The Kreutzer

Great Hall, The Arts Centre, Christchurch

06/08/2009 - 09/08/2009

Concert Chamber - Town Hall, THE EDGE, Auckland

14/11/2007 - 24/11/2007

BATS Theatre, Wellington

14/11/2007 - 24/11/2007

Auckland Fringe 2009


Christchurch Arts Festival 2009

Production Details

based on an original idea by Peter Barber, adapted and directd by Sara Brodie
to combine the works of:
The Kreutzer Sonata Op. 47 for Violin and Piano by Ludwig van Beethoven
The Kreutzer Sonata by Lev Tolstoy
String Quartet No. 1, after Tolstoy: The Kreutzer Sonata by Leos Janacek

Stage Left (NZ)

A Man on a Train is hounded by a Quartet and the haunting presence of his dead Wife, and is driven to confessing all. We journey into his corrupt and jealous past, to examine the twisted way men and women perceive each other, with music to die for.

Based on The Kreutzer Sonata by Beethoven, which gave rise to a promptly censored story by Tolstoy (which had him labelled as a sexual moral pervert) that then inspired Leo Janácek’s first string quartet, the Kreutzer unites all three whilst breaking the confines between performance genres.

The Kreutzer is the brainchild of New Zealand’s newest flourishing opera director Sara Brodie. Sara is one of New Zealand’s few full time directors and has directed operas for the NZ School of Music, Asia Pacific Festival, Hawkes Bay Opera and was the assistant director and choreographer for NBR’s latest hit Lucia di Lammermoor. She has also choreographed and directed for theatre productions both in New Zealand and internationally (Frida & Diego at Arcola Theatre, London, Messalina at Musica nel Chiostro, Italy and The Tempest for Summer Shakespeare, Wellington).

Featuring: actor Tom McCrory (UK/NZ), pianist Catherine McKay (CAN/NZ), dancer Nina Baeyertz (GER/NZ), violinist Donald Armstrong (NZ) and the Nevine String Quartet (NZ)

The Kreutzer – Stage Left (NZ)  

New Zealand work The Kreutzer weaves together dance-theatre, audio-visual elements, and classical music performed live by the New Zealand String Quartet, to tell a gripping tale of the evils of envy and betrayal.  The Kreutzer is based on ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’ by Beethoven, the controversial novella by Tolstoy it gave rise to, and the string quartet of the same name by Leos Janacek.  The essential questions of the tale, which saw Tolstoy branded as a ‘sexual, moral pervert’ in 1890, remain relevant today;  Is it possible for men and women to view each other as equals without our sexuality intervening?  Is the way men and women perceive each other inevitably corrupt?  Directed and conceived by Sara Brodie, The Kreutzer premiered at Bats Theatre as part of the 2007 STAB programme and has been further developed for Auckland Festival through the Watch This Space programme. 

CAST (Auckland Festival | Christchurch Arts Festival 2009)  
vadim ledogorov: Podznyshev
nina baeyertz: Dancer Wife
catherine mckay: Pianist Wife
douglas beilman: The Violinist

nz string quartet
Violin: douglas beilman
Violin: gillian ansell
Viola: rolf gjelsten
Cello: helene pohl

PRODUCTION (Auckland Festival | Christchurch Arts Festival 2009)  
sara brodie:  Adaptation, Direction & Choreography
sarah hutchings:  Producer
andrew brettell:  AV Design
piet asplet:  LX Design
kathryn tyree:  Costume Design
rob larson & kate logan:  Set Design
greg fletcher:  Set Construction
emily hakaraia:  Production Manager
amiee froud:  Stage Manager

Stage Left, based in Wellington, and founded by Sara Brodie, Sarah Hutchings and Andrew Brettell, specialises in producing multi-disciplinary performance works

Podznyshev  - Tom McCrory
Dancer Wife  - Nina Baeyertz 
Pianist Wife  - Catherine McKay
The Violinist  - Donald Armstrong

