A century ago in 1918, Lithuania declared its independence, renouncing any ties with Poland, Russia or Germany--not that it lasted. Prior to WWII, Lithuania was again overrun by Germany, then by the Soviets. It was not until 1990 that ties with Moscow were severed. To commemorate the 100th anniversary on October 6th, 2018, 55 Lithuanian performers arrived at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago (world’s second largest Lithuanian city) to perform a magnificent testament to Lithuanian history and culture, The Legend of Zygimantas Augustas and Barbora Radvilaite.
Baltic Politics – Some Things Rarely Change
The history of Zygimantas and Barbora is mid-16th century, when Poland ruled Lithuania, looking down upon their rougher subjects. The actual records are spotty; hence the legend grew. To the consternation of the dowager Polish queen Bona Sforza, her son, the heir, takes up with the beautiful Lithuanian Barbora, who first becomes his lover and then his wife. This act precludes his marriage to a European royal to advance the Polish crown. But their love is pure and true for Barbora has not a political nor malicious bone in her body. Miscarriages and the stress of royal life take their toll and Barbora dies five years into her marriage.
So Much More Than a Rock Opera
The Legend of Zygimantas Augustas and Barbora Radvilaite is billed as a rock opera. That does not accurately describe the lushness of the many elements: traditional opera, folk music, pop songs, dramatic choral ensembles--composed by Kipras Masanauskas, libretto by Roman Lileikis. Anzelika Cholina directed and choreographed. 32 dancers performed classical ballet, folk dance, duets, groups and full ensembles, while moving among the 56 members of the Lithuanian choral ensemble Dainava. The costumes were evocative of the 16th century, lush in fabric and movement, but without adornment, save the royal crowns. The Legend of Zygimantas Augustas and Barbora Radvilaite is, in this writer’s view, a masterpiece of stagecraft. Kudos to Anzelika Cholina and the entire ensemble.
Lithuanian Talent at Its Best
The individual performers were iconic in their roles. Mantas Jankavicius and Karina Krysko-Skambine were passionate, yet gentle lovers singing lyrical pop music. Rokas Spalinskas and Gitana Peckyte were the old king and queen, dramatic in operatic solos and duets. Jeronimas Milius and Tadas Juodsnukis sang the roles of Barbora’s brother and cousin, savvy to the ways of court and looking to benefit from their family’s nearness to power. Rafailas Karpis and Dominykas Vaitiekunas were diminutive jesters who inserted themselves into every scene save the love duets. They were buffoons and song and dance men.
The evening’s tragedy is this was the only performance. Like a beautiful insect trapped forever in amber, The Legend of Zygimantas Augustas and Barbora Radvilaite is preserved in the hearts of the 3,900 fortunate to attend the sold-out performance.
Click link here more information about the Auditorium Theater 2018/2019 season.,
All Photos by Sandra Scedrina
Reviewer Ann Boland is committed to Chicago theater. Involved in the audience since the early 80’s, she’s witnessed firsthand the rise of our theater scene, our exceptional local talent, and the vigor of each new generation. Ann handles public relations for authors and works on programs to help seniors with neurological movement disorders. Please visit her website for more information.
Click here to read more Picture this Post reviews by Ann Boland.