid and Kutz - the forest imp - lure Lukash into the swamp, Mavka saves the young man. The forest nymph is still full of feelings unknown to her:
 
 
Behold me, sister, filled with ecstasy!
O willow, no more o’er the waters weep!
Be kind, while here thy child love’s watch doth keep.
And tell me, O my father, thou dark grove,
Where it were best for me this night to rove.
The night is brief, but separation’s long…
What destiny awaits me – grief or song?
 
 
Act 2
 
 
Lukash builds a house for himself in the forest glade. But Lukash’s mother does not like the gentle and fragile Mavka. The old woman brings the young widow Kilina from the village, who is a very arduous worker. In vain do her forest friends try to help Mavka forget Lukash. And He Who Dwells in Rock holds out his covetous hands to the girl.
 
 
I come to lead you to a distant land,
An unknown land, where quiet waters dark
Serenely sleep in peace; where silent rocks
Hang over them and stare with clouded eyes,
Mute witnesses of what is past and gone.
‘Tis calm and tranquil there, for neither trees nor grass
E’er stir or murmur to bring on bad dreams –
Those treacherous dreams which always banish sleep.
 
 
But Mavka does not obey:
 
 
No, I’m alive! I’ll live eternally!
I have that in my heart which cannot die!
 
 
Mavka runs up to Lukash and looks imploringly in his eyes, but he spurns her. In desperation, Mavka throws herself into the arms of the monster, and heavy blocks of rock close forever over her.
 
 
In the village they celebrate the wedding of Kilina and Lukash. And suddenly, in front of Lukash’s eyes, a sad image of Mavka appears, and he is seized with horror at his betrayal. Leaving Kilina and the guests, he escapes into the forest.
 
 
Act 3
 
 
The forest residents take revenge on Lukash for his betrayal, and he loses his mind. By the miraculous power of her feelings, Mavka breaks the rocks and comes to her beloved. Seeing Mavka, Lukash drops at her feet, but his shame at betraying his wife drives him away.
 
 
Kilina curses her rival, and Mavka turns into a willow.
 
 
Kilina’s son cuts a flute from the willow and asks Lukash to play for him. Magic sounds poured out in which his beloved's voice came to life. Angry, Kilina makes Lukash cut down the willow, but the ax falls from his hands.
 
 
Kilina herself swings at the tree. The leaves fluttered, the long branches bent, but the forest spirit flew out, hugged the willow and she, burning with a bright flame, sets fire to the house. Kilina and his mother run away, and Lukash, forgetting everything in the world, plays the song of lost love on the flute.
 
 
Mavka, like a magical dream, appears in front of Lukash. And how their love blossoms again. The nymph's soul says to Lukash:
 
 
Ah, for that body do not sigh!
‘Tis now infused and glows with fire divine,
As clear and bright and glittering as good wine
Whose life in sparkling bubbles mounts on high.
Naught but an airy pinch of dust
Remains to mingle with the earth below.
Beside these waters shall a willow grow,
My end give life to something more robust.
And to me here shall many seek,
Both rich and poor, the joyful and the sad.
Their grieves I’ll mourn, their joys shall make me glad –
To everyone my soul shall gently speak.
And I shall find some word for all:
The quiet murmur of my rustling leaves;
The willow pipe that tender music breathes;
The melancholy dews that from my branches fall.
I’ll give them back in mystic speech
All those dear tender songs you used to sing,
The tunes you played for me in that lost spring –
O play again, beloved, I beseech!
 
 
The snow slowly falls on Lukash as he falls asleep.
 
 
*Translation by Percival Cundi
 
 
 

 

ABOUT THE BALLET "THE FOREST SONG"

 

In the musical heritage of Myhailo Skorulsky (1887-1950), the ballet "The Forest Song" occupies a special place.

The composer was captivated by the plot of the wonderful poetic drama-extravaganza of Lesia Ukrainka's “The Forest Song” - one of the most outstanding works of Ukrainian literature, captivating with its humanism, high ethical pathos, imbued with passionate faith in the poetry of life and the immortal pursuit of beauty. In “The Forest Song” the condemnation of pettiness, greed, and selfishness sounded angrily and passionately - all of which kill a person's creative burning and sense of joy. Lesia Ukrainka contrasted the narrow-minded understanding of full living with the high dream of happiness, the true greatness of the human soul.

It was no coincidence that the poetess called the work a drama-extravaganza. Fairytale miracles and allegories are closely intertwined in it with the truth of deep human feelings. The main philosophical idea of ​​“The Forest Song” is embodied through the complex image of the talented and kind country boy Lukash, endowed with the sensitive heart of a poet and dreamer. In his sincere love for Mavka, rapprochement with nature,  and his passion for music, his spiritual wealth and artistic talent are revealed. Lukash's submission to the selfish demands of his relatives, his betrayal of Mavka, and his marriage to the "earthly", mired in Kilina's routine, kill his creative inspiration and all that is bright in his tender soul.

