NEW YORK CITY (USA), OCTOBER 26-31, 2004
The Third Festival of Russian Culture “Russian Nights” captivated audiences in New York City on October 2004. Previous festivals were presented to great success in Los Angeles on April 2003 and April 2004. Traditionally, the festival showcases various cultural fields: theatre, music, poetry, fine arts, and cinema, among others. The festival consisted of about 50 events in the most prestigious and fashionable halls of Manhattan, from the legendary Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall to poetry, jazz and rock clubs at over 20 different locales. More than 150 people participated in the festival. Over 50 articles were published - The New York Times, Daily News, Wall Street Journal, Jewish Weekly are among others. New York central Channel «New York 1 Time Warner» taped a full show about the festival. The RTVI TV Company attended with daily coverage of the festival.
The festival began on October 26, with an opening ceremony showcasing several events.At 5 pm, the setting was a downtown Manhattan business district gallery in a unique building designed by world famous Philip Stark. There, an opening of “The Russian Myths” was featured. It was a fine arts exhibit exclusively staged for the festival by Russian art historian Alexander Borovsky. The exhibit included a rare collection of Russian popular posters in primitivistic style of the Russian-Japanese 1904-1905 war, a unique selection of anti-imperialist and anti-western posters by “The Fighting Pencil” Leningrad artists group of 1950-1970’s, works by contemporary Russian artists Alexander and Olga Florensky “The Russian Trophy,” and art videos by Russian actionists Alexander Shaburov and Vyacheslav Mizin. The gallery also featured an exhibit of Sergei Eisenstein’s drawings. In addition, the gallery showcased on special videoscreens the newest international computer media project “The Electronic Book” developed by RussianSNC Just Design Studio.
At 7 pm the official opening of the film program of the festival took place at the Museum of the City of New York with the participation of official representatives and celebrities in film and art . Congressman Fred Richmond, who represents the State of New York, spoke on behalf of the USA, the State of New York and the New York City Government. Representing the Russian side, was Mikhail Pronin, Russian Federation Vice-Consul in New York. There was a New York premiere screening of “A Young Lady and a Hooligan,” filmed in 1918 by directors Yevgeny Slavinsky and Vladimir Mayakovsky. It starred Vladimir Mayakovsky – the sole acting work of the great poet. A live soundtrack was specifically created and performed during the screening, by eminent Russian jazz musicians Vladimir Volkov and Vyacheslav Gaivoronsky.
A surprise for the festival guests was the participation at the opening party by Mayakovsky’s daughter – Professor Patricia Thompson. Her sensitive, moving speech was felt by every listener in the audience. And the appearance onscreen of Vladimir Mayakovsky, young, handsome and talented, equally conquered the audience. To unceasing applause, poet Andrei Voznesensky presented the festival’s Tower Award forVladimir Mayakovsky, to the great poet’s daughter, whose tears during her acceptance touched every soul in the theater.
The festival’s ceremonial opening ended with a reception at the General Consulate of the Russian Federation in New York. Filled to capacity, the splendid, spacious rooms of the Russian Consulate barely managed to accomodate the guests. The reception began with Consul General of the Russian FederationSergei Garmonin who noted in his greeting speech the importance of the international promotion of contemporary Russian art. After the speech the eminent Russian sculptor Leonid Sokov presented the festival’s Tower Award to the celebrated American artist Peter Max.
Attending the festival opening reception was the finest of three generations of Russian immigrants, prominent public figures, politicians and culture-makers of Russia and the U.S. Among them, was Kennedy Foundation representative Mr. Jeffrey Sachs, artists Natalia Nesterova, Grigory Bruskin, Yury Bakhchinyan and many other writers, poets and musicians.
On October 17, 19 and 22, several days before the festival opening, the iconic movie theaters of New York City, the American Museum of the Moving Image, the Avon Theatre and Cinema Arts Centre hosted pre-screenings of festival films from the Archive of Russian classics. Screenings at Cinema Arts Centre were complimented by the Exhibit of Russian Artists residing in the United States.
