The idol of the Russian theatrical avant-garde fell victim to the coronavirus
New York – This leap year is striking blow after blow on Russian culture. Only in the last two weeks have national favorites Mikhail Zhvanetsky and Armen Dzhigarkhanyan gone. And here is another bereavement. At the age of 84, theater director Roman Viktyuk, the legendary master of the Russian stage avant-garde, director of innovative performances that have become modern classics, died from complications of coronavirus infection in Moscow.
“A citizen of Lvov, my fellow countryman and Moscow neighbor, has died. Great and unique Roman Viktyuk. I hope he enjoyed life, and we enjoyed his talent, ”documentary filmmaker Vitaly Mansky wrote on Facebook. And there are many such declarations of love for the director in social networks..
Sprout and asphalt
Theater has been Roman’s dream and passion since childhood. He staged performances at school and in the studio of the Lviv Palace of Pioneers. He studied at the acting department of GITIS, among his mentors were Yuri Zavadsky and Anatoly Efros.
“Roman Viktyuk is a native of Lviv,” the culture department of the Kommersant newspaper writes in the obituary. “It is there, in a city standing at the crossroads of different cultures, that one should try to look for the origins of that unique theatrical language that director Viktyuk spoke and thanks to which he became one of the most original, vital and freedom-loving masters of the late Soviet and Russian theater”.
Young Viktyuk worked as an actor in Lviv, staged performances as a director both there and in other cities of the Soviet Union. In the mid-70s, he moved to Moscow, where his production of Leonid Zorin’s “The Tsar’s Hunt” sounded loudly at the Mossovet Theater with Margarita Terekhova in the title role. A year later, another sensational premiere – “Music Lessons” by Lyudmila Petrushevskaya at the Student Theater of Moscow State University.
Lyudmila Petrushevskaya named Roman Viktyuk as “my director” in her farewell message on Facebook.
“Roma was the first to stage my Music Lessons with his amateur theater in the Moscow State University club opposite the Kremlin,” Petrushevskaya noted. – Where, of course, we were banned in public after six runs. With the wording “The experiment is over.” But the sprout will break through the asphalt too. Roman Grigorievich made his way. He staged, in addition to “Music Lessons” (and in his production “Lessons” were staged all over the country) my plays “Love”, “Staircase”, “Andante”, “Columbine’s Apartment”, “Cinzano” and “Smirnova’s Birthday” … The first four acts of one act were combined into the famous performance “Columbine’s Apartment” at the Sovremennik Theater, which was immediately banned. And then he walked for almost 10 years, and tickets were not available. It is impossible now to imagine what it was. How the hall froze, how he gasped, how he laughed. There was nothing like this before Viktyuk (and even after) “.
In 1988, on the stage of the Satyricon Theater, Viktyuk staged his most famous performance, The Maids, based on Jean’s play. To my wife. This is his “showcase” production, thanks to which he gained recognition all over the world. There is deep symbolism in the fact that the play by Enfant Terribly of French culture was embodied on the Moscow stage by Enfan Terribl of Russian culture.
“The director turned a heavy absurdist work into a festive extravaganza – and changed the history of the post-Soviet theater,” Oleg Karmunin wrote in Izvestia. “After twenty-five years of endless notices, this victory is no longer in doubt.”.
The “maids” in “Satyricon” laid the foundation for the style, which later became known as viktyuk style – sophisticated lines of modernity, beauty and fantastic theatricality of the action taking place on the stage “.
For many years Viktyuk dreamed of his own theater, but he could not manage to break through the capital’s bureaucracy, which was wary of the shocking maestro. The entreprise opened in 1991 with a play by the American David Hwan “M. Butterfly”, in which a French diplomat falls in love with an actress of the Peking Opera, not suspecting that the theater troupe consists of men. “Countertenor Erik Kurmangaliev embarrasses with the height of his voice that is dubious for an inexperienced audience; he is now Butterfly cleaner than all opera prima donnas “, – noted journalist Leonid Parfenov.
