Modern-Day ‘Natalka-Poltavka’ Coming to Silver Screen
Ukrainian theaters are revisiting the classical play by Ivan Kotliarevsky in new ways
‘Natalka-Poltavka’ – written by Ivan Kotliarevsky 200 years ago and now one of the most popular Ukrainian plays – is being revisited by theaters and cinema in new ways.
As the story goes, Natalka loves Petro. But her mother wants her to marry an old civil servant. This causes the girl a great deal of suffering.
At Kyiv’s Ivan Franko National Dramatic Theater, Natalia Yaroshenko plays Natalka, a role she has been performing since 2005.
“She is a person of integrity, she never doubts her principles. She believes in her love, and for her it’s absolute. It’s love for her native land, for traditions, for principles that her family and environment share. It is a very meaningful play,” Yarosheko said.
Kotliarevsky’s play has been adopted by many composers, but Mykola Lysenko’s opera became the mainstay in theater repertoires. In the Ivano Franko Theater’s production, contemporary arrangements by Oleh Skrypka were added to Lysenko’s music.
“We fool around a bit with the musical part of the play. Oleh Skrypka’s trick with the music was to shift the rhythm a bit. Some Ukrainian songs get a samba rhythm. It gives it so much more drive,” honored artist of Ukraine, Dmytro Chernov said.
The play became popular outside of Ukraine back in the 19th century. This production was performed in Moscow, Chisinau, and Riga. In Warsaw ‘Natalka Poltavka’ was performed two times a day because of popular demand.
“Many reviews included the phrase “a special Ukrainian souvenir.” That’s what they called it in Poland. We are very pleased that even after all these years, the theater is always sold out,” head of literature and drama department in Ivan Franko National Dramatic Theater, Natalia Ponomarenko said.
‘Natalka Poltavka’ was one of the first literary works written in colloquial Ukrainian.
“The challenge at the time was to prove that the Ukrainian language could be used to write serious and elevated works, and not just musical comedies. Kotliarevsky was the first among Ukrainian authors to use the Kyiv-Poltava dialect as a literary language, and it was a very successful debut,” Professor of Literature at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Rostyslav Semkiv said.
The play has also moved from stage to screen. Two film adaptations have already been produced. Now a third screen version, in a contemporary setting, is being filmed.