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Ukraine invasion & the arts: Gergiev fired by his agent, etc.

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The Stolyarsky Music Lyceum sustained some damage during the bombing of Odesa on July 23rd. Stolyarsky's pupils included Nathan Milstein, David Oistrakh, Boris Goldstein and Elizabeth Gilels, though the current school was built later, in 1938.


Unlike the city's Transfiguration Cathedral, the school is still standing, but it has lost most of windows. 


Edited by volcanohunter
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What a disaster, on so many levels.


Moscow’s attachment to Odesa owes to the Ukrainian city’s literary tradition. Prominent Russian-language authors wrote some of their most important works here. Aleksandr Pushkin, Russia’s beloved poet, spent 13 months in Odesa writing “Eugene Onegin,” his novel in verse, during a period of exile from Moscow. Many other writers Russia claims as its own spent crucial parts of their careers in the city.

The Odessa Steps sequence from "The Battleship Potemkin."

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And grain shipments that many thousands of people depend on have been stalled.

Pushkin mainly wrote part of chapter one and chapter two of "Eugene Onegin" in Odessa, though the idea of Tatiana was born there ("For the first time with such a name / the tender pages of a novel / we'll whimsically grace"). He worked his book for over eight years in many locations, publishing its sections at fairly long intervals. Nabokov:


I lived then in dusty Odessa .../ There, hustling, an abundant trade sets up its sails. / There all exhales, diffuses Europe / all glistens with the South, and is motleyed with live variety.  / The tongue of golden Italy resounds along the gay street / where walks the proud Slav, the Frenchman, Spaniard, Armenian, and Greek ...


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The countries that needed the grain most got least. That said, the deal stabilized supplies and prices for everyone and any price rises will increase the risk of additional unrest in many of those same countries.

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Pushkin corrective: Timothy Garton Ash has a piece in the August 18, 2021 Financial Times - "Putin, Pushkin and the decline of the Russian empire" -


For Ukrainians, engaged in an existential struggle for their independence against Russia's war of recolonisation, Pushkin is a symbol of Russian imperialism that has long denied Ukraine's right to a separate national existence. Pushkin was a great poet, but also a poet of Russian imperialism, just as Rudyard Kipling was a great poet, but a poet of British imperialism. [...] Small wonder some Ukrainians now refer on social media to "Pushkinists" launching missile attacks on their cities.


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I'll say this. A video of actor Sergey Bezrukov reciting Pushkin's "To the Slanderers of Russia" is one of the scariest things I've seen. It positively drips with loathing and belligerence. 

There are a lot of Russian expats in Cyprus, and there are impresarios who cater to them. (I live nearly 10,000 km away but ended up on a mailing list.) Bezrukov was supposed to bring a one-man show, but first came Covid restrictions, and then Bezrukov was barred from the EU. The presenter kept postponing and postponing, and after a few years simply stopped advertising the show.

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Prisca Zeisel has resigned from the Bavarian State Ballet. In late July she participated in a gala Sergei Polunin organized in occupied Sevastopol. Instagram posts show that with Dmitri Sobolevsky she performed the Don Q pas de deux against a projection of the interior of the Odesa Opera House (slide 7), less than a week after the city had come under heavy bombardment, resulting in the destruction of its Orthodox cathedral. It turns out this may not have been her only performance in Crimea this year. Yesterday, after Süddeutsche Zeitung broke the news of her resignation, she posted a video on Instagram of her performing Odile's fouettés in what is clearly the Perm Ballet production of Swan Lake. Not coincidentally, the Perm Ballet presented a brief run of Swan Lake in Sevastopol a few days after the concert.

Zeisel, along with Polunin and her Munich colleagues Laurretta Summerscales and Osiel Gouneo, had performed in Sevastopol before. In 2019 they appeared as guest artists with the Novosibirsk Ballet in a condensed version of Spartacus in the presence of Vladimir Putin. From the Kremlin web site:

On 8/7/2022 at 5:49 PM, Marta said:

What "should" one conclude from the list of dancers  on volcanohunter's post, above?  We know that Zakharova and Polunin are supporters of Putin; should we assume that the other dancers are too? Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine,  Shklyarov posted his protest on Instagram.  It didn't stay there long though.  I imagine refusing the invitation to perform would not be a good idea, or maybe it was an order rather than a request.

I did some digging about various ballet performances in occupied Sevastopol, looking at web sites, posters, press reports and social media posts, which would be a lot easier to do if Instagram had a proper search function. Vladimir Shklyarov's "attendance" record is perfect. He has performed there every summer since 2018, which is more consistent even than Polunin. Ekaterina Krysanova's attendance had also been perfect until this year's concert coincided with the Bolshoi's tour to Beijing.

Basically there were three types of performances. "Galas" (though when such an event takes place at the Fishermen's Palace of Culture, as it did one year, it's strange to call it a gala), at which I would say participation is entirely voluntary. If a concert takes place in midsummer, during official holidays, it would be straightforward to cite other plans: a planned and paid-for vacation in Egypt, a visit to parents in distant Siberia, therapy to look after a persistent injury before the season begins... I counted 16 current and recent Bolshoi and Mariinsky principals who have never performed in Crimea, as far as I can tell.

The next type of performances are official tours by Russian companies. Since 2019 there has been a policy of bringing big-city Russian theaters to Sevastopol in the summer. In 2019 it was the Novosibirsk Ballet with the aforementioned Spartacus. In 2020 the Bolshoi brought Carmen Suite and a selection of opera arias. In 2021 the Mariinsky brought an operatic selection and Concerto DSCH. (I don't know whether Ratmansky was aware of this.) In 2022 the Mikhailovsky ballet brought Nacho Duato's Romeo and Juliet. This year it was the Perm Ballet's Swan Lake. In these cases it's quite possible that dancers had no say in the matter.

The third type of performances were guest appearances during these official tours. This, again, I would consider voluntary. The same summertime excuses not to participate could be used.

If Shklyarov (all of whose performances fell under the gala category) could briefly display an anti-war post online, perhaps it's because his loyalty to the regime is well-established.

Edited by volcanohunter
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Cyprus has been a vacation hotspot for Russians long before this war and the wars preceding it, with many Russian-owned properties.  Some who left Russia after sanctions went to Cyprus.  It’s not surprising, given proximity, cost, and climate, like Spain is a similar destination for people from the UK and Mexico for people from the US.

It’s also a place for Israeli’s to marry when they can’t or won’t be married by a recognized rabbi in Israel, which includes most Russian-born Jews and their descendants, so there’s a certain full-circleness about it.


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The Odesa Fine Arts Museum was damaged over the weekend on the eve of its 124th anniversary. There is now a crater in the street directly in front of the museum, while the museum suffered broken windows and cracked walls. The museum's main collection was moved to a secure location last year, but it continues to display rotating exhibits of contemporary art.



photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CzSMkYLoA1N/


Edited by volcanohunter
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On 9/13/2023 at 7:42 AM, Mashinka said:

I believe Prisca Zeisel is an Austrian national, her behaviour is disgraceful.

I found her on the Maryinsky website, so she landed on her feet, so to speak.  

I know this thread tries to avoid politics.  So regarding the rumors of Putin’s health scares, I will repeat the oft-mis-quoted Clarence Darrow:  “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”


Edited by Jayne
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