Campus News

Russian poet Yevtushenko to visit


Published October 18, 2012

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

In a bold and unique partnership that’s the first of its kind, UB and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will bring Russian novelist, essayist, dramatist, screenwriter, film director, actor and poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko to Buffalo Oct. 31 through Nov. 3 for four days of events highlighting his life’s work.

The Office of the Vice President for University Life and Services will host three events on the North Campus featuring Yevtushenko’s poetry and his work in film. He then will appear at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s performances of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar,” which was inspired by his works.

“It is a great privilege and pleasure to have a poet with Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s international stature read and talk with students and faculty at UB,” says Cristanne Miller, Edward H. Butler Professor of Literature and chair of UB’s Department of English, which is a co-sponsor of the visit. “This will be an occasion to remember.”

Having said “Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers,” Yevtushenko in 1960 reinforced these words by being the first Russian poet to break through the Iron Curtain to recite his poetry to the West.

The following year, he wrote what would become his most famous poem, “Babi Yar,”which critiqued Soviet and international anti-Semitism through its powerful evocation of the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev. The ravine is the location of the largest single massacre of the Holocaust, where almost 34,000 Jews were killed over a two-day period in September 1941. Yevtushenko’s poem “Babi Yar” inspired Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich to write his “Symphony No. 13.” Shostakovich and Yevtushenko are credited with keeping the memory of Babi Yar alive and thwarting the Soviet government’s attempts to suppress it.

“Yevtushenko is one of Russia’s greatest national treasures and a living link to one of its most eminent composers,” says JoAnn Falletta, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra music director. “I am very excited and honored to work with him. His words will make our performance of Shostakovich’s ‘Symphony No. 13’ more powerful and expressive than it ever would have been on its own. This concert is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it’s a concert we’re proud to present to the people of Western New York.”

Tanya Shilina-Conte, UB assistant professor of media study, describes Yevtushenko’s cinematic work as “intimate, psychological, metaphorical and has an experimental quality that closely resembles the tradition of the American avant-garde cinema of the 1940s.”

The schedule of events for Yevtushenko’s visit to Western New York:

  • Oct. 31, 7 p.m., 112 Center for the Arts: Screening of “Stalin’s Funeral,” directed by Yevtushenko and starring Vanessa Redgrave, Alexei Batalov and Yevtushenko himself. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Yevtushenko on this film and his other film work. Free and open to the public.
  • Nov. 1, 4-5 p.m. Poetry Collection, 420 Capen Hall. Open discussion and Q&A with UB students and Yevtushenko. Free and open to the public.
  • Nov. 1, 7 p.m., Lippes Concert Hall, Slee Hall. Yevtushenko poetry reading, followed by a reception and book signing. Free, but tickets are required.
  • Nov. 2, 10:30 a.m., and Nov. 3, 8 p.m., Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo. Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra performances of Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 13,” featuring the men of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and Metropolitan Opera bass vocalist Mikhail Svetlov as soloist. Yevtushenko will read “Babi Yar,” the poem that inspired “Symphony No. 13.” The program also will include Shostakovich’s “Piano Concerto No. 2,” with guest pianist Michael Boriskin. Tickets start at $27. Visit the BPO’s website or call 885-5000 for tickets and information. The concert is sponsored by M&T Bank, with special funding from the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.