By tradition within the “Russian Nights” festival, the Russian International Film Festival (RIFF) presented feature and animation films from the Golden Archive of Russian cinema. The main program was screened at the New York Anthology Film Archives.
The audience took great delight in the screening of Abraham Room’s “Bed and Sofa” with live soundtrack performed by composers Vladimir Volkov (double bass), Vladimir Tarasov (drums), Vyacheslav Gaivoronsky (trumpet), and Andrei Kondakov (piano) . For the first time, New Yorkers saw «Son of Mongolia» by Ilya Trauberg. The RIFF organizers managed to find the only one preserved copy of the film in Mongolian, all copies in Russian having been lost during World War II. The film was restored with English subtitles exclusively for the festival. Filmgoers were deeply affected after watching «Jewish Luck» by Alexei Granovsky, starring Solomon Mikhoels.
The audience took a special interest in the program of Russian Classical Animation created before the time of Disney. The program presented films by Vladislav Starevich, Nikolai Khodataev and Mikhail Tsehanovsky, such as «The Dragonfly and the Ant » (1913), «Revenge of the Cinematographer» (1912), «Post Office» (1928-1929) among others.
Also following tradition, the festival program included the Young Filmmakers’ Forum , held at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University and at the School of Visual Arts. The forum presented works by young Russian directors - students and graduates of Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) and Higher Courses of Scriptwriters and Film Directors. The renowned Russian film director Boris Frumin, currently professor of Graduate Film Program at the Unversity of New York, and the graduate of Higher Courses of Scriptwriters and Film Directors Stas Namin presented the works. After the screening, the students and filmmakers participated in a discussion of current trends in filmmaking. Russian cinematographers, directors, film school deans and other notable filmmakers currently working and teaching in the US took part in the Forum.
Theater Art of Russia was represented through the plays « From Pushkin to Brodsky » and «Poem Without a Hero» (Anna Akhmatova) performed by the People’s Artist of Russia Alla Demidova, and «Five Stories from Zoschenko to Akunin» performed by the People’s Artist of Russia Alexander Filippenko. The plays were enacted on 42nd Street in the famed Manhattan theatre neighborhood Theatre Row Studios.
The original new version of the famous Igor Stranvisnky’s ballet «Petrushka» was presented by the Puppet theatre « People and Puppets» led by artistic director Leonid Hait.
The Theatre mime performances of the remarkable Slava Polunin’s“Snow Show” took place at the Union Square Theatre.
An East Village theater with the eclectic name “PS 122,” well-known for alternative showings, hosted the most popular among sophisticated Manhattan youth Russian-American theatre project by Ksenia Vedyaikina and the “Barbies” band - Russian folk songs and city romance songs combined with modern jazz-rock music and grotesque theater.
LITERATURE AND POETRY.
The presence of famous poet Andrei Voznesensky graced the Theatre Row Studios. The surprise for the evening was the display of a unique jewelry piece created by American name designers after poet’s videoma “Butterfly”.
The Theatre Row also hosted an evening with writer, playwright and essay-writer Zoya Boguslavskaya on the topic “Vladimir Mayakovsky, Lilya Brik, Tatiana Yakovleva.” The event took place in an informal atmosphere, and the audience learned about Mayakovsky and his environment from Boguslavskaya, who knew Lilya in person, and from the poet’s daughter Patricia Thompson, also in attendance.
Andrei Voznesensky and Zoya Boguslavskaya had presentations at Columbia University.
At the famed Bowery Poetry Club,Andrei Bitov and Dmitry Prigov presented their poetry compositions with jazz duetto Vladimir Volkov (double bass), and Vladimir Tarasov (drums).
One evening, an informal meeting with participants and festival guests was held at the popular Russian Samovar, which has for many years a cult following of New Yorkers as it was founded by Iosif Brodsky and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Its owner and manager Roman Kaplan and his wife Larissa are the heart of this amazing place located in the very center of Manhattan. The Samovar was the favorite place for Iosif Brodsky, Bulat Okudzhava, Ernst Neizvestnyi, and today one can meet there Mikhail Baryshnikov, Yuz Aleshkovsky, Leonid Sbarsky, and others. It is the place, attended by Russian noted actors, writers and artists visiting New York.
