What is the New Year without a fairy tale and its main character Father Frost? When he comes all is filled with festive mood, makes one believe in a miracle, even for a few minutes, to become a child in the depth of the soul, and make a secret wish that will come true.
The creative team of Uzbekistan Today decides to present this fairy tale to its readers a few days before the New Year, and visits the Father Frost of the country – the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan Abzal Rafikov. For over twenty years he works on the President’s New Year Tree celebrations.
Abzal Azimovich, how many years have you worked as the chief ‘magician’ of the nation?
“For more than twenty years - all the years since the President’s Tree performances started organizing. Every year to perform this role I am invited by the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan, head of Tomosha children’s musical theater Nodira Kurbanova. She is also the director of the President’s New Year Tree performances. She knew that I love children, find a common language with them, probably I have an appropriate voice, so she invites me for this special, important role, because the President’s New Year Tree is designed primarily to support the children who find themselves in difficult life situations. And this despite the fact that when I performed in this event for the first time, I was not grandfather at all! It is now I am 70, and then I was young.
I have received an invitation to play this role this year as well. Of course, I tried to explain to the director that I am no longer young, and working with children is becoming harder due to my age. But no, she insisted.
So the performance will take place, and I once again on behalf of Father Frost say: “Hello, Happy New Year!”
Tell us whether the main tree of the country has changed over the years? If so, how did it transform?
“Yes, of course. The main difficulty is the organization of theatrical festivities, which is traditionally held in one of the best halls of the capital - the Turkiston Palace, and each following representation must not repeat the previous, it has to be something new and interesting. And we must pay tribute to the chief director of these festivities Nodira Kurbanova. She copes with the task perfectly. Every year she finds something new, trying to stage the performance meeting the demands of children. But the children’s demands have changed dramatically over the past 25 years. Now all have smart phones and other electronics, which we had no before, and all this is reflected in our performances.
As for my character, which in Uzbek called Oppoqdoda (literally, White Grandpa), and in Russian Father Frost, it is fairly well-established stylized image. Over the years we have changed costumes several times, I had glasses, but the essence of my character keeps unchangeable - it comes to children, brings presents, communicates with them, reads the congratulation of the President, and shares the atmosphere of holiday and magic.”
And why has Father Frost started wearing glasses?
“Once on TV I saw Santa Claus, who wore glasses and looked very good! And it seemed to me that in my image of Father Frost it would be a great element. And one, being in the dressing room, I tried on glasses - I really liked it, then Nodira Kurbanova saw it and approved. Since then the main Father Frost of Uzbekistan started performing in glasses. This, incidentally, is the most common glasses, which I use every day.”
Has your personal perception of the New Year holiday changed over years of experience of playing this role?
“It would seem, every time with the same team. But… the team gets updated with every beginning year, children grow up. Today, those who 23 years ago performed on stage with me have their children and bring them to the New Year Tree performances. And here is the answer to your question. But at the same time, you know, what remains the same? The fact that the younger group of our team always believe that I am a real Father Frost, and it remains unchanged at all times. They believe in me and are waiting for gifts.
President’s New Year Tree is held for more than 20 years. All those years were different: there were difficult times, we faced global economic crisis, difficult moments in socio-political terms, this, whether we like it or not, have affected us as well. But this role has one feature, the magic one. As soon as you come out to the kids this whole train of events bringing adjustments in our life leave behind the scenes, and only a happy New Year stays, and you are together with the children make the joy… This is invariable.
New Year is the New Year that says it all. Five minutes before the chime of bells and five minutes after even grownups become children. After all, we are at this moment make a wish and immensely believe that they will come true, dreaming only of good.”
And finally, as both Abzal Rafikov and Father Frost, what do you expect from the coming year 2017?
“I would very much like to see in the coming year all the conflicts resolved, especially in those parts of the world where the hostilities continue. This will benefit everyone. We have to follow the call of Alisher Navoi, “Live together in peace, the people of the whole world”, because only in conditions of peace and stability will be prosperity. Our great poet wrote a lot about this in his works.
I believe that the New Year will be happy for all. All we have to read Alisher Navoi and Alexander Pushkin and other prominent writers, because life without reading is not life.
And our President’s New Year Tree and the holiday will be a kind of a new start to even better future!”