Violin  - Elizabeth Patchett
Violin  - Janet Armstrong
Viola  - Peter Barber
Cello  - Robert Ibell

Phantom Children  - Alexander Pride, William Pride, Finlay Robertson

Executive Producers - BATS Theatre
Producer - Carla van Zon
Direction & Adaptation of Text - Sara Brodie
AV Design - Andrew Brettell
Lighting Design - Piet Asplet
Costume Design & Construction - Kathryn Tyree
Wall Design & Construction - Rob Larsen
Wall Construction Hand - Deb McGuire
Set Styling & Painting - Kate Logan
Choreography - Sara Brodie
Stage & Production Manager - Aimee Froud
AV Operator - Deb McGuire
LX Operator - Rosanna Olsen
Stage Crew - Susan Harcourt
Stage Crew - Anna Bailey
Stage Crew - Ricky Beirao
Publicity - Brianne Kerr Publicity
Website & Graphic Design - Graeme Offord
Publicity Photography - Matt Grace
Camera Assistant - Isaac Duff Spedding

Theatre , Music , Dance-theatre ,

1 hr 10 mins, no interval

Inspirational for music enthusiasts and theatre-goers alike

Review by Tony Ryan 07th Aug 2009

Christchurch Arts Festival

The Kreutzer is an ingenious and effective piece of theatre based on, and integrating, three works that share that same title: Beethoven’s original Sonata for Violin and Piano (1803), dedicated to the violinist Rudolfe Kreutzer and thus acquiring its nickname, inspired the title and some key elements of the story of Tolstoy’s novella (1889) which in turn inspired Janacek’s first String Quartet (1923) along with its title.

This adaptation, as devised by Peter Barber and Sarah Brodie, is a dramatisation of Tolstoy’s story with several telling and perceptive modifications that enable the musical works to play a significant part in the drama.

For example, in Tolstoy’s original the main character, Podsnyshev, is on a train and overhears a conversation concerning marriage, divorce and love. In this adaptation a string quartet is playing the Janacek quartet in the train compartment. Now this is an extremely clever bit of inspiration because Janacek’s quartet sets out to reflect the key ideas of Tolstoy’s story and its premise that music can express the very attitudes to love, marriage and women that the novella deals with. So Podsnyshev reacts to the music exactly as he reacts to the conversation in Tolstoy’s original: by questioning their views and offering his own.

The quartet (in this revival, the brilliant New Zealand String Quartet) continues to represent the voices of the other characters throughout the seventy-minute duration of the "play" by playing all four movements of Janacek’s quartet at appropriate points in the development of the plot.

The Beethoven Violin Sonata is used to play its part in the story in just the same way that it does in Tolstoy. Podsnyshev’s wife is a pianist and he becomes jealous when a violinist visits to play the sonata with her. The jealousy is not only the result of the mere fact of the man’s physical presence, but Podsnyshev’s belief that the music expresses the violinist’s sexual desire for, and chauvinistic view of, his wife. His jealousy is, of course, based on his own, self-confessed attitude to women.

In this revival for the Christchurch Arts Festival, Podsnyshev is played by Vadim Ledogorov and, given the story’s Russian origin, and the actor’s brilliant and intense portrayal, I can’t imagine better casting. That’s not to say that the original Wellington cast in 2007 were any less accomplished; by all reports that first staging made an impact of equal power and intensity. In Christchurch only two of the players remained the same: Catherine McKay as the very accomplished pianist-incarnation of the wife, and Nina Baeyertz as her actor-dancer embodiment. I can imagine that some future production might well attempt to find a multi-talented performer to play both personifications, but I think there is certainly a lot to be gained by the way this production moves so fluidly between one and the other with some poignant and imaginative overlap.

The production also features significant technical components and these are all accomplished with equal aplomb. Doors and windows opening mechanically, silhouettes projected onto the beautifully painted backdrop and, most impressive of all, the real-time projections from Podsnyshev’s hand-held video recorder, sometimes onto the back wall and at others onto the inside of the open lid of the grand piano. But this, like all the technical effects, is always in the service of heightening the drama and never for its own sake. Podsnyshev’s videos, for example, suggest the voyeuristic aspect of his personality in a very persuasive way.

