Friday, June 17, 2005

Olga Guryakova

Backstage with a Soprano and a Prima Ballerina ..

Ms. Guryakova ( )
in a recent production of Die Fledermaus Posted by Hello

The Honourable Reader of this blog has been promised some first-hand account of the inner loins of the Teatro Real and he should not be kept waiting.

Tatiana had put my name down on the list of people to be granted access to the backstage area and I duly followed on. Immediately after the clapping and the "Bravo!" shouts died down, I follow my instructions. As I leave the Stalls I turn right, then right again after the small Cava Bar and walk through two successive varnished wooden gates, like upper-deck doors on a nonchalant cruise liner. ( As I walk briskly I keep remembering my other example of theatrical speleology, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow).

A young attendant, with a black T-shirt with the logo of the Teatro Real and a red scarf that reminds one of the Red Pioneers (the Stalin Youth) asks with kindness: "And you are a visitor to...? ". I smile, check that are three little clusters of people on that corridor, and decline the name of the Guest Soprano. We are in a neat passage-way with the Main Stage right next to us. Signs both in English and Spanish give strict instructions like the ones you can see in a small factory or in the wings of an Iberia Airbus.

(To get to sanctum sanctorum in the Bolshoi I had to be escorted by a member of the Staff of the Royal Ballet from the deepest foyer-bar of the Theatre until a security manned toll gate on a narrow confluence of corridors (one would have taken us to the Artists' Entrance, another to the Dressing Rooms). Miss Smile, feeling an accomplice in crime, has warned me to act like an old trooper since she had had no time to get me a Pass. I use my spy-like skills of supreme self-confidence (or should I say my experience as gate-crasher of VIP areas in trendy Oligarchs-only clubs?). The Security Guard decides to concentrate on the timid customers of his Check Point Charlie instead. I can spot the cavernous huge stage of the Bolshoi and the tiny passage we are asked to take.)

The conductor, Don Carlo and The Grand Inquisitor plus my very own Queen Elizabeth of Valois pop up in the corridor, utter a beginning-of-summer-holidays brief comment (like " This is it. No more classes") and engulf themselves in their respective dressing rooms. Well, not the Maestro ( no make-up to remove). He deals with his visitors straight away. Time passes, all clusters have dissolved, I remain in the corridor, where a CCTV monitor shows the quick progress in stripping bare the Main Stage.The black T-shirted Red Pioneer makes some inquiries in low voice at the door of Tatiana's dressing room, signaling that her visitor is now waiting outside. She returns back to me with an apologizing smile "Ms. Somethingova is having her shower".

( Mentally back to the Moscow Opera, I remember that when I walked through the passageway, going down first and then upwards into some pre-historic iron steps, the stench of cat piss was unbearable. The SwanLake Princess had warned me about it, with a mischievous smile. The dressing room was delerict but full of the right atmosphere. More like Barnum Circus on the road around turn of the century than serious operatic gilded palace, but charming. I could see members of the Russian staff, baboushkas with generous bosoms and varicose legs, carrying the enormous dresses of Odile, of the Princess, and of all the velvety anybody who was anybody in that production.)

Back in The Plaza del Oriente, a short energetic woman leaves Tatiana's Dressing Room with an imposing dress, obviously weighting a ton, and rushes towards a staff only area. She returns shortly afterwards, enters the room and extricates herself again, carrying a new dress (the Coronation one , I think). She repeats that again, this time carrying the final dress of the Queen, the one that follows the Prado portrait inch by inch. I'm at last invited to enter the Soprano's private quarters. A well-lit spacious cabinet with a en-suite bathroom, like a neat room in a private clinic. One wall is occupied by an holywoodesque mirror framed by light bulbs, another by a vertical Steinway and the third one has a cosy two-seats burgundy red sofa where I'm seating right now.

I congratulate Tatiana-Olga for her performance, feeling that she's eager for approval but at the same time too much exhausted to listen properly. A bit like congratulating an athlete after the full ten thousand meters. She's ready to leave and we go out taking a different route, with Russian language around us, because of the retiring Grand Inquisitor finding us. We leave by the Artists' Entrance, with sleek aluminum electronic card-operated revolving bays, like Metro station ticket-reading devices. We found ourselves in the warm night of the Ciudad, and think of a starting place for "tapeo".

( As the Princess and I leave the Bolshoi, through the old and modest Artist's Entrance opposite the TSUM commercial galleries, the ambivalent Moscow night calls us to supper. )
A night at the opera house with a metaphorical "Access Stage" plastic red pass...

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