Irina Legova is Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Thrupiece Philharmonic Orchestra. She is young, Russian and a woman: in fact the first woman to lead the Dorset-based orchestra in its long 6 year history. Beautiful, raven haired, slim, long-legged and - as her podium antics prove - extraordinary flexible - she wants to be taken seriously! "I want to be taken seriously", she told Overcompton Arts and Books Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jennie Murray-Firth; "I know I am beautiful, raven haired, slim, long-legged and extraordinary flexible, but I am also musician and deep-thinker. In my native Russia there is no place for woman like this. There I am just pin-up sexy symbol in catalogue for Western men [she is quick to point out she has no sick grandmother and has never used the internet to gain favours] but here in England I make career like man in man's world. Still so, I must prove myself always by working harder, longer and always with less clothes than men members of the orchestra. Sometimes is very difficult but I am learning all the time." So has she encountered discrimination in her adopted home? "At first no, but when audience realise the music I like to bring to them definitely yes. I challenge with strong pieces by strong Russian women: Thrupova, Piecovich, Kandrashin etc etc. Audiences do not like these. Maybe because they are by women". [Overcompton Arts and Books Magazine's Music Critic, Sehr Langsam, disagrees - "It's because they are a pile of steaming crap" he explains.]
Ms Legova has begun a revolution at the formerly conservative-leaning Philharmonic. Not everyone is convinced.
Ms Legova is, however, at peace with herself and happy in her role: "Every morning I bless God that he brings me to this great orchestra and bless Addinsell Threadbone that he becomes too old and tired to do it. When I first came he wanted to do it often but now he watches me do it instead. I think he is a happy - how do you say it - voyeur?" [Mr Threadbone was the Orchestra's first permanent conductor and Ms Legova's mentor. She succeeded him for the 2017/18 season.]
Audiences generally agree that Ms Legova (who trained at the famous Minsk Academy of Arts, Sciences, Mine Engineering and Midwifery) has brought an energy and dynamism to the Philharmonic's concerts which was sadly lacking in Maestro Threadbone's later years, though Ms Legova's choice of repertoire has not gained universal approval. Ticket sales are worryingly low, walk-outs are on the up and the planned expansion of the Threadbone Narrow Band Dial Up Network to increase capacity for live streaming has been put on indefinite hold. Ms Legova is not however discouraged: "You must educate audience and bring them alongside with you", she suggests, "you try to win heart and mind with argument of music but if that does not work, you wear short skirt and low cut top. Next season women in orchestra will not wear brassieres especially violins. We tried this as liberation movement for all women in Russia but the authorities don't allow. Here in Dorset everything is possible: even this if we want to."
So does Ms Legova miss her native Russia? "Sometimes I have deep longing for many good colleagues. In Russia is so cold and often we orchestra all sleep together. Here is not so and I sleep with only one player at a time. Sometimes is so hard, but I am getting it better now."
A woman who knows her own mind is clearly willing to put her body on the line for what she believes in. Maestra Legova is philosophical: "Liberation starts in mind, moves to heart and sings to the world like a Thrupova melody (sic)". Ms Legova is 34 (38-24-36) and available in a variety of costumes (formal to day wear).