You Can See It Only on Our Stage

This ballet exists only on the Bolshoi stage — no other ballet company performs it. Composed by Shostakovich when he was 24, the ballet did not win the hearts of the ballet fans at first. It was first staged by the Kirov Theatre in the 1930s, but was not a success and was withdrawn from the repertoire. The Bolshoi staged the ballet in 1982, choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich and with Simon Virsaladze as art director and Yuri Simonov as the conductor. The story features the decline of the NEP [New Economic Policy] in the 1920s.

A conflict between the nouveau riche and criminal elements, on the one side, and the working young people who are creating a new life, on the other, breaks out at the fashionable Golden Age restaurant in a seaside town.

About fifty performances of the ballet were given in Moscow. It had successful tours of Germany, Austria, the UK, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, the USA, Greece, Italy, Australia and other countries.

The Bolshoi breathed new life into the ballet in 2006 when Yuri Grigorovich suggested a new version of his choreography. Original sketches by Simon Virsaladze were used to make the new scenery. The new stage version differs from the previous two, conceptually. The new Golden Age was produced in the 21st century when the burden of the communist ideology had been overcome. The key idea of the ballet was to show struggle in the name of love for a young girl. It is also to glorify a man whose music has created yet another ‘golden’ age of Russian musical history.

“Grigorovich’s ballet is an exceptional phenomenon, a pointer for ballet in how to portray the contemporary age which, to this day, remains a most acute problem for music theatre. The result is all the more brilliant in that in his treatment of this most complex material, the choreographer boldly plumbs for what is most difficult. Heroic feats are an easier subject for ballet, Grigorovich chooses the everyday. Battles are a thing of the past. The Golden Age depicts the Nep period when the remains of the old world, which had hidden, crawled out into the open and acted with refined cunning. Having chosen the everyday, Grigorovich undermines its ordinariness with grip-pingly tense development of action. For the first time in ballet, he presents the detective genre: pursuits, attacks and all.

...And all this in choreography which one might say is gripping in its own right: for every development in the action there are different types of dance: classical and free dance, the neo-classical and the grotesque, 1 elements of folk dance and of the movements of sportsmen... An explosion of dance takes possession of every corner of the huge stage. Here the vortex of life itself — rapid, variegated, riveting. Here the echoes of sporting festivities, genre ’street’ sketches, shows given by the artists of the agit-prop theatre company...In this feerie-like flow, the duets of Rita and Boris, based on the most beautiful, high lifts, are like peaceful oases, wreathed in poetry”.

Saniya Davlekamova,
an excerpt from the first night’s review, 1982