Author: Valentina REZNIKOVA
Natalya Baliyeva is the Honoured Artist of Azerbaijan, actress of the Samed Vurghun Azerbaijan State Academic Russian Drama Theatre, a graduate of the Yaroslavl Theatre School (1975). This year she will turn 65 years old and 45 years old as a professional actress. During these years, the actress has created 60 diverse characters in classical and modern plays, including comedies, dramas and melodramas. Her characters usually are strong women who know exactly what they want. These include Komelkova in Азори здесь тихие…, Kapochka in Праздничный сон до обеда, Shurochka in Иванов by Anton Chekhov, Marianne in Moliere’s Tartuffe, Gerarda in L. de Vega’s La discreta enamorada, Charlotte in J. Cocteau’s Les Monstres sacrés, Polina Andreevna in A. Chekhov’s Чайка and so on.
When a girl, who begins to try on her mother's outfits and makes something unthinkable on her head using mom’s scarves and hats when she barely reaches the age of three, that girl is usually called ‘a growing actress’. The same was true in the Yerrmolayevs’ family, where Natasha BALIYEVA was born. Her memory still keeps the moments associated with her first attempts to transform herself, to feel like someone else.
"I grew up in a house with no gas, but a stove heated with wood. When I was alone in the room with wood crackling in the stove in winter, I used to put a cape on my head and imagine myself a queen. Or I would put it around my waist to become a servant."
By the way, many actresses remember their childhood with such moments of role-playing games, which then grew into interest and active self-expression through amateur theatrical circles at their schools. So was in the life of Natalya Gennadiyevna. She studied well at school and had good grades in both humanities and exact sciences. Natasha's parents considered their daughter's hobbies as something funny, which all children have.
"Mom wanted me to become a doctor, because I loved to heal sick birds and pets. I enjoyed working with them, applying bandages and lubricating their wounds. Dad thought I would become a very good economist."
"Probably because, while still a high school student, I was able to very reasonably manage the family budget. Dad admired this virtue of mine, so he hoped I would become an economist one day.”
However, Natalya took her own way, and after graduating from high school, moved from Samara to Yaroslavl to satisfy her childhood dream of becoming a theatrical actress. In her 17, the girl looked very good and could impress everyone not only with her excellent external characteristics, but also with a tough and ambitious character. However, she admits that she experienced fear at her admission exams.
"Sergei Konstantinovich Tikhonov, who was a student of Vera Pashennaya, was forming his class. His name was enough to scare me!”
Vera Pashennaya is a leading actress of the Maly Theatre of Russia, a living legend of the Russian stage that the Soviet people remember from films Васса Железнова or Волки и овцы. She was a symbol of the Russian theatrical psychological school, and, of course, the applicants to the class of her student acknowledged him as an indisputable authority. However, despite the fears and anxiety, Natalya passed the entrance exams successfully and was admitted to the department of Drama Acting. It is not hard to imagine her feelings in front of her teacher at that famous schoold!
"Our class had two groups with a total of 54 students. By the graduation, only 16 of us remained in the class..."
Typically, in Russian artistic universities, students who do not qualify for the profession are sent down from the university. This is the highest manifestation of humanity because it is better to give a person a chance to reconsider his future professional career than letting him make his abode condemning the dramatic turns of fate, which will certainly happen in his artistic career.
"It was a wonderful class. My classmates were Russians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians... Love for profession, which allowed us to engage in both collective and individual creativity, united us. Our profession promised an interesting life associated with eternal movement forward."
“When you came to the theatre, you had a feeling that it was not only a creative community of people, but also a community of professional thoughts and collective research…”
"That’s true. When Yura and I came at the beginning of the 1975-1976 season, we were among the youngest actors who just graduated from a drama school. There were Yura, Nina Yarovatskaya and I. Shura Nikushina and others joined us a year later."
“And how was your life in the theatre?”
"It was wonderful and interesting! As soon as we received our roles, we would immediately begin to analyse our characters, to look for some peculiarities, nuances in them, to identify the causes and connections of conflicting relationships between them..."
By the way, the Baliyevs ended up in the Samed Vurghun Theatre accidentally. In Soviet times, university graduates were provided with jobs. The just-married Natalya and Yuri Baliyevs were offered an option to choose between theatres in Vologda and Almaty. They chose Almaty. In the summer, they came to Baku for their last vacation, hoping to spend it by the sea and to visit Yuri's mother before they depart to Almaty. But Yura's mother was ill and it would be wrong to leave her alone during this period. So, the young couple went to the Russian Drama Theatre and got an appointment with the director.
"It was our first meeting with Enver Mejidovich Behbudov. We played for him and the artistic council parts from The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Прошлым летом в Чулимске, Женитьба Бальзаминова, and were accepted to the troupe. Yura immediately left for Moscow, to the USSR Ministry of Culture, to re-register his new place of employment as the Samed Vurghun Russian Drama Theatre."
That’s how the 1975-1976 season paved the way for the young family’s professional career. They had lots of work to do both in ongoing performances and with new roles.
“Do you have nostalgia for the past?”
"No. Rather a nostalgia for the present. Each time period has its own right to act. Speaking of our theatre in the present tense, I mean that I miss the theatre as a profession. This is what nostalgia for the present means for me. I often think that a profession of an actress is a very dependent one. It depends on many moments and factors of daily human, not professional life."
"You have been on stage for 45 years. But in these years, you did not have a remarkable romantic affair with cinema and the media..."
"That’s true. I had at most six or seven roles in cinema. Frankly speaking, I don’t like playing for cinema much. In theatre, if something went wrong today, you can make it better tomorrow. Unfortunately, this is impossible in cinema. As for media, according to Stanislavsky's system, I value the art in myself, not myself in the art. People nowadays do not feel ashamed and are even encouraged to get engaged in self-promotion, but when my husband and I started in this profession, the things were different. We were taught that a real artist should be humble because modesty beautifies. This is how my husband and I built our human and professional lives."
“Do you regret that you did not become more entrepreneurial in the past?”
"This makes no sense."
“What do you want for yourself today?”
"Good roles, with interesting characters and difficult fates of heroines. The ones that have something to tell to the audience, are able to maintain a continuous dialogue exciting for both parties. I want to visit the theatre as if it were my home, and see the faces of people I know and with whom I share my work. I want to be sure that my professional colleagues will go on the stage with me today and tomorrow, and I can rely on them as my partners, because they are able to professionally respond to any of your messages during the performance."
“What would be your reaction, had you been offered a role in a play staged, say, by a completely inexperienced director, a college graduate?”
“I would enjoy the chance. I am ready for any kind of adventure!”
“Who would you like to play today?”
"It doesn't really matter. I wish I could play and go on stage as much as possible. I don’t feel incapacitated physically. I feel in good physical shape!”
"Your 45-year anniversary on the stage coincides with the centennial anniversary of your theatre. What would you wish for yourself, your colleagues and the leadership of the theatre?”
"I will not be original and will tell you what I think and feel now. I wish myself new roles and new attitude of directors to myself. To my colleagues, who are ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of art and the audience, I wish good creative and professional madness, which always develops into love and professional obsession. To those who are not ready to sacrifice and do not understand what it means to be obsessed with creativity and love for acting, I would advise leaving the theatre without looking back and as quickly as possible. Otherwise, their life will pass by. It will be wasted. To the leadership and all of us obsessed with the theatre, I wish long years of creative life, health and love of the audience. True, sincere love, which will create queues at the box office and in the hall. I also want that no one leaves their loved ones anymore, no more wars, no coronaviruses, no crises, no cataclysms. I wish all of us had a chance to do what we love to do. Always! As long as we live..."