Overall, this is an exceptionally effective and compelling piece of theatre. All the performers, whether actors, dancers, or musicians, are extraordinarily convincing and impressive. I am amazed at what the string players in particular are required to do, with even the cellist of the quartet playing as he walks around the stage and interacts with Podsnyshev. And the music-making is never compromised at any stage; I would have been just as impressed with the playing in a traditional concert setting.

Douglas Beilman and Catherine McKay’s performance of the first movement of the Beethoven Sonata needs special mention. It is a performance of gripping drama and passionate beauty…

An inspirational night at the theatre, which music enthusiasts and theatre-goers alike should not miss.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.




Make a comment

Identity, mistakes and jolts of discomfort

Review by Joanna Davies 08th Mar 2009

When you go to see a performance based on a Beethoven sonata that inspired a Tolstoy novella, then a string quartet composition by Janáèek, safely assume you’re not in for a light-hearted romp based on a hilarious case of mistaken identity. Prepare instead to be drawn into the tumultuous and often well-reasoned observations of a man grappling with the passion, manipulation, jealousy and self doubt that he experiences in his marriage.

The piece plays out around the turn of the twentieth century. A broken man grapples to come to terms with his failure as a husband and his inability to understand the weaker sex. His tale unfolds with glimpses of the events that made him into the character before us, and explains why he is so haunted by his past.

Based on Peter Barber’s original idea, Sara Brodie has done an admirable job with her adaptation, choreography and direction. Vadim Ledogorov’s portrayal of the protagonist is captivating and uncomfortable in an awkward ‘Gregory House MD’ fashion. His mannerisms and pattern of speech intrigue the audience yet, despite well-chosen opportunities to interact with them, no connection or empathy is attained. It isn’t until the dying moments of the show that his character elicits a strong response.

Despite often distracting use of the New Zealand String Quartet as onlookers and participants in the tale, Ledogorov’s bold ownership of the stage is only usurped by dancer, Nina Baeyertz, whose fluidity, grace and coquettish flirtiness creates a beautiful-to-behold character. We see her as her husband does, as a one-dimensional object, although we are also privy to a depth of character he comes to realize too late.

The work’s moment of brilliance comes near the end when Ledogorov and Baeyertz’s work together demands more trust than their characters would ever have shown each other.

The music is played masterfully by pianist Catherine McKay and the New Zealand String Quartet. At times, however it interferes with the show’s pace and flow, particularly as Ledogorov’s character films the musicians at work – hand-held cameras were all the rage in pre-1910 after all.

Which brings me to the details. The costuming, music and set draws you in to the world of Europe a hundred years ago. Even the projected images and moving silhouettes fit in with the tale, but the use of Ralph magazines, $20 notes and the obtrusive handy-cam almost makes it farcical in parts and jolts the audience back from the world on the stage to the discomfort of their theatre seats.

At one hour and ten minutes The Kreutzer runs just long enough. And while not a romp, nor light-hearted, it deals with identity and mistakes in a way that sees the audience leave in contemplative silence.


Kathryn Tyree March 10th, 2009

Kia ora 

Just to clarify that the Kreutzer is currently part of the Auckland Festival (the show closed last night).  The first season was a Bats theatre STAB commission, and performed at Bats in Wellington, 2007.  For more info see 

Best wishes, Kathryn Tyree

[Auckland credits have now been supplied and added to the production page - click the title that heads the review - ED 11-03-09]

Make a comment

Disarming, amusing, distasteful, forceful, unsettling, voyeuristic, perverse …

Review by Dr Linda Ashley 07th Mar 2009

Capturing the obsessed demeanour of a chauvinist is no small matter. In this one hour and ten minutes of theatre, director and cast of Stage Left articulate the layers of the inheritance of Beethoven, Tolstoy and Janacek, alongside a male personae that one would like to assign to a previous era…

In "breaking the confines between performance genres", as Stage Left state in their programme, transdisciplinary use of the musicians as actors is a particularly effective strategy in articulating this complex story. Nuanced, and I assume choreographed, gestures, shifts of weight and glances accentuate the emotional intensity and pressures that the characters endure.