Jazz Music at the prestigious Carnegie Club, situated near Carnegie Hall, was presented by the quartet of famous musicians Vladimir Volkov (contrabass), Vyacheslav Gaivoronsky (trumpet), Andrei Kondakov (piano) and Vladimir Tarasov (drums, percussion.) Each, a leader in his own music projects, have great popularity in Russia and abroad.
The Flowers rock-band celebrated its 35th anniversary at one of the most popular and avant-garde clubs in Manhattan, theKnitting Factory. The legendary drummer Yury Fokin participated in the concert. He has played in the Flowers for 8 years in the 70’s and the last 26 years working in the U.S. The packed club was very enthusiastic about the performance, with the audience singing along with the band, and after the 3-hour performance, not wanting the musicians to leave the stage.
A G ala concert with Russian classical music stars was successfully held October 30, at the famed Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall.
The concert was opened by the chamber orchestra Kremlin, with conductor Mikhail Rakhlevsky, after which a short official ceremony occurred. Here, the eminent founder and head of the Harlem Dance Theatre, Arthur Mitchell was awarded the Festival Tower Award by Ekaterina Solovyova – the soloist of Mariinsky Theatre.
The audience stood to greet and applaud the US Army soldiers of Russian background - veterans of Iraq war.
All was conquered by cellist Boris Andrianov, recipient of many prestigious international competitions and a Grammy nominee. Ekaterina Mechetina confirmed her honorary title of 2004 World Best Pianist when she was awarded at the Cincinnati pianist competition. Sergei Stadler, the only violinist in the world who was trusted to play Paganini’s violin on open concerts, was incomparable. Not in vain he is referred to as the “21st Century Paganini,” which he aptly proved through his concert performance.
Mariinsky Theater soloist Ekaterina Solovyova (soprano), who gained recognition in the U.S. performing the lead in the Broadway «La Boheme», had a strong impression on the audience with her talent and charm. Mariinsky Theater soloist Andrei Ilyushnikov (tenor) also performed to a great success. A thrill for the audience, to unceasing applause was the memorable improvisation of virtuoso musician Alexei Archipovsky (balalaika), whose mastery proved the balalaika is no less capable than other classical music instruments. The remarkable skillset was also demonstrated by the USSR People’s artist Makvala Kasrashvili (soprano). The special guest, the magnificient Lori Belillove, first dancer of the Isadora Duncan Foundation Dance Group, won the audience with her romantic dance to Skryabin’s music.
The performance of the great ballerina Anastasia Volochkova with her partner, Mariinsky Theater soloist Evgeny Ivanchenko, also was wonderful. As it turned out, the floor covering did not quite meet world standards, nonetheless the ballerina managed to perform her most complex dances.
Symphony music was presented at the Festival by the St. Petersburg’s Philharmonic Orchestra led by famed conductor Yury Temirkanov, performing successfully at Carnegie Hall within the International Festival of Symphony Orchestras.
On the final festival day, October 31, the fashionable VIP hall “ Capitale NY” in Soho hosted the closing carnival party Russian Halloween. Featured was the Flowers band with a special program for the evening, creating a great stir. The party was represented by the world’s top-model Natalia Vodyanova, who appeared in an elaborately costly dress as a huge fantastic flower, created specially for the night.
“Russian Nights” Festival in New York City for the first time presented within one week a wide ranging palette of Russian art: classical and modern ballet and opera; symphony and chamber orchestras; jazz, rock and folk music; classical, modern and puppet theatre, pantomime, musical theatre of the grotesque, classics from feature and animated film and youth cinema, modern and classical poetry and literature, and fine art from early 1900’s to early 2000’s.
This event was received enthusiastically by both English and Russian speaking audiences. They filled the festival halls of New York City, and the events were closely monitored by the U.S. media.