Flight of a Firebird
Marina Sokolova was born in 1939 to a family of well-known artists. She began her artistic training at the age of fourteen at the Moscow Graphic Arts School. After graduating in 1957, she entered the Moscow State Film Institute. This six-year program of post-graduate study included general training in painting and stage design and a thesis project in animation. Among her teachers were such renowned leaders of the Russian art world as Pimenov and Bogorodsky.
Marina Sokolova's artistic training places her in the rich and original tradition of Russia scenic art. The designs of such brilliant artists as Alexander Golovin, Natalia Goncharova, Alexander Benois, and Leon Bakst helped to create an image for the Russian stage that was unlike anything else.
Marina Sokolova began her professional career in 1963 at the Soviet Union's famous Animated Film Studio, where she was a chief animation artist for major animated films. Although she achieved brilliant success in the medium, Marina's dream was to work for the theater. She realized this ambition in 1964, when she was invited to design sets and costumes for the ground-breaking production of Stravinsky's L' Histoire de Soldat, at the legendary Bolshoi theater in Moscow.
Since Marina Sokolova's debut in theater design, she had worked for every major theater in the Soviet Union. She has worked for such companies as the Moscow Art theater, the Bolshoi theater, the Kirov and the Malya Opera in St. Petersburg. Her sketches of set and costume design have been acquired for the permanent collections of Tretyakov State Gallery, Bakhrushin theater Museum, Glinka Museum of Musical Culture, and many others.
The year 1967 brought a new dimension to Marina Sokolova's career, in that her work became known internationally. Walter Feslenstein, the founder and Artistic Director of Berlin's Komishe Oper came to Moscow to stage a production of Bizet's Carmen at the Stanislavsky theater. On seeing Marina's work, Walter Feslenstein invited her to design costumes for this production. Later he invited Marina and her husband, the designer Valery Levental, who became Chief Designer of the Bolshoi in 1987, to collaborate on several productions at the Komishe Oper.
The first such production was Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges, which opened to enthusiastic reviews in 1968. Following the success, Walter Feslenstein invited Marina and Valery to undertake Fiddler on the Roof. Marina's international reputation was now assured. She had designed productions in Dresden, Leipzig, Dessau, Weimar, Warsaw, Sofia, Ankara, Budapest, Rome and Tokyo.
In a career that spanned over twenty-five years, Marina Sokolova created sets and costumes for more than one hundred productions. Marina is known and admired for her unique quilted wall hangings-created with a technique she perfected in her studio in Moscow. These intricately crafted fabric collages represent vivid expressions of Marina Sokolova's folk art aesthetic. Her paintings and theatrical designs have been exhibited in galleries and international art shows all over the world, including the Museum of Fine Art in Boston and exhibitions in Great Britain, Italy, Poland, and Argentina. In 1992, her quilted wall hangings were shown by Henri Gallery in Washington DC, where several were purchased for the Museum of Contemporary Russian Art at Rutgers University. Marina Sokolova died in Moscow on October 29th, 1992. Her theater productions are still running in Moscow.