Le Coq d’Or, or The Golden Cockerel, was performed at the London Coliseum by the Moscow State Music Theatre for Young Audience as part of the Diaghilev Festival, celebrating the work of two Russian icons, Sergei Diaghilev and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Les Saisons Russes du XXI siècle. Based on a fairy tale by Alexander Pushkin, Diaghilev collaborated with innovative artists to create the piece, using both opera and ballet. This concept – having opera singers at the side of the stage, with dancers illustrating the story visually in the middle – struck me as rather modern, an interesting contrast to the reasonably accurate (based on archival evidence) representation of 1914 on stage. The set, with its opulent, cartoonish, almost childlike illustrations, seemed (intentionally) dated, but in a good way – it really took me back to a century ago.
Directed by Andris Liepa, the show, with music by Rimsky-Korsakov, was a complex tale about a Tsar who wanted peace in his kingdom. A magician gave him a golden cockerel which would crow whenever the land was threatened, allowing the Tsar and his retinue to relax and enjoy themselves until the enemy should come. Eventually, the Tsar met a beautiful princess, but naturally things did not end well.
Old-fashioned it was, but Le Coq d’Or was also a warm and entertaining ballet fairy tale, and I’m glad I saw it.