The Russian Virtuoso
Vladimir Spivakov was born in Ufa on September 12, 1944. His family moved to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) after World War II. With a Moscow Conservatory degree and violinist's renown, he founded the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra in 1979, and heads it to this day. He also leads the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia. Spivakov has won many prestigious national and international awards.
The best concert halls of Paris, London, New York, Rome, Tokyo and Stockholm applauded this violinist and orchestra conductor. Vladimir Spivakov has appeared as a soloist and conductor with the Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Monaco symphony orchestras, and the La Scala, Cologne Philharmonic and Radio France orchestras.
- You have everything one can dream of-fame, money and a fine family. Do you ever feel you lack something?
- Yes. That's peace.
- What do you mean?
- See, when you are responsible for others, you have to renounce something for their sake. That's how I understand supreme justice.
- Do you often engage in such self-renunciation?
- Yes! I am not only a soloist, but have four other big responsibilities-the Moscow Virtuosi and the Russian Philharmonic orchestras, the Moscow International House of Music, where I am president, and the International Charity Foundation. It caters to children and demands permanent attention and regular funding. When the Soviet Union collapsed, I saw that the weakest and most vulnerable-children and the elderly-would be the worst hit. I saw I had to at least help kids, not only with money or medicine, but also by preserving our culture for them. The foundation currently has a branch in practically every post-Soviet country, and wherever I go, I see well-dressed children in concert halls. They often take to the stage and occasionally visit my news conferences. "Where are you from?" I ask them, and they reply: "Your foundation." I am no statistics fiend but it warms my heart to know that the foundation has aided 8,000 children and has helped to save 17 or 18 little patients with life threatening conditions. All this gives my soul harmony. And I like to watch children make music. When they play instruments, they have angelic, not human faces.
- You often perform in the United States. Are American audiences different from Russian?
- Russians come to a concert just because they like it. For Americans, it is an important social event. Some people go to concerts score in hand in America and European countries - Germany or the Czech Republic, let's say - but it is no more than a prestigious form of entertainment to a majority.
- Have the post-Soviet years changed Russian audiences?
- Yes. More Russians have become ignorant of the classics. Perhaps, we have school curricula to blame. Music lessons have been abolished. They must be restored, I am sure. It was Dmitry Shostakovich's dream to see schools where the ABCs of music would be taught on a par with the three R's.
Ulyana Lopatkina was born
in Kerch, Crimea, [today a part of Ukraine] on October 23, 1973. As a child, she excelled in dancing and gymnastics before enrolling in the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. After graduation, she joined the Mariinsky Ballet company.
In Russia, every ballet era has its leading face. The 60s and 70s were synonymous with Maya Plisetskaya. Nina Ananiashvili reigned in the 1980s and 90s. At the turn of this century the new face of ballet is Ulyana Lopatkina.
- Your website is full of arguments about the roots of your unbelievable flexibility and ethereal grace.
- It's hard to theorise on dancing. Imagination is what matters most. You first imagine a movement and then try to do what you have in mind. You start from scratch again and again when you fail-and you fail often, because the body has greater limitations than the mind. There are the laws of the body to be learnt. But keep fit and you'll be successful.
- What did you dream of and expect of the future when a child? Have things turned out as you expected?
- I never had a spare moment for daydreaming! I have lived on my own since the age of ten. I had enough problems with dance classes and boarding school routine. I learned what the harsh adult world was like without parents to help me through it. But then, that's how it should be done.
- I know you easily put up with the constraints of your profession-no cakes to eat, no parties, no going to the cinema in the evening. It's always the rehearsal room and the stage. Hard life!
- You get to see your priorities even at school. The magnetism of the ballet bewitches children and never leaves adults afterwards. So you take endless physical strain for granted. There are teachers to show you that ballet is no sweet dream. "What, are you crying? You think the others have it easier? Toil is all the ballet is about. You want to dance? So work on, child!" That's what you hear day in, day out-for all your eight years at school, so it eventually seeps into your subconscious. Another realisation comes later. You see there is no quitting. You want to attain the Absolute, and inspiration comes when you approach it.
- Do you want a calmer life?
- To want it means to betray what makes me tick. I hope I retain a sober mind and common sense. My friends and parents help me. And then, there is nothing like the everyday strain of the ballet to sober one up, and ecstatic audiences inspire one to put up with the strain.
- Are there words that you use to encourage yourself when you are at the end of your tether?
- Yes! They are simple words-"This is not the worst thing you can have in this life. There are people much harder put. Who are you to despair, you lucky girl? You're just a bit tired."
Argumenty i Fakty
The New Spartacus
Choreographer and stage director Georgy Kovtun, Merited Worker of Art, has close to 300 operas and ballets to his name. Staged in many Russian and Ukrainian theatres, they include the well-known The Tale of Yusuf, Sar Gerel, Peer Gynt and Rasputin.
The St. Petersburg's more than $3.5 million production of Spartacus will impress audiences with dancing, scenery and live tigers. Director and choreographer Georgy Kovtun is enthusiastic about using the animals. "The tigress will symbolize the gladiator's will for freedom," he says. 2008 is the 40th anniversary of Yury Grigorovich's world-renowned production of Aram Khachaturyan's ballet at the Bolshoi..
- The world knows more than twenty versions of Spartacus. Leonid Yakobson's, made for the Kirov [now Mariinsky] Ballet in 1957, and Grigorovich's 1968 Bolshoi production are the best-known. Though their dancing styles are mutually contrasting, both follow Nikolai Volkov's 1933 libretto. Now, you have written a new libretto. Do you think that was necessary?
- It takes a madman to stage Spartacus in St Petersburg, which cherishes the memory of Yakobson's endeavour. But we people of the arts must speak up when we have something to say.
Spartacus is the only production of which I have dreamed for many years, but had no chance to make this dream true. Now, the Mikhailovsky Theatre is reborn and generously funded, so the opportunity appeared. I read Old Roman writers before getting down to the libretto, and I have introduced many things the ballet stage has never seen. My Spartacus is a synthesis of many arts. For instance, the chorus, which was so important in the Ancient theatre, will be on stage all the time, though in previous productions it only occasionally appeared in the final scene. Then, the weaponry imitates the real thing - the swords, javelins, daggers, shields and all, in short, the 120 kinds of weapons with which the Roman legions conquered half the world.
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