Three weeks of 'total cultural hedonism'

Pullout guide: Vivat! St. Petersburg

Baltimore Vivat!

February 13, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,Sun Staff

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Baltimore may not seem the most likely place for a Russian invasion, but that's pretty much what will happen over the next three weeks, as Vivat! St. Petersburg, a multimedia celebration of the 300th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg, takes over the city's arts scene.

First suggested four years ago by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director Yuri Temirkanov, who doubles as chief conductor and music director of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Vivat! has been embraced by Baltimore's cultural institutions as a unique opportunity for them to work together.

Altogether, more than 40 venues, from the Walters Art Museum and the Lyric Opera House to the Great Blacks in Wax Museum and the B&O Railroad Museum are featuring works with a St. Petersburg theme for the festival, which begins today and runs through March 2.

FOR THE RECORD - The wrong venue was given for a painting depicted in LIVE's Vivat! St. Petersburg guide. The painting, Goncharova's Bleaching Linen, is on view at the Walters Art Museum. The Sun regrets the error.

"I'm thrilled, because so many colleagues and friends from all over the country are coming to Baltimore for the festival," says Doreen Bolger, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

"I'm the ideal client, sucker, candidate, whatever, for Vivat!," says Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum. "I'm just Russian nuts right now. This is just total cultural hedonism for me."


Musicians will be holding forth on almost every instrument -- yes, that includes balalaikas -- and works by some of the world's greatest composers will fill Baltimore's concert halls.

"Each of the programs that will be performed by the [BSO] has special ties to St. Petersburg because of the composers behind them," Temirkanov says. "Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shosta-kovich, Rachmaninoff and Shchedrin, of course, belong not only to Russia and to the city of St. Petersburg, but to the world."

The BSO begins its contributions to Vivat! at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall tonight, tomorrow and Sunday with a program that includes Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 and Shosta-kovich's Violin Concerto No. 1, featuring soloist Vadim Repin.

Next week, the symphony will perform Rodion Shchedrin's Not Love Alone, Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (featuring pianist Dmitri Alexeev) and Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.

Temirkanov and his players close out their Vivat! agenda the following week with a program that includes Glinka's Overture to Russlan and Ludmila, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring Russian pianist Anna Kravtchenko.

Among other musical highlights:

* Within the comforting confines of Old St. Paul's Church on Feb. 21, the Handel Choir of Baltimore will perform Music of St. Petersburg, featuring works both sacred and secular by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.

* Rachmaninoff's All Night Vigil, Op. 27, will be presented Feb. 23 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society.

* The American Balalaika Symphony will present an evening of music by Tchaikovsky, Khatchaturian, Gliere, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Rimsky-Korsakov Feb. 28 at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium.


Center Stage could have presented any number of classic Russian plays, but opted instead to try something a little different, says Michael Ross, the group's managing director.

"We chose two works based on Russian plays, but they're very contemporary takes on those Russian plays," Ross says. "We wanted to show how that culture still moves us forward, into our future."

First up for Center Stage's "Russian Classics Reinvented" series is a Feb. 25 reading of Regina Taylor's Drowning Crow, a contemporary American take (complete with a young rapper as its protagonist) on Chekhov's The Seagull. Taylor's work will be paired with a reading of the first act of Chekhov's play.

On Feb. 27, Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis will be in town to read Constance Congdon's adaptation of A Mother, by Maxim Gorky.

Other theater offerings with the required Russian flavor:

* Actress Vivienne Shub's readings from Martin Sherman's one-woman play, Rose, Feb. 16-19 and Feb. 23-25 at Everyman Theatre. Rose tells the story of a Jewish woman whose life takes her from a Russian peasant village to the Warsaw ghetto to Miami Beach. Show times vary.

* The New Barbarians, featuring performance artists Joyce Scott and Lorraine Whittlesey. It's an evening of theater based on the lives of Russian artists of African descent. Show time is 8 p.m. Saturday at the Walters.


The Baltimore Museum of Art's contributions to Vivat! will center on the Ballets Russes, a legendary turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg dance company that revolutionized the art form.

Art of the Ballets Russes, on display through May 4, showcases stage designs, costume sketches and actual costumes designed for the company's legendary performances. The work of such renowned artists as Matisse, Picasso, de Chirico and Leon Bakst is included in the exhibition, and costumes will be displayed in balletic poses based on actual productions.

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