On the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ivan Turgenev, ten creative teams from universities all over the world brought performances based on the works of the renowned Russian writer to St Petersburg University.
Ivan Turgenev, a graduate of St Petersburg University, was not only a professor at a number of European universities, but also became the first civilian in the Russian Empire to be awarded an honorary doctorate from Oxford University. He was the person who led the way for the galaxy of Russian writers who gained recognition in Europe. They had a significant influence on all the processes taking place in a rapidly changing cultural and social environment.
«According to a well-known quotation, you have to know your past to build a happy future. In the same way, not realising that the culture of each of our countries influences others, that we are all connected to each other, it would be extremely difficult to live an interesting and harmonious life,» said Andrey Yakunin, President of the St Petersburg University Alumni Association, in his address to the participants of the Festival. «In the modern world, it takes no more than 16 to 18 hours by plane to get to any country, even to the one furthest away from Russia. In the 19th century, travelling from one end of our country to the other sometimes took up to 16 to 18 months. So, our world has become this smaller.» He noted that many creative groups had brought performances in Russian, despite the fact that it was not their native language. Others presented performances in national languages. They were of equal interest and were accompanied by simultaneous translation.
TurgenevFest has been initiated by the Alumni Association of St Petersburg University and is sponsored by Presidential Grants Foundation. From 12 to 16 November, ten student theatre groups presented their performances based on the works of Ivan Turgenev on the small stage of Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre on Fontanka River embankment. The groups were from Russia, Italy, Germany, the USA, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Lithuania, and Armenia.
No wonder that the international festival of university theatres was opened in the Assembly Hall of the Twelve Colleges, the University’s main building. It was built in the 1830s, when Ivan Turgenev studied at St Petersburg University. Interestingly, the university theatre studio was founded in 1832, two years before the future classical author entered the Faculty of Philosophy. This fact makes it one of the oldest amateur theatres in the world. «According to numerous testimonies of historians, in the middle of the 19th century, the Assembly Hall was the centre of the cultural development of the city,» said Mikhail Grishchenko, Deputy Head of the Department for Youth Affairs at St Petersburg University. «Before that, culture was elite: common people could not get into the Hermitage Theatre. But, a lot of the greatest figures of Russian culture performed here, at the University.»
Andrei Astvatsaturov, the Chairman of the Jury of the theatre festival, a writer, associate professor of St Petersburg University, wished good luck to the contestants.
You were shortlisted to the first round and ended up in St Petersburg, which is already a victory in itself. But now the second, more difficult stage begins. The jury is well aware that Ivan Turgenev, an eminent Russian writer, is a difficult author for a stage performance.
Andrei Astvatsaturov, associate professor of St Petersburg University
University students prepared a musical surprise for the festival participants. Mariia Chudinova, a music student at St Petersburg University, performed two preludes by Alexander Skriabin, a famous composer of the late 19th century. And the performing artists of the St Petersburg University folk group sang Russian folk songs which Ivan Turgenev was sure to have been familiar with.