Pesvebi Ensemble
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Pesvebi Ensemble

Brooklyn, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2002

Brooklyn, New York, United States
Established on Jan, 2002
Band Folk World




"Interview with Shorena Barbakadze"

A legend in the Georgian cultural community in America and Georgia, Shorena Barbakadze, founder of Brooklyn-based Pesvebi Inc., recounts her fascinating story since childhood -- when there was no electricity in Georgia due to Russian occupation.

Yet there was such great happiness during her days as a young girl in her family and community -- so united in folk song and dance -- determined to love and preserve Georgian cultural traditions. How she came to the U.S.A. as a young immigrant and fell in love with her husband, the eminent Georgian ethnomusicologist and genius player of all instruments - Georgian folk, Euro classical, and all Western -- Ivan Goderdvishzili....

How she rose to become one of Georgia's greatest dancers, a brilliant choreographer, and beloved teacher of many hundreds of Georgian children and young adults in the U.S. over the past 20 years. A deeply moving immigrant success story. (Over 5000 viewers overnight, since Facebook posting!) - Georgian TV Imedi - TV Imedi (Georgian Language)

"Pesvebi NY at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage"

Pesvebi's Kennedy Center 2019 performance in celebration of Georgian Independence Day, featured, televised news on both Voice of America and Georgian National Television, had over 21,000 viewers -- and still counting! - Georgian National Television (Georgian Language)

"Various Press Articles"

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The highest praise we can heap on the Bard SummerScape production of Anton Rubinstein's 1871 opera Demon is that it was worth the four hour bus trip from Manhattan in a driving rain. (It was only two hours returning). What a rare opportunity to see a stunning production of an opera that has achieved its success on native soil but has rarely been seen in the USA.

Maestro Leon Botstein led the American Symphony Orchestra in a fine reading of Rubinstein's highly accessible score, one marked by exotic Eastern modes and tantalizing tunes some of which reminded us of Borodin. The presence of The Pesvebi Georgian Dancers, choreographed by Shorena Barbakadze, added color and action to the somewhat static story. Black clad male dancers exhibited consummate athleticism whilst the women, dressed in white with cherry red veils, delighted the eye with their grace.

Pavel Viskovatov's libretto was based upon a poem by Mikhail Lermontov and we found it repetitive and not terribly interesting. The Demon, a fallen angel, falls for the beautiful Princess Tamara, makes sure that his rival Prince Sinodal gets killed, and pursues Tamara until she relents. She dies.

It took some doing to get this opera past the censors since it was considered sacrilegious. To a modern audience, a rebellious anti-hero who wants freedom and passion more than spiritual peace is not at all strange.

As portrayed by baritone Efim Zavalny, this Demon, a fallen angel, is sexy as all get-out, with a commanding presence adding to his burnished baritone. No wonder that the lovely Princess Tamara, performed by the diminutive soprano Olga Tolkmit, cannot resist his importuning. His supernatural powers seemed unnecessary!

The third and final act comprises the Demon's triumphing over the Angel (rich-voiced mezzo-soprano Nadezhda) for Tamara's love. Gorgeous melodies are exchanged by the two lovers as the Princess, opening up her slender focused soprano, can no longer resist. (Who could???) Subsequently, the Angel gets her moment of triumph as she saves Tamara's soul.

It occurred to us that the theme of spiritually challenged men requiring saving by the pure love of an innocent maiden is a rather common theme in opera, i.e. Der Fliegende Holländer and Faust. Of course, the woman gives up her life in the ultimate sacrifice. Lest we consign this theme to the 19th c., just think of some contemporary films with the same theme! There will always be women who want to save "bad boys". Still, we find nothing so terrible in those who prefer love and freedom to blind obedience and the promise of peaceful paradise.

All of the voices matched the excellence of the leads. There is nothing like a Russian bass, and Andrey Valentii's performance of the role of Prince Gudal (Tamara's father) was powerful and convincing.

Poor Prince Sinodal, sung by tenor Alexander Nesterenko, gets killed off at the end of Act I, but not until he thrilled us with a sad lament. But he was not the only tenor onstage. As they say, there are no small roles, and tenor Pavel Suliandziga, a rising star if ever we heard one, sang with lustrous pure tone and lovely phrasing in the role of the Messenger.

