The woman who stole the heart of Chairman Mao

Maya Plisetskaya and Rodion Shchedrin are a unique couple: their romantic and creative partnership stretches for half a century and today, celebrating fifty years since their wedding day, they appear to still be overflowing with love for their work and each other.
In their interview with RIA Novosti, the couple point out that they didn't have a big white wedding. The ceremony went only as far as putting their signatures down at the local registration office. Yet, as Shchedrin points out, a pompous ceremony doesn't guarantee many years of happiness.

"Some have huge weddings and then get divorced the next day," says the composer.

Both of them confirm that there are no secrets to happy married life. According to Shchedrin, they never argue over who will do the dishes or any household chores. Plisetskaya agrees:

"Household problems are over-rated. Just don't think about it, and things will happen naturally".

The great ballerina says there is no unique recipe for happy married life.

"I just love him... What can I do?" she laughs and gives Shchedrin an affectionate pat on the head.

The world-famous composer and ballerina didn't plan to organise a major event for their anniversary. Yet, following the suggestions of government cultural organisations, they have arranged for a gala-concert to take place.

Specially-selected performers will play Shchedrin's newest works and some classical compositions which he dedicates to his wife. After the performances, the couple plans to continue the celebration in a quiet family atmosphere.

Maya Plisetskaya

Plisetskaya is renowned as one of the world's greatest and most charismatic ballerinas. Her slender arms impressively combined with amazing technique have allowed her to steal the hearts of Indira Gandhi, Robert Kennedy and Mao Zedong alike.

She was born to a family of Jewish artists. Her father was executed during in 1935, while her mother was arrested and sent to a labour camp together with her seven-month-old son. Plisetskaya was labelled "a daughter of an enemy of the people" and was brought up by her aunt, who later became the founder of the Tokyo ballet until her mother was released.

Plisetskaya rose to fame very quickly. Aged 18, she was already the principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet. Over the years, she's worked with some of the world's best choreographers such as Maurice Bejart, Yury Grigorovich, Roland Petit and Alberto Alonso. Her most famous roles are, arguably, Odette-Odile in Swan Lake (1947) and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty (1961) and, of course, Carmen, which has become her calling card.

Many critics say that Plistetskaya's dazzling talent and unique style have changed the world of ballet forever, making her a role model for aspiring artists all over the world. She continues to dance to the present day.

Rodion Shchedrin

Shchedrin's musical motto is that "big music should have a big audience". And, indeed, throughout his life he aimed to make classically-composed music more accessible and understandable for the largest number of people, which gave him worldwide popularity. He was also one of the first composers to explore traditionally Russian themes in his ballets and operas.

Rodion Shchedrin was surrounded by music from a very young age. His father and older brothers formed an instrumental trio. He was sent to a musical school, but his education was interrupted by World War II, during which all the schools in Moscow were shut down. By the time they reopened, Shchedrin was no longer interested in music - he wanted a military career.

It was the new choral academy for boys which opened in Moscow that gave Shchedrin a new push towards music composition. After attending it, he was accepted by the Moscow State Conservatory. And, right after his diploma work in 1955, he took the world by storm.

He composed such famous ballets as Carmen (the lead part in which became his wife's signature) and Anna Karenina (which was directed by his wife in 1971). His operas, such as Lolita and Dead Souls became renowned all over the world. He is also the author of many piano concertos, symphonies and chamber music compositions. He is himself a virtuoso pianist and organist, taking the piano part in person for the premieres of most of his works.

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