This ballet has a rather long story behind it. In 1991 Boris Eifman staged a one-act Requiem ballet to the music of W. A. Mozart; it was a philosophical parable exploring the never-ending mystery of human life.
More than two decades later Eifman – a restless artistic mind, always in search of a new and ever more perfect dance language – reverted to his past production and, proceeding from it, created a full-scale ballet performance. By largely rethinking its choreographic dance score, Eifman has added one more act to the ballet. It was set to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony and was dedicated "to the memory of victims of nazism and war”, and to Anna Akhmatova, one of the most significant Russian XXth century poetesses, who lived a tragic fate and whose two husbands and son were victims of the Soviet regime’s repressions.
The premiere of the ballet was held on January 27, 2014 at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. In 2017, Boris Eifman enlarged the first act of Requiem by adding scenes set to the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom by Sergei Rachmaninoff and ethnic music. This new version of the ballet will premiere on February 21, 2018, at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts, Montreal. Accompanying the performance are solo voices, choirs and Les Grands Ballets Orchestra, with Honoured Artist of Russia Valery Platonov at the conductor's desk.
In Boris Eifman's words, "each time I read the Requiem I am deeply impressed by the bitterness of the pain that is throbbing in Anna Akhmatova’s poetry. The dreadful images of those ‘furious years’ of Stalinist terror overwhelm my heart over and over again, those long lines of people, buried alive, stayed frozen in waiting in front of prison gates… In Anna Akhmatova’s poem, the anguished cry of a woman who has gone through a true ordeal is echoed by the groaning of thousands and thousands of wretched mothers and wives. This symphony of desolation keeps resounding in my mind. The holy pain does not ease."
"The world of human suffering is in truth immeasurable. But the very current of life is underlain by the divine continuity of being that was so brilliantly celebrated by Mozart in his Requiem. Listening to it, I can always feel the winds of Eternity. Dismay and fears do vanish, I am imbued with the anticipation of a cosmic mystery."
"Wherefrom have I come? Why is my life? What is I? I turn to my memory. It is the memory which introduces a vulnerable Youth into this world, which revives the hardships of maturity and the frustrations of senility. So much enmity and slander and violence have survived in my memory… And still, so many moments of happiness and love!"
"Distress, despair, hope – all this is inside me, inside all of us. And the mournful threnody blends together with Mozart’s hymn to the life.”
About Akhmatova’s Requiem
Requiem is a poem cycle by Anna Akhmatova about the suffering of people under the Great Terror. It was written over three decades, between 1935 and 1961.
The poetess waited for months outside Leningrad Prison along with many other women, waiting for a chance to get a glimpse of their fathers, brothers or sons who had been taken away by the secret police in Russia, or to hear something about their destiny. Requiem plunges us into the grief and agony Akhmatova faced after her husband and son were arrested.
Boris Eifman, Artistic Director of the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg