Vera Vasilyeva: "Greater caution required when one shows off while working with great artworks"
Actress Vera Vasilyeva works at the Moscow Satire Theatre since 1948. Her countless stage and television roles made her very popular decades ago. Today Vera Vasilieva told Vestnik Kavkaza about her signature roles and directors.
- Vera Kuzminichna, what is your favorite role?
- In 2018, there will be my 70th anniversary of working in theater, and I had two roles that are especially dear to me. When I was just a girl, I was to play a young actress who dreams of being on stage in Lev Gorych Sinichkin, where the great Vladimir Yakovlevich Henkin played my father. This role suited me very well. The next play, which was very dear to me when I was young - Bride with a Dowry, which was staged by the great director Boris Ivanovich Ravenskih. This performance was played 900 times and awarded the Stalin Prize. My first roles were cute dreamy girls, who love the theater. They were just right for me both in terms of age and the spirit.
As time went on, there were years without any interesting roles. But suddenly, there was The Marriage of Figaro, which I love very much; The Government Inspector, which was staged by Valentin Pluchek, our chief director, who headed our theater for many decades; The sword of Damocles by Nazim Hikmet. The theater was very successful back then, we visited Paris, received various awards for The Bedbug and The Bathhouse.
When my age started to require other roles, I had to wait for a long time. There were difficult years. I tried to play the roles I dreamed of, in the theaters of Orel and Tver, which staged Cherry Orchard and Guilty Without Fault. I really wanted to play Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard, and she was played by a young actress Raechka Etush, who was very charming an sweet. Therefore, I played this role in another theater for 10 years and was happy.
However, unexpectedly in the last decade of my work in the theater, I suddenly began to receive exceptionally good roles - I was already ripe for other female characters, for other feelings.
- What were these roles?
- I play roles about which I did not dare to dream. And it happens right now in my theater. I played Moliere's wife in Bulgakov's Moliere (The Cabal of Hypocrites) in a way as I always perceived the wives of great directors, great playwrights - as women who feel that they love a genius, and it is not easy to live with a genius. But if this woman is worthy, and I though that my heroine is, then she considers herself to be the guardian angel of this genius, his companion, to whom she dedicate herself with all her fidelity and love. I played it with pleasure. Alexander Shirvindt was a great Moliere - a strong man who hates the servility to great leaders.
I also play in Ornifle now. This is a charming performance, where Alexander Anatolyevich plays a cynic, who has ruined many women's hearts during his life, and I play his wife, whom he does not love. She is deeply worried, but pretending not to be. This role is close to me, at least from sympathy for the woman, who has such a husband - talented, handsome, charming, but not succumbing to her heart.
I play the countess in The Queen of Spades at the Maly Theater. This performance was staged specially for Elina Bystritskaya, but she was seriously ill at the time of the premiere. The Little Theater asked me on her proposal, and Andrei Zhitinkin introduced me to this play. There's a very friendly atmosphere there. After getting the part, I thought about how I would play such an old woman. Then I realized that the countess, according to the play, was 80 years old, and I was 90. Reflections on the age is rather dramatic side of life, but it was good for me in this role. It seemed to me that all the whims, all despotism, all the malice come from the fact that once everything was fine, and when you are old, everything is terrible and lonely. To get away from this, the Countess's behavior is not charming. The audience thinks it's fully, but I understand what it means to be lonely or useless. This role for me is both reflection and sympathy, and a sharp look at how disgusting it is to be such an unpleasant person.
The Requiem per Radames was staged by a wonderful, unpredictable director Roman Viktyuk for Olga Aroseva, me and the great singer Elena Obraztsova. I had the impression that people go to watch this play to thank us for the life we lived, for dedicating ourselves to the theater. This kindness gave us strength. But destiny played its card and both Olga Aroseva and Elena Obraztsova left our land, the play was closed.
