The ’13’ is a lucky number at the Vakhtangov theatre. And, first of all, it’s the date of Vakhtangov’s birthday. The 13 of February, 1883.
A brilliant student of Konstantin Stanislavsky, Vakhtangov succeeded by the early 1920s in reconciling the naturalistic acting techniques of his master with the bold experiments of Vsevolod Meyerhold. His departure from naturalism in the direction of greater theatricality gave rise to some of the most original productions of the Russian post-Revolutionary theatre. In 1920 he took charge of the Third Workshop, which was a subsidiary studio of the Moscow Art Theatre, and gradually led that company toward a “fantastic realism.” He made use of masks, music, dance, and boldly abstract costume and scenery design in pursuit of a theatre that would offer the popular audience dreams, fantasy, and satire rather than a mirror of itself.
The beginning of the Vakhtangov Theatre is the Miracle of Saint Anthony (premiered on the 13th of November, 1921). Though, the world-known production by Vakhtangov is Carlo Gozzi’s Chinese fairy tale Turandot. He introduced commedia dell’arte techniques and had actors dress and make up on the stage and stagehands change sets in view of the audience. The production of Turandot, which was begun when Vakhtangov was fatally ill, was nevertheless infused with the gaiety, charm, and optimistic humanity that were characteristic of his work. After the dress rehearsal he was confined to bed, and he died three months later at age 39.