Yakov Striker impressed us with his fine bass and convincing portrayal of the Old Servant to Prince Sinodal, coming across more like a loyal friend. The role of Nanny was performed by mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Egorova, appearing more like a Mother Superior in the convent.

With such a bare bones story, it falls to the Director to flesh out the tale with character development and this was well accomplished by Thaddeus Strassberger. Setting Act I in the same convent to which Tamara flees at the end of Act II served to emphasize her innocence.

Act II was lively and colorful as Tamara awaited her groom. Amid the singing and dancing he arrived--on a funeral bier.

The Demon's power over women was signaled by his affecting the dreams of the sleeping postulates of the convent as he wandered from cell to cell in Act III.

Paul Tate dePoo III's set design was magnificent. A series of arched elements were illuminated by JAX Messenger's Lighting Design and Greg Emetaz' Video Design. We loved the projection that looked like stained glass with images of angels and devils. Kaye Voyce's costumes for the wedding scene were opulent with Tamara's wedding dress a source of bridal envy.

Chorus Master James Bagwell pulled an excellent performance from the Bard Festival Chorale.

There will be four more performances and we encourage your attendance if tickets are available. - Various including NYTimes, Voce de Meche below


Still working on that hot first release.



Over the past 22 years Pesvebi's Shorena Barbakadze, master choreographer-dancer -teacher and founding director, together with her husband Ivan Goderdzishvili, master musician, ethnomusicologist-teacher and artistic director, have established one of America's finest Georgian traditional folk ensembles. They have trained hundreds of young Georgians and adults along with renowned instructors in traditional folk dance and musical instrumentation and produce an annual festival.  Their work represents the vibrant diversities and cultural history of their home country. Knowledge of those traditions would be lost in the U.S. Georgian community without their dedicated and diligent work.

They left Georgia in 1998 and settled in Brooklyn due to dire circumstances in Georgia with no electricity or water.  The Russian occupation in regional parts had thrown the country into economic and political turmoil.  Shorena and Ivan became the leading tradition-bearers in America of Georgian folk culture for the tens of thousands of Georgians who fled Georgia due to extreme hardships imposed by Russia. 

Georgia’s strategic geographic vector, connecting north, south, east and west, on the centuries-old Silk Road trade route has resulted in a distinctive amalgamation of cultures in the country’s ethnic identity.  Over millennia, elements of Anatolian, European, Persian, Arabian, Ottoman and Far Eastern cultures have been absorbed in the country’s arts.  

Shorena, known for her work as a preeminent Georgian folk dance teacher and performer, was trained in Georgia under great folk dance masters since childhood.Her accomplishments have been critically acclaimed in U.S., Georgian and regional media. Her choreography spans 15 "dance dialect" styles from Georgia's western and eastern regions.

Ivan, an ethnomusicologist trained in Georgia, sings, plays, and teaches more than 12 instruments including traditional string, wind, and percussion instruments.His vast knowledge of the history of Georgian folk music along with his high standards of performance have helped develop Pesvebi's fine reputation internationally, in Georgia, and throughout the U.S. Georgian community.

Pesvebi's dynamic music and dance styles encompass traditional celebrations of harvest and work, “supra” feast songs, love songs, the patriotic and the sacred – many dating back to Georgia’s 12th century Golden Age.  Georgian polyphonic a cappella singing is a specialty.  Through their spectacular dance and musical performances with beautiful costumes designed by Shorena, they continue to delight thousands during festivals, concerts, and official events. In addition, America's National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded Pesvebi Inc. with a prestigious grant in 2021 in support of their highly acclaimed student training of Georgia’s traditional folk dance and music.

Over the years, Pesvebi has won numerous awards and citations from the Republic of Georgia and locally in New York: See Awards at

Production of the Pesvebi's performances comprises up to 80 performers for gala folk concerts and festivals.  They include gifted children and teens with their adult folk ensemble, as they continue to preserve knowledge and educate audiences about one of the Caucasus' most fascinating countries.

Band Members