Vladimir Rannev. Kitezh

8 Apr–30 Sep 2022

One of the foundational myths of Russian culture—the legend of the city of Kitezh—dates back to the Tatar-Mongol era. It tells the story of how the besieged city of Kitezh was able, through the prayers of its inhabitants, to bury itself in the waters of Lake Svetloyar, and so escape Khan Batu’s invading forces. Lake Svetloyar, which is located in the Nizhny Novgorod region, remains a destination for pilgrimages to this day: it is believed that standing on its banks, one can still hear the bell tolls of the churches that sunk into its depths many hundreds of years ago.

At the turn of the twentieth century, a time during which eschatological feeling was particularly strong, the legend of Kitezh grew into a national symbol. Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya (1904) is imbued with premonitions of impending catastrophe, of the collapse of the usual order of things, of the rise of a new and unpredictable reality.

Image by Anya Todich

In compositions written in 2019 for V–A–C Foundation’s project DK Zattere, Vladimir Rannev deconstructs and rethinks the musical material of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera through the help of electronic sound processing. The static format of the sound installation is consonant with the stopped time in the sunken city, where, as Rimsky-Korsakov’s birds of paradise sing, “the eternal moment has come.” To Rannev’s mind, the city of Kitezh is above all an acoustic phenomenon: invisible, but clearly audible.

Vladimir Rannev (Moscow, 1970) is a composer. He graduated from the Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory and the Cologne University of Music. Rannev won the Sergey Kuryokhin Award in 2013 (for his 2012 opera, Two Acts), the Casta Diva Russian Opera Award in 2017, and a Golden Mask National Theatre Award in 2019 (his 2017 opera Prose won him the award for Best Composer). In 2019, Rannev took part in the DK Zattere project with his sound installation, Kitezh (V–A–C Zattere, Venice). In collaboration with Marina Alekseeva, Rannev is the author the installations In Chocolate (2019), Ready to Repeat (2019), and The Whole Shebang (2020).

Audio engineer: Andrey Titov-Vrublevksky