An interview with an expert: Alexander Zinchenko

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It hasn't been less than a month as at the historic scene of Bolshoi Theatre a long-awaited premiere of "Manon Lescaut" opera has been performed. It literally blew up the cultural life of the capital. Starring Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov, amazing music of Puccini, bold scenery made the audience go crazy. Meanwhile, there was a heroine who has never said a word within the time she was on stage. They failed to notice it because she was six meters high and weighed about two tons. The reason of her being silent might be easily explained. She was a doll. She was made in St. Petersburg for the show. MAINSTAGE.online met with Alexander Zinchenko, the creator of the plastic miracle.

Alexander Ilyich Zinchenko

The office of OOO "Otech" (short for "Obukhovskie technologies") is located in the building where the Obukhov factory, one of the oldest enterprises of the Russian defense industry, used to be located. We came to a small room with piles of drawings and poor St. Petersburg light barely breaking through the blinds. At the window in the room Alexander Ilyic' office we unexpectedly saw two drafting-boards.

- I used to work the old fashioned way - he laughs. - So it is clearer and easier psychologically.

"Anna Karenina", "The Tsar's Bride", "The Brothers Karamazov", "Boris Godunov", "Life for the Tsar" is a small part of a long list of performances for which Alexander I. and his team designed scenery and technical solutions. There is about a hundred all together. There are the best theaters of the country in his personal record, such as Bolshoi, Mariinsky, Alexandrinsky, Chekhov theatre, and Eifman’s theater... Alexander Ilyich does not remember all theaters he worked with, but remembers all the projects. He thinks that Manon Lescaut has been one of the most unusual for 15 years because he has never had a chance to make a gigantic doll.

The whole work took about four months. All actionas of a giant twin of heroine Manon Lescaut has been calculated: in her lover's arms she shyly covered her eyes, and when they are taken by the police, the doll randomly moves her hands.All the movements are controlled by the drives, hidden in a plastic body, which, by the way, can be unpuzzled, otherwise it will never reach Moscow. But the expert himself did not come to the first night. Although technical support is necessary, behind the scenes mechanics and electricians did their work. Still there were no surprises, the baby behaved impeccably. Alexander Ilyich was phoned and thanked. It's nice and he was really satisfied with his work.

"Otech" is specialied on heavy moving structures. If you need complex mechanics or control system - it is the right place to come. For example, "The Damnation of Faust" at the Bolshoi is one of the most technicallydifficult operas ever set in the theater according to Igor Suvorov, the head of the art-staging process. About a hundred technicians was needed to maintain a 16-tons structure. One of the legendary directors Peter Stein wanted the Hell to become real but not metaphorical, so the scene should yawns fan fancy petals, and Mephistopheles draws Faust to it. All this has also been made by Alexander Ilyich!

Or the scene at "The Flying Dutchman", where the wave of a conductor's baton on stage widen forty different levels of windows, from which the spectator was struck by the light. Of course, the ship itself, this project also came out of the walls of the studio at the Obukhov Factory. Here, in 1974, Alexander Ilyich began working as a lathe. Then graduated form Military Mechanic Institute with a degree in "Engineering" and returned to the plant as a mechanic, and then became the head of the department. He was the one who ran non-standard equipment. If someone told him then that thirty years later he will start the second stage of the Mariinsky Theatre he would not have believed. By the way, the Mariinsky historical stage model made for a gala concert hall still bothers Alexander Zinchenko. - I would gladly take it, - he smiles. – It was such a beauty! It would be possible to arrange a children's theater.

Without joking that project was one of the hardest, if terms of responsibility. But Alexander Ilyich is no stranger to it. After all, in addition to theatrical scenery, he also designs complex mechanisms for mining industry. He calls them "monsters". One of those on the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk overloads gold ore to and fro 40-feet barge. So, the doll is a kind of childish entertainment.

Now "Otech" workы on the production of decorations for the "Idiot", the opera by Mieczyslaw Weinberg on basis of the novel by Dostoevsky, the premiere of which will be in Bolshoi Theatre. They should solve the a technical challenge, but we will be able to tell after the first night.

The director of "Otech" calls the orders "little puzzles". He is sure that he is interested in solving any of them. The main thing, he says, is to comply with the laws of physics, because there are no more restrictions. In addition, each project is different, standard approaches cannot be always used. And who said that the mechanics has no room for creativity?

Anastasia Lozhko