on the stage of the Sakha theatre from the collections of the Yakut State Museum n.a. Em. Yaroslavskiy

The outstanding place among various genres of the Yakut oral poetry literature is taken by a heroic epic “olonkho”. Separate poems of the epos are called by the name of their main characters: “Er Sogotokh”, “Myuldzhyu Strong”, “Nurgun Botur”. All these poems are similar in style, composition, and traditional characters. They differ from each other in the plot constructed on the description of various feats of the main character. The olonkho is based on the fight of bogatyrs of the “Aiyy” tribe against the monsters of the Underworld called “abaahy”, which kidnap girls, devour cattle and ruin the country. Heroes protect happy life on the Middle world (i.e. on the earth), their compatriots and homes.
Olonkho “Nurgun Botur the Swift”, a defender and a liberator of all aggrieved and disadvantaged people, is one of the best poems. The fight and victory of the Aiyy heroes who represent the good against the abaahy warriors who represent the evil; bravery and courage, valor, justice of the hero were an example to bring out the best in young people.
Folk piece of writing formed a basis for development of theatrical and musical art of the Yakuts. The elements of drama and opera in the olonkho helped to translate it to the stage. In the 30s in Yakutia amateur and professional theaters began to refer intensively to the olonkho plots. Survey, conducted by the Institute of Language and Literature of the Yakut branch of the Academy of Science Siberian branch in 1941 and 1946, showed the growth in popularity of olonkho-performers art in the late 30s and the beginning of the 40s. 83 olonkho-performers were listened in 13 regions, 396 olonkhos were registered. Total craving for unique national olonkho art and its presentation on the stage left its mark in theatrical Yakutia.

In 1940 the writer and playwright D. K. Sivtsev – Suorun Omollon wrote the text of the musical drama-olonkho “Nurgun Botur the Swift” (“Djuluruyar Nurgun Botur” - Yakut) involving V. V. Mestnikov, the director of the Sakha theater. Music to this libretto was written by the composer M. N. Zhirkov. Since 1940 the musical play “Nurgun Botur the Swift” entered the list of productions of the Sakha theater. In the beginning of 1940 the musical performance company consisting of vocal, ballet and orchestral departments was created on the basis of national chorus. A new troupe, which can direct productions of different genres - from drama to opera and ballet, was formed.

Sources of olonkho, both in content and in fairy-tale and fantastic form, go from real life. To put on the stage the opera “Nurgun Botur”, the creators studied the Sakha people’s history, reinterpreted the greatest heritage of its spiritual and material culture creatively. Description of clothes in the olonkho and the archaeological excavation materials found in the territory of Yakutia related to the XVII-XVIII centuries and stored in Yakut State Museum n.a. Em. Yaroslavsky, allowed recreating the costumes of olonkho characters and subjects which surrounded them.

Costumes for the play were sewed from museum clothes model. The part of the Yakut antique clothes collected by the museum dated from the XVII-XVIII centuries: caftans, footwear, caps and others. They came from the excavations made by the workers of the museum at different times. Many models of clothes were dated from the XIX and XX centuries - from shirts and caftans of poor people made from calfskin and horse skin to fur coats of the rich men sewed from expensive cloth and fur, decorated with beads and metal plates. They can be considered as applied art works, as well as woman’s caps “dzhabaka” with the tops embroidered by silver and the smallest beads, man's silk and cloth caftans, caftans of officials, woman's dresses of the Yakut style-khaladai and sleeveless jacket from silk, decorated with beads and ornament , which were called “corsets” by the Yakut people.

The big section is presented by saddles, saddlecloths, “kychym” – a part of decorative trappings of a horse, saddle-bags made of cloth and leather decorated with engraved copper and silver and metal plates, halters with bear fur tassels.
Among all museum ethnographic materials representing material and spiritual culture of the Yakut people in the past, there are exponents made from wood and birch bark, various wooden utensils, both everyday and for kumis ritual: “chorons” (cups), big ladles and whisks, leather bags “simir”.

Each thing, be this silver jewelry, wooden choron, embroidered fur boots (torbaza), two-coloured tuyas made from birch bark, or a saddle-cloth embroidered in colourful beads and silver plates, - is a subject of people’s creativity which shows us the ingenuity and pursuance of beauty.

During the Great Patriotic War the interest of the Yakut people to olonkho had increased, they performed olonkho and listened to it with a great pleasure. Names of olonkho characters became common for designation of valorous and courageous justice fighters.

On March 16, 1943 at the very height of war against fascist hordes, the theater performed the 100th play “Nurgun Botur the Swift”. In this regard the Supreme Soviet of the republic promoted the director of theater V. V. Mestnikov and the artist V.A. Savvin to the ranks of honoured artists of the Yakut ASSR. Artists M. V. Zhirkov, M. K. Belolyubskaya, A.F. Novgorodova, electrical department manager N. P. Gorbachev, the ballet-master I.A. Karenin were presented with Certificates of Appreciation of the Supreme Soviet of the Yakut ASSR.