This is particularly striking in the opening confines of the railway carriage, when the NZ String Quartet compress and interrogate the raving confessions of Podznyshev (Vadim Ledogorov). The only resolution to this particular crescendo is to throw the score out of the carriage window! Ledogorov’s sustained lead role in evoking a dissipated life that is disarmingly amusing and simultaneously distasteful is convincingly forceful.

It is worth mentioning at this point, that the physicality of the playing of the music enhanced the portrayal of a rationale of feelings – music became at one with the spoken language – another transdisciplinary achievement. Never more so than when Andrew Bretell’s design for live feed video of Cath Mackay’s piano solo brings about a rather unsettling voyeuristic and perverse male gaze.

The dance world would do well, if money allowed, to integrate more in the way of live music when musicians of this quality are available. The abilities of these particular musicians Mackay, Bielman, Ansell, Gjelsten and Pohl are extensive, as is their stamina to play the strings of the heart. Ansell, for me, was standout.

The image of dancing with ephemeral shadows of what could be, under less harrowing circumstances, is deeply felt throughout in the expressive dancing of Nina Baeyertz. There are glimpses of how effective movement improvisation leads to integration of choreography (Sara Brodie) alongside the other performing arts.

Rob Larson and Kate Logan’s set design, along with Piet Asplet’s lighting, effectively facilitate the kinetic shifts in space, time, ghosts, shadows, dreams, nightmares and memories. However, the role of dance within the transdisciplinary arena is somewhat underplayed and choreographic opportunities could be further developed. Some particularly lack lustre social dance is one such moment.

Coincidentally and transdisciplinarily, I also wonder what the wife, so silent and vulnerable, would have said if she had spoken up?


Make a comment

A strangely satisfying theatrical experience

Review by Lindis Taylor 23rd Nov 2007

The theatrical creation, called The Kreutzer, conceived by NZSO violist Peter Barber and elaborated by stage director Sara Brodie, presented an interesting genre-definition question.

Undeniably a theatrical work, it was a monodrama from the point of view of spoken parts, but the stage was well populated by other performers without whom the moral severity of the story would have been something of a burden.  Music contributed a major element of the play however and the violinist, Donald Armstrong (Associate Concert Master of the NZSO) and the four members of the Nevine Quartet (Elizabeth Patchett, Janet Armstrong, Peter Barber, Robert Ibell;  also members of the NZSO) were more than mere musicians.

Tom McCrory had the sole spoken role as the narrator, Pozdnyshev.

The unnamed wife who, in the Tolstoi novella, has quite a lot to say, was played by two actors – one dancing the role (Nina Baeyertz) and another playing the piano (Catherine McKay); she accompanies the violinist Trukhachevski in the Kreutzer Sonata. In Pozdnyshev’s obsessed mind, afflicted with self-loathing that derives from his own dissolute earlier life, Trukhachevski is his wife’s lover. Neither has a spoken part; nor do the members of the Nevine Quartet who might be seen as representing the various travellers on the train, and others, who are regaled with Pozdnyshev’s unstoppable, frenzied, confessional narrative.

But the music, the first movement of Beethoven’s Op 47, and snatches of Janacek’s First String Quartet, heard at such close quarters in the small theatre and so superbly played, was far more than some kind of casual, incidental music.

It lent to the drama a dimension that seemed perfectly adapted to the emotional characteristics of the husband and wife, in addition to supplying the quite particular intellectual connections; where the passionate quality of the Beethoven sonata fuels Pozdnyshev’s paranoid jealousy and moral anguish which in turn resonated for Janacek thirty years later, as he reflected on the import of Tolstoi’s remarkable novella for his own extra-martial love for Kamila Stösslova.

