Aleksei Dmitrievich Popov

Popov, Aleksei Dmitrievich

 

Born Mar. 12 (24), 1892, in the city of Nikolaevsk, now Pugachev, Saratov Oblast; died Aug. 18, 1961, in Moscow. Soviet stage director, theoretician of theater arts, and teacher. People’s Artist of the USSR (1948); Doctor of Art Studies (1957). Member of the CPSU since 1954.

Popov studied at an art school in Kazan. In 1912 he became an actor in the Moscow Art Theater. From 1918 to 1923 he was an actor and director in the Theater of Studio Productions in Kostroma and was also the theater’s manager. Here, following the traditions of the Moscow Art Theater, he staged a number of plays, including Berger’s The Deluge, Dickens’ The Cricket on the Hearth, and An Evening Dedicated to the Paris Commune. From 1923 to 1930, Popov was a director in the Third Studio of the Moscow Art Theater, since 1926 called the Vakhtangov Theater. Here he helped establish Soviet dramaturgy by staging Seifullina and Pravdukhin’s Virineia (1925) and Lavrenev’s The Break (1927). From 1930 to 1935 he was the artistic director of the Theater of the Revolution, where his productions of N. F. Pogodin’s Poem of the Ax (1931), My Friend (1932), and After the Ball (1934) convincingly depicted the heroic nature of socialist construction.

Popov’s directing truthfully and comprehensively revealed the inner world of man in the new socialist society. This talent was most fully revealed in his work at the Central Theater of the Red (now Soviet) Army (CTSA), which Popov headed from 1935 to 1960. There he staged large-scale heroic folk productions extolling the constructive labor and military exploits of Soviet man. Popov revealed qualities typical of contemporary man by meticulously and sensitively portraying each character’s psychology; the same aim was served by his staging of mass scenes that were replete with thought and feeling. His CTSA productions included Prut’s The Year Nineteen (1936), Chepurin’s Stalingraders (1944), Vinnikov’s The Wide Steppe (1949), and Virgin Soil Upturned (1957), adapted from Sholokhov’s novel. In the CTSA, Popov also directed plays devoted to Russia’s history, including Bekhterev and Razumovskii’s General Suvorov (1939), Trenev’s The General (1945), and Shtein’s The Admiral’s Flag (1950); in the Moscow Art Theater he directed A. N. Tolstoy’s Ivan the Terrible {Difficult Years; 1946).

Popov made an important contribution to the stage depiction of the philosophic and humanistic meaning of Shakespeare’s works in his productions of the tragedy Romeo and Juliet (1935, Theater of the Revolution) and the comedy The Taming of the Shrew (1937, CTSA). His production of the early Soviet film comedy Two Friends, a Model and a Girl Friend (1928) was an interesting experiment. Popov applied the principles of the Moscow Art Theater creatively, first and foremost by penetrating into the essence of modern life and the spiritual world of Soviet man. He developed a theory that the unity of a stage production resulted from the harmony of true-to-life components.

Popov trained many actors and directors. Beginning in 1919 he taught at the CTSA school and the State Institute of Theatrical Arts, where he became a professor in 1940 and artistic director in 1961. Popov was awarded the State Prize of the USSR (1943, 1950, and 1951), as well as the Order of Lenin and several medals.

WORKS

Khudozhestvennaia tselostnost’ spektaklia. Moscow, 1959.
Vospominaniia i razmyshleniia o teatre. Moscow, 1963.
SpektakV i rezhisser, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1972.

REFERENCE

Zorkaia, N. Tvorcheskii put’ A. D. Popova. Moscow, 1954.

B. I. ROSTOTSKII