During the war the theater showed the play “Nurgun Botur” in all regions of Yakutia where it was on tour. The workers of the theater put the money gained from performances (158 thousand 300 rubles) into creation of the tank “Nurgun Botur the Swift”.

In 1945 in the Ust-Aldansky region, which led in socialist competition, the Ysyakh of Victory where members of regional committee and the Council of ministers of the republic were present was held.

On the ysyakh artists of the Sakha theater M. V. Zhirkov as Nurgun Botur, P. M. Reshetnikov as Soruk Bollur, A.F. Novgorodova as Tuyaryma Kuo showed scenes from the play “Nurgun Botur the Swift”.

In other regions of the republic the ysyakh devoted to the greatest event was also organized. During the holiday avocational artists showed performances on the olonkho plots.

In 1947 the music-drama theater was divided into two independent groups: the Yakut State Drama Theater and the State Music Theater-Studio. The theater-studio developed actively. In anniversary 1947 year, the staff of the theater put on M. Zhirkov’s and G. Litinsky's opera “Nurgun Botur” on the occasion of 25th anniversary of the Yakut ASSR.

1957 was a significant year for the Yakut people. Two important events in its history were celebrated: the 325th anniversary of voluntary inclusion of Yakutia in the Russian empire and the 35th anniversary of declaration of Yakutia as the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

Anniversary decade in Yakutsk, when the theater showed the plays “Nurgun Botur” and “Othello”, was some kind of dress rehearsal before the performance in Moscow.
On December 2, 1957 the big group of Yakutsk residents arrived to Moscow to take part in the Decade of the Yakut Literature and Art.

The opera “Nurgun Botur the Swift” performed in The Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre had a great success. This play rose through the ranks from the drama play to the musical drama, and then up to the national opera since 1940.

The artists representing fairy-tale and allegorical olonkho scenes tried to put real human feelings and passion into them. The vividness of character and the movement of scenic action were features of performing style approved by the art director V.V. Mestnikov and all staff. The heroic–patriotic theme was developed best of all. Fabulousness and romanticism of olonkho were presented in the scenes of fight of Nurgun Botur with his most vicious enemy Uot Usutaky.

The art of acting naturally connected with pantomime means, puppet play, flights of white cranes and bogatyr’s horses, sudden emergence and disappearance of wild animals.

The huge place in the opera is taken by crowd scenes. The people express sentiments to the events through lyrical maiden songs of the first act. Release of bogatyrs from dark ice torture chambers and a final scene - Tuyaryma Kuo's reviviscence - ended with universal jubilation and triumph. These scenes were put on in the best traditions of Method acting, each figure is a live person, an active participant of action in them.

The theater approved new acting style, looked for new ways and forms of creation of many-sided, complicated olonkho characters by music and the means of ancient traditional guttural song “dje-buo” (djieretii yrya - roughly translated, it means “drawling, smooth song”).

After the first performance in Moscow N. Kemarskaya, the director of The Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre, honored actress of the Russian SFSR, spoke with admiration: “The opera which we have just seen is a true masterpiece in the ordinary sense of the word. The first thing that pleases is a national spirit, uniqueness and originality. It is visible to be truly ethnical, Yakut, like no other. In this sense the opera “Nurgun Botur” is really enjoyable. It has the level of great professional art from the beginning to the end. I was especially amazed by folk scenes where artists played lively, sincerely and with great scenic freedom”.

The journalist N. Sibiryakov wrote about the premiere of the opera “Nurgun Botur” in Moscow in the newspaper “Socialist Yakutia”: “... The house calmed down, everyone was all attention, and suddenly by the end of the first scene the audience burst into applause. So the first success came. The further events of the play developed, the more applause redoubled and became heavier, more harmonious and closer. They reached the height when perfectly beautiful and plausible scene of the fiery sea, over which two warriors Nurgun Botur and Uot Usutaky standing on a rope over bottomless abyss fought to death, burst upon the eye of the audience. Applause turned into harmonious chant. Shouting is heard”.

Credits: Story

Alexey Ivanov, High Achiever in Culture of Sakha Republic (Yakutia), curator and coordinator of the project on inclusion of regional museums of Yakutia into the project "Google Cultural Institute" (e-mail: bylesha2@gmail.com)

Also following persons took part in organization of the exhibition:
Daria Popova, curator of the exhibition "Olonkho Nurgun Botur on the stage of the Sakha theatre. From the collections of the Yakut State Museum named after Em. Yaroslavsky"
Liia Egorova, scientific secretary
Kynney Illarionova, museum curator
Tatyana Starostina, museum curator
Yulia Illarionova, museum curator
Elizaveta Nikonova, museum curator
Alexander Bozhedonov (Storm), photographer

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions (listed below) who have supplied the content.
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