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The International Scientific Conference “Yuri Lyubimov. Theatre of Life” Took Place in RSAL

Date: 31.10.2017

On 28-29 September, the Russian State Art Library (RSAL) hosted a conference dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great director Yuri Petrovich Lyubimov.

The conference was organised by RSAL, together with the Yuri Lyubimov Charitable Foundation for the Development of Theatre Arts, the National Research University Higher School of Economics, and with the support of the State Institute for Art Studies It was one of the most important events of “The Century of Yuri Lyubimov” jubilee programme.

The impact of Yuri Lyubimov’s talent on the development of theatre arts in the world is a great and important theme. This was underscored by the programme of the International Scientific Conference “Yuri Lyubimov. Theatre of Life.” 

It is not by chance that the organiser of the conference was RSAL, where for many years work has been underway to gather documents associated with the work of the director. They have released two volumes of the bibliographic index of the Moscow Theatre on Taganka. Together Yuri Lyubimova, a reader of the library, RSAL has held exhibitions and presentations of books about theatre.

Conference participants, who included famous theatre experts, actors, and directors from around the world, gave presentations and reports. The programme aroused substantial interest among the professional and independent researchers of Lyubimov’s creativity, theatre lovers, students at theatre universities, and representatives of mass media.

In opening the Conference, the Director of RSAL Ada Kolganova stressed that the event was primarily dedicated to the personality of Yuri Lyubimov, whose life was a bright, honest, and complicated path for the great master and citizen. It was not a traditional scientific event, but a cultural step towards the understanding and study of the Theatre of Life of Yuri Lyubimov.

The meeting began with a memoir portion where the first one to present his remembrances and theoretical views on theatre was composer Vladimir Martynov. He talked about an acquaintance he made in 1997, which developed into a life-long cooperation with Yuri Lyubimov. Martynov’s speech concluded with the words: “Lubimov is a relic of reverence. He lost his theatre, but remained a winner. There will not be any more such people.”

Actor, director, and screenwriter, Veniamin Smekhov recalled meeting Taganka actors with Yuri Lyubimov in 1988, in Madrid, where the theatre was on tour and Lyubimov was Director-in-exile. Smekhov is sure that “no matter how much time may pass, the names of Yuri Lyubimov, Vladimir Vysotsky, and David Borovsky will live forever in the history of the Theatre on Taganka.”

Ornella Calvarese and Marcello Gallucci, Italian professors at the Accademia di Belle Arti, spoke of meetings with Lyubimov in Italy, about how in a companionable atmosphere serious issues in theatre arts were discussed, including Lyubimov’s view on the Stanislavsky system. Lyubimov asserted that in art there is no “system,” rather there is “method,” i.e. craft.

The Italians always considered Lyubimov to be Russian to the bone and the Theatre on Taganka to be an “island of liberty.” In their opinion, topics still abound for future researchers on the creativity of the director.

Today, for instance, theatre arts experts are discovering many new interesting aspects of Yuri Lyubimov’s talent. For example, the report by Professor Beatrice Picon-Vallin of the Conservatoire national supérieur d’art dramatique was devoted to the exploration of Lyubimov’s musical productions, his understanding and perception of music, in particular, the interpretation of the Prince Igor opera at the Bolshoi Theatre.

Forty years of life have been devoted to the study of Soviet, then Russian, theatre by Vlasta Smolakova, PhD, from the Czech Republic, who in 1974, selected the Theatre on Taganka to be the theme of her graduate dissertation. Her speech was accompanied by a presentation of rare archival material on the tour of the Taganka in Czechoslovakia and its participation in theatre festivals.

On the first day of the conference, the “Breath of the Century” round table led by Aleksey Bartoshevich, PhD, gave event attendees and participants an opportunity to speak and exchange views.

During the two days of the conference, there were over 20 reports and presentations concerning research questions related to texts of performances, features of prose productions, Lyubimov’s very first director’s report in the Vakhtangov Theatre, and the director’s last performance at the Theatre on Taganka…. There were reminiscences of meetings with the master by Turkish theatre expert Xuraman Novruzova; Laura Guerra, widow of writer Tonino Guerra; and director Mikhail Levitin. Eugenia Abelyuk and Elena Leenson—representatives of the newly formed National Research University Higher School of Economics’ Project Laboratory—presented the results of research on the creativity of Yuri Lyubimov and the director’s theatre in the 20th-21st centuries, and other Russian specialists.

Head of the Department of Scientific Information for RSAL Larisa Belikh demonstrated how to search library databases for a variety of information that may be of interest for those researching the artistry of the great director.

The Conference concluded with a speech by Katalin Lyubimova, Chairman of the Board of the Yuri Lyubimov Charitable Foundation for the Development of Theatre Arts.

For the 38 years of their life together, she was Yuri Lyubimov’s assistant, ally, and Muse: “I once asked my husband why he allowed himself to be treated so crudely. I received this answer: ‘If I pay attention to everything, I will not be able to make any productions.’”

Katalin Lyubimova presented new editions by Yuri Lyubimov that have been released by the Foundation. She gave a gift to RSAL of 100 Contemporaries on Lyubimov books with the inscription: “With gratitude for many years of friendship and loyalty. Yours, Katalin Lyubimova.”

The Conference was a serious scientific event and fascinating memorial meeting that opened a new page on the life and works of Yuri Petrovich Lyubimov. A collection of articles from the conference is being released.