In 1996, the theater received the status of a state and its own building in Moscow, which is an architectural monument of the constructivist era. In total, Viktyuk’s directorial track record includes more than two hundred performances, many of them became a revelation for both experts and the general public..
Now, with the departure of the founder of the theater, his future is in question..
Master of gesture
Several generations of actors worked with Viktyuk, who today, in the mournful hour of parting, talk about the master with a breath and delight.
Actress Valentina Talyzina studied with Roman Viktyuk, played in his performances “Evening Light”, “Tsar’s Hunt”, “Music Lessons”. “I think he was a great director,” Talyzina said in an interview with MK. – Moreover, I believe that he was a great Russian director, although he was madly in love with his homeland – Ukraine … Roman Grigorievich, oh Lord, loved the theater, loved it like a temple that goes to heaven. He tore everyone off the ground with his courage, flight of imagination. He was a very great master in our craft … We lost a very big personality in the theater. This will never happen again “.
Actress Vera Sotnikova was lucky to play in two of his performances “Sergei and Isadora” and “Incomprehensible woman living in us”.
“They call him a great theatrical hoaxer,” Sotnikova said in an interview with “Vechernyaya Moskva”, “he was a very good inventor, with some completely ingenious baggage of knowledge, which I was always amazed at.” According to her, “for such people you have to write down every line every day when you come to rehearsal.”.
“And how Viktyuk rehearsed! – recalls theater critic Marina Raikina. – These are separate performances that were worth selling tickets for. He did not recognize any classical analyzes – he emotionally charged the actors. Shouted: “Genius” when the artist just stepped on the stage … A master of gesture and improvisation, lightness and sophistication, beautiful intrigue and mysterious phrases “.
For many actors and directors, he was not only a model of virtuoso creativity and daring experiment, but also a close friend. As, for example, for the actor and TV presenter Mikhail Boyarsky.
“I have great respect for Romka,” he said. – The theater has lost a great artist. I am very worried about this, of course. We were good friends with him. “.
Roman Viktyuk, 84, Russian Theater Director Death
Idol and Romophanes
Journalist Sergei Nikolaevich, editor-in-chief of the Snob magazine, who knew Viktyuk closely, recalls how he “loved bows and public appearances! How effectively he has always directed his shows in multi-colored jackets! “.
Yes, in the extravagance of the outfits, he could compete with another famous dandy of the Soviet era – the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
“Probably, the main merit of Viktyuk is that he clearly showed that the theater does not have to be male or female,” writes Sergei Nikolaevich. – Actors are always the “third sex”, and what they do on stage is a play of imagination and nature … “.
Roman Viktyuk was never married, had no children. Answering questions about his personal life, he said that for some time he had an affair with Valentina Talyzina, that he was in love with Lyudmila Gurchenko. When asked about children, he laughed it off, saying that his many students called him dad..
In an interview with the BBC in 2006, Roman Viktyuk said that even during the period of totalitarianism he never staged performances that would “serve the system.” In 2012, he signed an open letter calling for the release of the Pussy Riot members and expressed his readiness to vouch for the girls.
“Why the hell do we remember the Masters and their works when they are flying up somewhere?” – TV presenter Dmitry Krylov laments on his Facebook page and then recalls Viktyuk’s favorite performances “The Players” and “Manon Lescaut”.
“I was very fascinated by Viktyuk’s work,” Krylov recalls further, “I went to rehearsals and rehearsals, and Roma liked to invite a party to them, because our audience’s breath of romance inspired him. He showed himself and played along with us, he shouted at the Moscow Art Theater: “People – let’s go!” And it was true, because in the crowd he had the people’s USSR, whom he saved from oblivion in a difficult decade “.
“Roma was a great talented artist, and his discoveries both in the television and in the theatrical stage world will remain in demand and appreciated for many years to come,” Krylov writes further. – I would like to say: wait, Roma, well, yes, this is inevitable, but stay a little longer with us, well, at least a little bit, well, wait, restless … “.
Journalist, film critic, correspondent for the Russian Service «Voices of America» in New York.