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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


It's likely that most ballet and opera lovers have never seen a man dressed in a tutu on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater. At least, it was likely until now. On Wednesday, a male performer in a tutu will grace the famous theater's stage as a member of the cast of Sergei Prokofiev's opera "The Love of the Three Oranges." The story of a prince's search for three oranges (with princesses inside) and his ensuing battle against the evil witch Fata Morgana, the opera is stuck somewhere between the classical and the avant-garde. But whereas the classical status of "Three Oranges" is subject to debate, that of Alexander Dargomizhsky's opera written to an Alexander Pushkin's poem, "The Mermaid," which opens next week at the Bolshoi, is not.

Prokofiev wrote "Three Oranges" in 1919 and it was staged for the first time in Russia at Leningrad's Kirov (now Mariinsky) Theater in 1926. One year later, it was performed at the Bolshoi. But not without drawing the attention of Soviet authorities who felt the opera too closely mimicked Soviet bureaucracy. As a result of this, and the fact that the opera f with its unlikely costumes, pantomime and (in contemporary stagings) giant electric rat f was generally considered to be too coarse for the repertoire of the venerable Bolshoi, it was not performed in Russia again until 1999, when it was staged at the Bolshoi by well-known British director Peter Ustinov.

"It's difficult to say whether or not this opera is classic or contemporary," Ustinov said. "Because what was contemporary for Prokofiev in 1920 is classic today."

"The Love of the Three Oranges" (Lyubov k Tryom Apelsinam) plays at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

"The Mermaid" (Rusalka) opens at 7 p.m. on June 27. The Bolshoi Theater is located at 1 Teatralnaya Ploshchad. Metro Teatralnaya. Tel. 292-9986.

f Elena Ryumina