A Bird of Happiness
7 January 2021
Aleftina Konstantinova, Boris Yukhananov, Vladimir Korenev, Irina Koreneva.
Photo by Vladimir Mayorov

Boris Yukhananov:

Vladimir Borisovich was... I say «was,» and my heart stops immediately, for it is very difficult to imagine myself without him. He was there from my very first steps in the Electrotheatre. Vladimir Borisovich may have been the first person I met there. And a mysterious and rare connection of two consciousnesses arose instantly between us. That told me immediately that our theatre would be born, that everything would happen there as it had been planned in heaven.

We talked a lot in the beginning, and I immediately began working on The Blue Bird, a production in which he was cast with his wonderful wife Alevtina Konstantinova, an amazing actress. They played children, Tyltyl and Mytyl, hurrying about in search of the bird of happiness (was this not his entire life's journey?). Vladimir Borisovich and Alevtina Konstantinovna spoke the text written by Maeterlinck, and at the same time they spoke vulnerably, openly, majestically and sincerely about their own lifes» journeys. They described the incredible road they had traversed in the theatre, and in the Soviet nation.

Vladimir Korenev was a great man and a great actor. He was a genuine noble defender, as if heaven had entrusted him with this mission. And he fulfilled his mission with all the splendor of his amazing talent that was there for the entire country to see. He was the light that illuminated the Electrotheatre.

Great fame descended upon him in 1963 after he performed in the film Amphibian Man. He was famous, and in demand. By the time he arrived at the Electrotheatre, he had the great life of a great artist behind him. And it struck me how he, a man of a completely different temperament, adopted a new theatrical language. He not only accepted it, he plunged into it with joy and recognition. He performed in many of our productions. For three straight evenings in The Blue Bird, he did not leave the stage, filling it with Maeterlinck's monologues and our nation's history, and embarking on a deep journey back into the Soviet Union, a bygone empire. He did it with irony, skill and depth. All these seven years he supported the theatre as would a friend, a father, an elder brother. Many of his students joined our company, and you can see from them what an amazing teacher he was.

He played his final roles in Pinocchio. What episodes these were! Soul-revealing masterpieces filled with incredible, playful brilliance. It was just in July that I made a film based on this performance, and I was completely shocked how, in the midst of the Covid horror, he was full of strength and joy. While rehearsing and working, Korenev never complained. An incredible sense of nobility and properness always shone in him from within. We will not, of course, lose connection with him because of his death. We love Vladimir Borisovich, the entire theatre mourns him. I suspect that many people in our country, who once were carried away and amazed by Amphibian Man, followed Korenev throughout his life. In the early years of our work and friendship, I once walked around the city with him. We walked for a long, long time, and I was amazed at the enormous number of people who approached him and recognized him. He was a handsome man even in old age, and he responded to everyone that addressed him. I bathed in the atmosphere of this shared life, in this shared participation in the fate of our Fatherland, and in the fate of the theatre. May he have eternal memory.