For one who was alive to both the literary and the musical relationships, the juxtapositions, the narrative devices and the uses of music, mime and dance made for a strangely satisfying theatrical experience.
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


Make a comment

Highly original, multi layered work

Review by Lynn Freeman 22nd Nov 2007

The Kreutzer is elegant, seductive, disturbing and beautiful, all in one.  The central story, the confession of a man who murdered his wife is repelling, the Beethoven and Janacek music performed live on stage, with the musicians haunting and taunting the man, burrows right into your soul.

The music and the story are connected.  Tolstoy’s story about a man driven by jealousy to murder his wife who was (we assume) having an affair with a musician, followed his own adulterous wife who also loved a musician.  He did not, however, murder her but clearly poured his hurt into this story.

Sara Brodie is a director who can not only visualise a complex work incorporating dance, music, acting and audio visuals – but has the skills to bring them all together in one harmonious whole.  No one art form dominates and every person on stage and behind the scenes plays their part to perfection.

Tom McCrory was compelling as the murderer, haunted by memory and guilt, but showing us his depraved, vicious side with candour. Nina Baeyatz and Catherine McKay were unforgettable as his dancer and pianist wives, and the musicians were integral to the work, playing without missing a beat even when being moved about.

This won’t be to everyone’s taste, and some moments run on a little long, but it is a highly original, multi layered work.


Make a comment

Remarkable – and enthralling

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 17th Nov 2007

In 1890 Moscow when Tolstoy’s sensational story The Kreutzer Sonata was first circulated before the Tsar’s censors got hold of it, Muscovites greeted each other with not "How do you do?" but with "Have you read The Kreutzer Sonata?" The same could well apply here: Have you seen The Kreutzer at Bats?

Sara Brodie has created with the aid of audio visual designer Andrew Brettell and a superb group of musicians a remarkable and totally enthralling piece of contemporary theatre combining Tolstoy’s brilliantly stupid story (as the eminently sensible Chekhov came to think of it) with Beethoven’s and Leos Janacek’s sonatas.

Tolstoy starts his story with an epigraph: that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Throughout Sara Brodie’s fluid and tautly constructed telling of Tolstoy’s verbose story of Podznyshev’s tortured sexuality and physical disgust that lead to jealousy and the murder of his wife we are made aware of "the act of viewing."

Podznyshev with a hand-held video camera traces the outline of his wife’s face and body as she lies on a piano; an eye watches through a keyhole high above the stage; the audience is handed pictures of nude women; a romantic dancing shadow merges with the onstage beautiful dancing wife (Nina Baeyertz). Sensuality and temptation are everywhere.

And with Tom McCrory totally arresting as the deeply disturbed Podznyshev we can accept the character’s growing sexual disgust and moral confusion through a monologue (Tolstoy’s story is virtually a monologue) combined with some beautifully expressive mime and dance.

But always there is the power of the music. It is the playing of Beethoven’s sonata by Podznyshev’s wife (Catherine McKay) with a violinist (Donald Armstrong) that drives him into Othello-like fits of jealousy. "It’s a fearful thing, that sonata," he says. But Tolstoy unfortunately adds "Can one really allow the presto to be played in a drawing room full of women in low-cut dresses?"

This production is theatre of the highest quality in every department and it was received with prolonged and thoroughly deserved applause on opening night. 


jessica zanetti November 17th, 2007

I saw this on thursday night, and thought it was brilliant! very thought provoking and cleaverly protrayed using the two women (the dancer and the piano player) as his wives! Would highly recommend it to anyone, and the music was fabulous!