Lesia Ukrainka very warmly described the image of Mavka - a fantastic forest girl, personifying the beauty of nature. The appearance of Lukash arouses in Mavka feelings that at that time were unknown to her, a forest creature. They bring deep happiness and at the same time heavy grief.

The Forest Song was created in 1911, when Lesia Ukrainka was forced to live in Kutaisi due to a serious illness. Far from Ukraine, the poetess wrote a work imbued with the charms of her native nature, memories of those days when she was still listening to Volyn legends and traditions as a girl.

The work brought to life the mythological images of folk tales and myths, creatures of spiritual nature, which folk fantasy had settled in the ancient Volyn forests and vast fields.

The libretto of the ballet “The Forest Song” was written by the composer's daughter, a former famous ballerina, Honored Artist of Ukraine Natalia Mikhailovna Skorulska (1915-1982). The authors of the ballet set their task to most accurately convey the content of Lesia Ukrainka's work, to recreate the emotional color in music and choreography, and to preserve the main images and plot situations as well as the internal logic and the sequence of dramatic development in which the real is intertwined with the fairytale-like.

However, like any literary work, "The Forest Song" could not be "translated" into musical and choreographic language without proper adaptation to the laws of the ballet genre. With poetic image, philosophical generalizations of the drama had to be given a specific visual form, harmoniously and concisely reproducing the development of the action. From this came the necessary reductions to the fundamental literary text, the removal of a number of episodes and vice versa - the expansion of individual episodes and even the introduction of new scenes.

The music of M. Skorulsky is indicated by emotional fullness and juicy orchestral colors. Profound melody, lyricism, romantic inspiration - these are the dominant features of the ballet score.

In the musical fabric of "The Forest Song", folk motifs occupy a significant place. Myhailo Skorulsky paid great attention in particular to the musical folklore of Volyn. It should be noted that a little can be found in Ukrainian (and not only Ukrainian) ballet pieces, saturated with such convincing musical characteristics as in “The Forest Song”.

The central place in the music is alloted to the embodiment of the deep experiences of Mavka and Lukash, the transfer of their feelings and moods. The fairy-tale-fantastic moments, musical pictures of nature, and divertissement episodes are subordinated towards this goal.

Working on the ballet, Myhailo Skorulsky created a fascinating anthem not only for man with his eternal desire for beauty, but also for nature and life. "The Forest Song" was completed by M. Skorulsky in 1936. The ballet was staged by the Kyiv Opera and Ballet Theater. Lesia Ukrainka's embodiment of the drama-extravaganza by choreographic means interested the general public: notices of work on a new production began to appear in the press, as well as of the possibilities and paths to its stage embodiment. But the Great Patriotic War did not allow the completion of a new ballet production at the time. Only after the liberation of Kyiv did it become possible to continue working on "The Forest Song".

The premiere of "The Forest Song" took place on February 1946 during the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the birth of Lesia Ukrainka. The performance was staged by choreographer Sergiy Sergeev, conductor Boris Chistyakov, artist Alexander Khvostenko-Khvostov. The first performers of the parts of Mavka and Lukash were Antonina Vasilyeva and Alexander Berdovsky. In 1958, the theater returned to the ballet of Myhailo Skorulsky. The new interpretation was made by People's Artist Vakhtang Vronsky with the participation of Honored Artist of Ukraine Natalia Skorulska. The scenery was created by the famous artist Anatoliy Volnenko.

In this choreographic incarnation of "The Forest Song", both S. Sergeev and V. Vronsky went the route of combining elements of classical and Ukrainian folk dances as well as realistic and fantastical images. The performance drew in through the expressiveness of its characters, romance, and the poetic inspiration of its dances.

The Shevchenko stage knew three more readings of the immortal ballet classic - in 1972 (renewal by N. Skorulska), in 1986 (renewal by V. Kovtun) and in 1991 (renewal by V. Lytvynov). It was on the basis of the latest update in 1991 that the Japanese company "NHK" made the video "The Forest Song".

During the long stage history of the ballet, which was included in the golden fund of Ukrainian musical culture, the leading parts were performed by the best Ukrainian dancers: Yevheniya Yershova, Olena Potapova, Alla Gavrilenko, Iraida Lukashova, Tetyana Tayakina, Raisa Khilko, Lyudmila Smorgacheva, Mykola Aptukhin, Anatoly Belov, Gennadii Baukin, Fedor Baklan, Robert Klyavin, Veanir Kruglov, Valery Kovtun, Sergei Lukin, Valery Parsegov, Nikolai Pryadchenko and others.

 

Maria ZAGAYKEVYCH,
doctor of art history