On July 2, 2016, St. Pete’s Music Hall hosted Moscow’s Ermolova Theatre musical performance of Dream Orchestra: Brass (which originally premiered in December 2011) created by its artistic director Oleg Menshikov. This performance alternated between Menshikov’s sweetly-nostalgic and optimistically light-hearted stories, memories, and favourite songs, as well as performances of thirty multi-talented musicians, who brought the many melodies that inspired and influenced the narrator’s work since childhood to a sold-out theatre.
One of Menshikov’s earliest films was Along Main Street with an Orchestra (По главной улице с оркестром, 1986), where he played a young student, still relatively unknown, but already highly talented, and in conceptualizing this musical performance almost thirty years later, one of the main themes that runs through the whole piece is that of dreams and wishes. This is where the dream orchestra comes in.
“How can we stop a moment?” Menshikov asked in his opening monologue, “How can we catch it, distill it? And how can we savour and feel our memories and make them active parts of our lives? By writing them down, as I discovered.” And while he wrote, his head filled with melodies and music, which he knew were indivisible from his memories. And so, the idea for this personal, narrative, and musical performance came to life. As he shared fragments of his life and work, accompanied by music dear to him at different moment of his life, the audience was touched simultaneously by his ability to tug at their heart-strings, and reach them all emotionally – regardless of age, gender, or life experiences – and by the young orchestra’s virtuosity and ability to move them rhythmically. This mindfully and lovingly selected mixed-tape of Menshikov’s high-cultured taste included: Verdi’s choir, Ravel’s “Bolero,” Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack,” Benny Goodman’s”Sing Sing Sing,” Peggy Lee’s “Fever” and many other dearly beloved hits.
When describing the first time he saw Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, Menshikov gave words to the transformative force of true art: “Happiness can be black-and-white. The world seemed to have changed, even if we know it hasn’t. But in its score appeared new, previously unknown notes.” In an attempt to capture this transformative energy, he begged to borrow Michael Kazakov’s rare (for those times in the East) record of Nino Rotta’s music to Fellini’s films, which he listened to millions of times, and which filled him with true joy and became the soundtrack of his youth.
True art has the power to make us forget about time and space, and to inspire greatness. Even without understanding art fully, we can be moved deeply by it, as it reaches us at the very core. True artists can command this energy of art, transmit it, make it accessible, make it believable, and tangible. They remind us, even for brief moments, that there is incredible depth and beauty and meaning in art, in music, in performance, in narratives, and that our lives are more than the accumulation of days and things and even memories. With this joyful celebration of dreams, music, art, and creative work, Menshikov managed to get at the essence and to transmit this energy to almost 1,500 people in the audience, who thanked him with a long, standing ovation, and a mountain of flowers.
“Dreams have to come true,” Menshikov insisted. “Surely. Even despite time. Time, which hurries, stretches, pressures, hastes. And dreams can fade, melt, leave and move on to someone else. But don’t let that happen. Resist! Bring that dream back!” He inspired the audience not to be put off by folksy expressions like “fate plays with an individual.” – “That’s all rubbish!” he noted, “Today, I’m challenging fate, and making my dream come true! And so, here we are, before you, I and the actualization of my dream.”
Photos by Ermolova Theatre