Make a comment

A memorable work of theatrical art

Review by John Smythe 15th Nov 2007

An essay in the nature of lust, love, marriage and jealousy from a very male perspective, performed by an actor, dancer, six musicians and a video artist, The Kreutzer could well be subtitled Fear and (Self-) Loathing in Russian Wedlock. As the second of the year’s STAB season offerings at BATS, it offers a rich, absorbing and provocative 70 minutes of theatre.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s The Kreutzer Sonata Op. 47 for Violin and Piano (so named in honour of the celebrated European violinist Rudolphe Kreutzer) inspired Leo Tolstoy to write his moralistic novella The Kreutzer Sonata, then both works gave rise to Leos Janacek’s String Quartet No. 1, after Tolstoy: The Kreutzer Sonata.

For years violist Peter Barber has dreamed of bringing the three works together in some kind of performance and now Sara Brodie – who suddenly saw how it could be dome while working with AV designer Andrew Brettell – has adapted and directed it with an extraordinary ensemble of talent, including Barber and Brettell. 

Despite being written as an expose of man’s degradation through carnal lust, Tolstoy’s story was banned in Russia. Now its timeless and universal scenario plays out as a plea for sex and relationship education to engender a better understanding of the passions so deeply felt in the name of love.

A tormented Podznyshev (Tom McCrory) is discovered on a train – superbly revealed beyond the BATS on-stage double doors – amid a clutch of sawing musicians (The Nevine String Quartet: Peter Barber on viola, Robert Ibell on cello, Janet Armstrong and Elizabeth Patchett on violin), following "the critical episode they’re all talking about."

Enhanced by an exquisite use of Brettell’s video projections – some recorded, some live; sometimes shadowy and remote, sometimes close and voyeuristic – Podznyshev’s narrative retraces his young adult descent into carnal lust, his desire for a pure young woman to absolve him, his discovery of her dancing divinely (Nina Baeyertz), their marriage and honeymoon, the ambivalent anguish of misunderstood drives and desires …

"It’s perfectly correct to say that woman has been brought to the lowest degree of subjugation, like a slave in a market place or a piece of bait in a trap," Podznyshev observes, "but equally true to say she’s the dominant one.  ‘You just want us to be the objects of your sensuality, do you?’ [they seem to say].  ‘All right, then, it’s as objects of your sensuality that we’ll enslave you’."

Baeyertz pitches the paradox of purity and seductiveness perfectly and McCrory is unnervingly true in nailing the man’s compulsive need to invade, impede and interfere in order to assert control. I’d defy anyone who has experienced intense love not to recognise the self-defeating behaviour patterns and squirm.

His description of ‘love’ as two egotists with nothing in common except the desire to use each other for pleasure is simultaneously provocative and sobering.

It all changes with children, of course, and this is the part that is not fully realised in the staging, given Podznyshev’s statement afterwards that she starts to take an interest in her appearance once more. She has never been anything but beautiful. Nevertheless the trials of parenthood are delightfully rendered. And all the while the tale is played out to live music by the marvellous musicians who also step into the action as and when required.

"What is music?" the husband asks us directly. "What does it do to us? Why …?" When the wife as pianist (Catherine McKay) rediscovers love in its purest form while playing the Beethoven sonata with a Violinist (Donald Armstrong) – a rich and powerful duet worth the price of admission alone – an uncontrollable jealousy turns Podznyshev crazy …

For me there is nothing tragic or heroic, post-murder, in his self-justifying assertion that the New Testament passage "whosoever looks at a woman with lust, commits adultery in his heart" works both ways, or his plaintive cry that he has only come to see his wife as a human being after he has stabbed her to death. But the fact of such violence in the name of love is incontrovertible. And theatre-wise, there is no doubt we have witnessed something special here.

Piet Asplet’s impeccable lighting, Katheryn Tyree’s perfect costume designs and construction, and the fleur-de-lis adorned wall with self-opening doors designed by Rob Larsen, styled and painted by Kate Logan, all contribute to the high quality presentation.

The sustained applause on opening night was well deserved. The Kreutzer‘s blend of disciplines ensures we are engaged at many levels and much that connected subliminally will surface later for further consideration. Sara Brodie and her talented team have created a memorable work of theatrical art.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo