One of the world’s leading vocal ensembles for new music EXAUDI presents the UK premiere of Russia : Today, a documentary opera by composer Eugene Birman, known for his bold musical experiments on socially and politically relevant themes. In the context of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, this work, ingeniously written in the form of a Russian Orthodox requiem, sounds more poignantly and acutely than ever.
Over the course of 2017-2019, hundreds of Russian-speaking citizens living adjacent to and inside Russia sent anonymous recordings of what they really think about the country, what it was, is, and will be. The Guggenheim- and RPS-award winning composer Eugene Birman, working with librettist Scott Diel, set their words verbatim to music, a prophetic ‘requiem for the nation’ titled Russia : Today. After a controversial and timely world premiere on the EU-Russia border in September 2021, the work is presented in the UK for the very first time.
“I see great changes happening now. I’m dreading that in Russia it will lead to a revolution as usual. I don’t see Russia as a threat…but just in case, we have a plan. An escape route…” A young woman from Latvia, anonymous recorded submission to the Russia: Today research project (2017).
“What was Russia, what is Russia, what will Russia become?” were the questions I asked hundreds of people in the Baltic states, Finland, and in Russia itself. The music is just a trick to get one to listen. In thinking about the past, present, and future, one inevitably comes to the ritual that celebrates these same temporalities. It seems inevitable that a piece of music touching both the Russian identity and the Russian politics today has to somehow also encompass the Russian faith. Eugene Birman, composer (2020).
The visual element of the performance is a special commission by video artist and filmmaker Alexandra Karelina. Her abstract video (2021) is a reflection on Russia as a timeless space.
The piece is performed in the libretto’s original languages: Russian, English, Finnish and German, with surtitles in English and Russian.
The proceeds from the ticket sales will be donated to support the war refugees in Ukraine via Sunrise charity, and those experiencing the political repression in Russia, via OVD Info, an independent media project focused on human rights and political persecution.
With special thanks to Climate Art.
This performance will last approximately 1hr.