(Alexandra Guzeva’s article appeared on Russia Beyond the Headlines, 5/5.)

U.S. pop-opera “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace” received 12 nominations at the prestigious Tony Awards. RBTH now remembers who else staged Russian classic novels in an unusual way.

1. Open air rock-opera Crime and Punishment

During the summer of 2016 Londoners were treated to a great show. The classic novel Crime and Punishment, written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 150 years ago, was reinvented as a true rock musical in the hands of the British director Phil Willmott.

In Willmott’s version, the protagonist Raskolnikov is not a dark character tormented by demons, but more of a hero, a fighter for truth and faith who doesn’t want the old lady

While Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov suffers from torments of conscience after the murder, Willmott’s character is more aggressive, expressing his feelings with rock ballads and scenes that at times verged on comedy. In one episode, crowds of ugly old women with bloody heads dance around Raskolnikov, driving him to the brink of insanity.

Sonya Marmeladova, Raskolnikov’s love interest, performed by the red-haired Rachel Delooze, echoes Magdalena from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar and Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones.

2. Pushkin’s Fairy Tales

This work is a collaboration between the prominent stage director Robert Wilson and Moscow’s Theater of Nations. Wilson’s production is far from the iconic interpretations of these folklorish tales, which fire up many people’s imaginations, especially after looking at the famous illustrations by Ivan Bilibin.

The characters are not traditional Russian tsars or a swan-maidens –  like in every Wilson production they become freaks with chalk-white faces painted in the Japanese style.

Add oriental motifs accompanied by music from American duet CocoRosie – with elements of rap – and it’s fair to say the vibe is a little different to what people might expect from Pushkin’s tales.

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