Today, the Ryedale Festival announced that acclaimed actor, Alex Jennings, will appear as part of the 2017 Ryedale Festival’s Truth’s Disguise series where he will read the poetry of Anna Akhmatova and her circle alongside performances of Shostakovich’s String Quartets from the Carducci Quartet over four concerts in stunning venues across the region on 16, 18, 19 and 20 July.

Alex Jennings is widely known to audiences for his performances in blockbusting films such as Lady in the Van starring alongside Dame Maggie Smith and The Queen with Dame Helen Mirren; hit TV series including The Crown on Netflix; ITV’s Victoria and The Halcyon; and extensive work with the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company.

Dmitri Shostakovich was the great musical figure of Soviet Russia and the fifteen string quartets he composed over three decades are often seen as a musical diary of his most intimate thoughts. The poet Anna Akhmatova admired him from afar, rarely missed a premiere of his music, dedicated poems to him, and listened to the quartets repeatedly. For his part, Shostakovich cherished Akhmatova's poetry and kept a picture of her in his apartment. For years, they never met - and when they did they sat in silence. 'It was wonderful', said Anna. Akhmatova was rare among poets of her generation in choosing to stay in Russia, where she was ostracised, and remained unpublished, for many years. But by the end of her life she was recognised for what she was: the country's greatest living poet. The younger Shostakovich likewise suffered from the swings of fortune, alternately lauded and condemned, but both he and Akhmatova were uncompromising in their art, which shares and expresses something of the sufferings experienced by the Russian people under Stalin's regime. One hundred years after the October Revolution, the Ryedale Festival brings together these great creative spirits of Soviet Russia, as Alex Jennings, the Carducci Quartet and Elizabeth Wilson explore the string quartets by Shostakovich alongside poetry by Anna Akhmatova and her circle.

Christopher Glynn, Artistic Director of Ryedale Festival, said: ‘We are thrilled to have an actor of Alex’s calibre on board for this year’s Festival and for this very special mini-series with Artists in Residence the Carducci Quartet.’


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