I am delighted to play the main role in Andrei Zhitkin's Fatal Attraction. The role is amazing, because in her the actress is living it, from head to foot - with all the good, and with all the bad qualities. I have lived all my life in the theater, all filled with knowledge of the theater, dreams, pain, fun, everything that can be shown in this role. I play my heroine both stupid and narcissistic, deep, and touching like a child. She can be mortally offended in one minute, but make her feel on top of the world in the next one. I want the audience to understand how we love our job, how we can share both our grief and our love with the audience. This is a rare gift to me, probably because I was faithful to the theater.
- What does it mean for you to be an actress of Moscow Satire Theatre and what distinguishes Satire Theater from others?
- When I came to the Theater of Satire, it scourged the shortcomings of society, the shortcomings of people. I dreamed of another theater, but I was welcomed so warmly that I could not leave even without any roles. This is my family. Life gave me luxurious stage and television roles as well.
- One of your first films is Ballad of Siberia. What was it like working with Ivan Pyriev?
- I would say only good things about him, he was different - insanely talented, doing a lot of good for people, a powerful and flowing man. If something went wrong on set, it was a landslide, he demanded a total self-devotion from any participant in the film crew. He was feared, loved and appreciated, because he helped people.
He could spoil the career of those actresses who fell into the realm of his desires, but he did not work out with them. There was something similar with me. While we were shooting, Pyryev was attentive to me - passing by, he could give me a pat on the head, fix my headscarf, call me "baby" or "sweetheart". However, after the shooting, he invited me to a conversation. I was just finishing the theater school, I was happy, because I thought that there was a new role for me to play. But he thought that some kind of love affair was possible ... for a week. I was not ready for this, and then he said: "You will have no parts anymore." I was surprised that such a good person suddenly finished our ideal relations during the shooting in such a way. But I've never been angry with Pyryev. He appeared in my life like a magician, changing everything, because with my modesty and imperceptibility, I probably was destined for the sad fate of the actress. And thanks to Pyriev I was raised by his picture, the award - the Stalin Prize. All my life I've been grateful for this to him. I am absolutely sure that such powerful people really need inspiration, some kind of internal explosion. Pyryev has a hot temper, a huge inner world, which he later showed in films based on Dostoevsky's works. In the Soviet era, he shot fairy tales about our life, but his soul, apparently, wanted to shoot the Idiot.
- Vera Kuzminichna, you have a lot of books at home. Do you like to read?
- I'm glad that I have them. It's great. I really like reading. But the books do not fit anymore - they lie on the balcony, on a chair, at my goddaughter's summer house.. I really like classical literature - both Western and Russian. Now I'm reading Anna Kuznetsova. She is a very talented theater critic, she writes a lot about the Maly Theater, about the director Boris Ravenskih. I read it with pain in my soul, because I did not know how difficult it was for him to be in the Maly Theater. I treat this director with the greatest reverence, love and gratitude. I read how hard it was for him, and I feel very sorry for him.
- Do you often go to the theater as a spectator?
- Yes, but I do not really like modern perusal, especially when I feel that they want to change the classics. Time always dictates its manner of play, but I do not like it when directors "needlepoint" themselves in a pattern woven by a writer or a playwright. Not every director is a genius, therefore, a greater caution required when one shows off while working with great artworks.
But I get a great deal of pleasure in watching works of talented directors and actors. From young actresses I really like Julia Peresild. I was very fond of Marina Neelova in Sovremennik Theatre. I liked actresses who had good roles, because they had something to play, and they were touching in those roles - Rufina Nifontova, Constancia Royek in the Maly Theater. In the Moscow Art Theater, I liked Alla Tarasova, Olga Androvskaya, Angelina Stepanova, Maria Babanova, Alisa Koonen. When a talented person is on stage, you want to go to the theater and see this actor or actress repeatedly, in different roles, watch, hear them playing and rehearsing. So I continue to love the theater as a spectator.
- Vera Kuzminichna, you are bright and cheerful person. Please tell us how to stay positive.
- Why do you think that I'm cheerful?
- You have smiling eyes, with a spark.
- I do not consider myself to be cheerful. I consider myself patient, because life is not only joy. I'm grateful for the joy, and when there are bad times, I have the patience to live and hope. So, I do not have such a secret.