Soviet Art

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Soviet rock opera Juno and Avos

Soviet rock opera Juno and Avos. Nikolai Karachentsov (Nikolai Rezanov) and Elena Shanina (Conchita)

Nikolai Karachentsov (Nikolai Rezanov) and Elena Shanina (Conchita). Soviet rock opera Juno and Avos, Moscow State Theatre named after Lenin’s Komsomol, 1981

The best films have been filmed in the Soviet Union, and it is a fact. For more than 3 decades of post Soviet Russia, no one has been able to create, for example a comedy, better than Leonid Gaidai. Made in USSR masterpieces of cinema and theater have become an unattainable standard. Among such masterpieces was the Soviet rock opera Juno and Avos by composer Alexei Rybnikov on poems of Andrei Voznesensky. Director – Mark Zakharov, dances staged by Vladimir Vasiliev, artist Oleg Sheyntsis. The premiere took place on July 9, 1981 at the Moscow State Theatre named after Lenin’s Komsomol (Lenkom Theatre). In the summer of 2010 was the two thousandth performance of “Juno and Avos” presented by Theatre “Rock Opera” in St. Petersburg. For more than thirty years the performance has had a resounding success with the audience.

Nikolai Karachentsov (Nikolai Rezanov) and Elena Shanina (Conchita)

Nikolai Karachentsov (Nikolai Rezanov) and Elena Shanina (Conchita)

This post is a tribute to the original stage version cast of 1981, with Soviet stars Nikolai Karachentsov (Nikolai Rezanov) and Elena Shanina (Conchita) in the major roles. Other actors involved in the performance: Aleksandr Abdulov (Fernando Lopez, Conchita’s suitor; theater actor; the heretic), Pavel Smeyan (the first narrator), Gennady Trofimov (the second narrator), Vladimir Shiryaev (Aleksey Rumyantsev; Jose Dario Arguello, governor of San-Francisco and Conchita’s father)

Juno and Avos

Juno and Avos

Thanks to Pierre Cardin the Soviet rock opera of Lenkom Theatre was performed in Paris and on Broadway in New York, then in Germany, the Netherlands, and so on.

Soviet rock opera Juno and Avos

Soviet rock opera Juno and Avos

The plot of the poem “Juno and Avos” (1970) and a rock opera is based on real events and is dedicated to travel of Russian statesman Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov to California in 1806 and his meeting with the young Conchita Arguello, the daughter of the commandant of San Francisco.

According to the memoirs of Andrei Voznesensky, he began writing the poem “Juno and Avos” in Vancouver, when he read about our brave compatriot Rezanov in the book of John Lensen. In addition, were preserved and partially published travel diary of Rezanov, which Voznesensky also used.

You’ll wake me at dawn,
Barefoot, to see me off
You’ll never forget me,
You’ll never see me again

Protecting you from colds,
I thought, God Almighty,
I will never forget you,
I’ll never see you!

Residents of the twentieth century!
Your century is coming to the end,
You still haven’t answered the question of harmony?!
Two souls, rushing in space,
A hundred and fifty years alone,
We beg you for harmony,
Without it there isn’t meaning in life!

Hallelujah, to the couple in love!
We have forgotten, abusing and feasting,
For what we appeared on the Earth.
Hallelujah to love!
Hallelujah to love!
Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!
Hallelujah to all future children!
Our life has flown so quickly.
All damn questions we’ll answer:
Hallelujah to love!
Hallelujah to love!
Hallelujah!
I love your hands and speech.
I’ll comfort your tired feet. . .
The rivers are merging with others create one big sea
Hallelujah!

Nikolai Karachentsov (Nikolai Rezanov) and Elena Shanina (Conchita)

Nikolai Karachentsov (Nikolai Rezanov) and Elena Shanina (Conchita)

Nikolai Rezanov, one of the leaders of the first Russian world expedition, in 1806, arrived in California in order to replenish stocks of food for the Russian colony in Alaska. He fell in love with 16-year-old Conchita Arguello, with whom they were engaged. Rezanov was forced to return to Alaska, and then went to the imperial court in St. Petersburg to procure permission to marry a Catholic. But on the way he fell ill and died in Krasnoyarsk at age 43 (years of life of Rezanov 1764-1807). Conchita did not believe the information about the death of the groom. Only in 1842 the English traveler George Simpson, arriving in San Francisco, told her the exact details of his death. Believing in his death only thirty-five years later, she took a vow of silence, and took vows in the Dominican monastery in a few years in Monterrey, where she spent almost two decades and died in 1857.

The grave stone where Rezanov was buried

The grave stone where Rezanov was buried

And after another century and half, there was a symbolic act of lovers reunion. In autumn 2000, the sheriff of Californian city Behnisch, where Conchita Arguello was buried, brought a handful of soil from her grave and rose to Krasnoyarsk, to lay at the white cross on one side of which engraved words “I will never forget you, and on the back side – I’ll never see you”.

The title of the play comes from the names of two sailboats, “Juno” and “Avos”, on which Nicholas Rezanov and his people committed their expedition.

In May 2011, the Mint of Poland commissioned by the government of the island of Niue issued a silver coin in denomination of 1 New Zealand dollar devoted to the Soviet rock opera Juno and Avos. The reverse of the coin depicts Nikolai Karachentsov and Elena Shanina, who played major roles in the play, as well as the inscription “Juno and Avos” in Russian.

Authors of Soviet Rock opera Juno and Avos

Authors of Soviet Rock opera Juno and Avos

In the history of Russia is one of the most significant pages about attempts of government to establish trade and cultural relations with the United States by means of the trade “of the Russian – American Company” which operated in Alaska and its neighboring islands. A prominent role in this case played Count Nikolai Rezanov. Actual Chamberlain of his Majesty, penetrated in 1806 in California, to erect a bridge between America and Russia. The tragic accident in the life of Rezanov prevented the realization of this grand enterprise.

Soviet rock opera Juno and Avos

All graphics scanned from promo-book of 1985 (home library)