Konstantin Meladze about The Great Gatsby

Konstantin is currently writing music for a choreographic adaptation of the famous F.S. Fitzgerald novel “The Great Gatsby” in collaboration with a Ukrainian dancer, world ballet star Denis Matvienko and an American choreographer Dwight Rhoden.

Konstantin, the idea of creating such a performance is very bright. It is already clear that the ballet will be rather extraordinary. How did this idea come to be?

We started talking and thinking about this back in Autumn 2012. In the beginning there was simply a will to unite Denis’s efforts, and mine but there was no clear scenario. Gradually we came to the idea of producing a ballet based on “The Great Gatsby” novel. This work was capable of bringing together an American choreographer Dwight Rhoden, who is considered to be one of the most sought out choreographers of the day, Denis Matvienko with his skills as a dancer, who works in contemporary as well as classical ballet, and, well, my skills. You can say that here I am a stranger.

Why a stranger?

I was invited to write music for a ballet, which I have never done before. Perhaps, that’s the primary reason why I accepted this job in the first place, albeit not immediately. I have a very busy schedule, a lot of pressure, so for a while I couldn’t venture to take up “The Great Gatsby”. However, I was very interested. I always try to take up something new, something outside “my” genre. Working out the same muscle is boring and leads to an overload. I’ve been working on pop music for all my life, sometimes I write music for film, which is unlike what I do in show business, and have tried a few times in musicals. And now there’s ballet. The first act is almost finished; the second one will be ready by July, followed by rehearsals in St. Petersburg. It is there that the production process will take place as Denis Matvienko lives and works there, and the majority of artists will be from St. Petersburg. Premiere will take place in October.

You have a bright international team.

It is rather symbolic that three countries and three cultures are united here. It happened that the project became international not only by geography of the scheduled performances but also by the participants: choreographer Dwight Rhoden – an American, leading man and art-director Denis Matvienko – a Ukrainian, who works in Russia, and me – a Ukrainian. Countries, which are now in quite an unusual relationship, are uniting to create something great, and moreover – something creative and positive.

So now you’re at a stage in your life where you sit down and write symphonic music?

Yes, this process is not visually vivid. You simply sit down and write. It will get vivid once we start rehearsing with the orchestra in Kiev, and with the troupe in St. Petersburg.

Writing a ballet you’re dealing with the 20s style of music, earlier in “Ottepel” series with the 60s music. It must be interesting to sink into and reinterpret retro?

Yes, I’d also note 50’s music, which we did with Valeriy Todorovsky for the “Stiliagi” film. Every time it’s something unlike what I’d done before, which is a good thing. As per “The Great Gatsby”, 20’s music will be spread as a fine line throughout the ballet, as otherwise it would be nothing but big-bands.

I wanted more of the symphonic music, as likely the ballet will be performed at the Mariinsky theatre. This instills on me certain responsibility to maintain the genre. I do not yet have a clear vision of how it will all work out – it seems like too many incompatibilities are coming together. But one thing is for sure: when dilettantes take up a project – it turns out quite interesting and entertaining. I can look at the ballet genre from the outside and bring in something fresh. I can imagine the disapproval it can agitate in ballet lovers and connoisseurs of classical music. But we are trying to broaden the circle of ballet appreciators, who avoided it before thinking it to be too elitist. That’s why we are creating a performance that can be seen not only in theatres but also on big stages.

Did you look for inspiration in classical ballet?

I recently went for Denis Matvienko benefit performance in Kiev. I was astonished. It was actually that night that I made the decision to commit to writing the music for the ballet. After that I went to see “Nutcracker” in the Vienna Opera. Now, I watch many performances online – mainly classical ballet. If you are after inspiration – it is best to get it from the primary source – it is a great kind of art. It is contemporary, bright and timely in modernity. Perhaps due to some prejudices it seems to be elitist. I am sure that those who like light pop genre would understand and enjoy the ballet.

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