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.
"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.
At the Walters, Vikan talks enthusiastically about the opposite ends of the cultural spectrum -- the traditional and the nouveau -- embraced by his museum's contributions. "I just love our two shows," he says. "I could not be more pleased. All the way from Malevich to a Faberge egg -- they both came out of the same city, at around the same time, and I would guess from within a mile-and-a-half of each other, but they're looking in opposite directions."
On the traditional end would be The Faberge Menagerie, opening tomorrow and running through July 27. Some 100 tiny Faberge animal creations, from collections in the United States, England and Russia, will be on display.
On the more cutting-edge side would be Origins of the Russian Avant-Garde, opening tomorrow and running through May 25. The exhibit will feature about 140 works -- on loan from the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg -- by some of the most original and celebrated artists of the 20th century, including Kandinsky, Malevich and Goncharova.
Asked to contribute something to the Vivat! experience, Michael Harrison, general director of the Baltimore Opera Company, first considered a traditional Russian opera, perhaps Tchaikovsky's opulent Pique Dame (Queen of Spades). But then the Washington Opera stole a bit of his thunder by staging that piece last year.
No problem. "This is a festival, a very special situation," he says. "I thought to myself, why not go in the other direction and do a piece that I've always wanted to do, a piece that's rarely performed but is one of the most important operas of the 20th century?"
So it is that the BOC will perform Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, the tale of a Russian housewife whose desire for passion in her life leads her to kill. The work includes simulated sex, gang rape, two murders and all manner of unsavory human character traits. "It's an extremely powerful [story]," Harrison says, "of a lonely woman who is very frustrated."
It's also the work that almost got Shostakovich thrown into exile by Stalin -- though not, surprisingly, because of all the licentiousness depicted onstage. "No," Harrison says, "Stalin just couldn't imagine that a Russian peasant woman would be bored with her life."
* For a different operatic experience, try Opera Vivente's From Russia With Love, which will include a semi-staged version of Stravinsky's comic opera Mavra, plus excerpts from works by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. Shows are Saturday and Sunday at the Leon Bakst Theater at Evergreen House.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
(Admission fee, except where noted.)
"The New Barbarians." Theatrical event by Joyce Scott and Lorraine Whittlesey about the lives of Russian artists of African descent, 8 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Walters Art Museum. 410-547-9000.
"Rose." Staged readings of Martin Sherman's one-woman play about the life of a Jewish woman whose journey began in a tiny Russian village, Feb. 16-19 and Feb. 23-25 at Everyman Theatre. Time varies. 410-752-2208.
"Gertrude's Dinner Performance." Performance artists Joyce Scott and Lorraine Whittlesey present a satirical take on the combination of Slavic and African-American cuisines, 8 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Authentic foods will be available at Gertrude's at the BMA Feb. 19-March 2. 410-889-3399.
"Three Jewish Lives." Three-person play based on the lives of Saul Bernstein, Henrietta Szold and Gutman Hutzler, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. 410-732-6400, Ext. 29.
"Drowning Crow." A Russian Classics Reinvented event. Reading is by Regina Taylor. 8 p.m. Feb. 25 at Center Stage. 410-332-0033.
"A Mother." A Russian Classics Reinvented event. Reading is by Olympia Dukakis. 8 p.m. Feb. 27 at Center Stage. 410-332-0033.
"Inspiration of the Ballets Russes." Ballet Theatre of Maryland performs in conjunction with the exhibition Art of the Ballets Russes, 8 p.m. March 1 and 3 p.m. March 2 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. 410-263-2909.
"Dmitry Kaminker : Scupltor." Through Feb. 16 at Maryland Institute College of Art. Reception 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Feb. 14. Free. 410-225-2300.
"Oil Paintings by Yevgeni Shchukin and Boris Yegiazarian." Feb. 22-April 26 at Art of Russia Gallery. Reception 5 p.m.-8 p.m. March 1. Free. 410-494-4438.
"Gregor Piatigorsky: Virtuoso as Collector." Feb. 26-June 8 at Baltimore Museum of Art. 410-396-7100.
"After the Fall -- Images of St. Petersburg." Through March 1 at Creative Alliance. Admission fee. 410-276-1651.
"Images From Russia" and "Black and White Magic of St. Petersburg." Through March 1 at C. Grimaldis Gallery. Reception 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Feb. 13. Free. 410-539-1080.
"Black Russians." Through March 2 at Galerie Francoise. Free. 410-337-2787.
"Russian Lacquer Miniature Art -- Modern Visions." Through March 2 at Tradestone Gallery. Reception 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Feb. 13. Free. 410-752-8085.
"Yuri Gorbachev Exhibition." Through March 2 at Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. Free. 410-385-3000.
"Russian Summer." Through March 5 at Dundalk Campus, Community College of Baltimore County. Reception 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26. Free. 410-285-9863.
"Kaletski, Palnitska and Frank." Through March 8 at Gomez Gallery. Reception 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Feb. 13. Free. 410-662-9510.
"Facets." Through March 8 at Villa Julie College. Talk at noon Feb. 13. Free. 410-602-7163.
"Shadows / A Missive for St. Petersburg: The Baltimore-St. Petersburg Exchange." Through March 8 at School 33 Art Center. Reception 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 15. Talk 3:15 p.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 15. Free. 410-396-4641.
"Eastward Prospective & View." Also, a mixed-media exhibit by Izya Shlossberg. Through March 9 at Montage Gallery. Free. 410-752-1125.
"Worldview / Contemporary Russian Jewelry and Objects." Through March 12 at OXOXO Gallery. Free. 410-466-9696.
"Vivat!" Through March 15 at Maryland Art Place. Reception 5 p.m. Feb. 15. Gallery talk 2 p.m. March 1. Free. 410-962-8565.
"From Gulag to Glasnost : Leningrad Artists From the Dodge Collection of Soviet Nonconformist Art at the Zimmerli Art Museum." Through March 16 at Maryland Institute College of Art. Reception 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Feb. 14. Free. 410-225-2300.
"Vivat! Chamotte." Feb. 20-March 29 at Baltimore Clayworks. Reception 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Feb. 22. Free. 410-578-1919.
"Russia's Holy Fool: The Outsider Art of Pavel Leonov." Through April 1 at the American Visionary Art Museum. 410-244-1900.
"Vivat! A Panorama of St. Petersburg from the Johns Hopkins Collection." Through April 13 at the Enoch Pratt Central Library. Reception 6:30 p.m. Feb. 20. Free. 410-396-5430.
"Miniature Paintings and Lacquer Boxes." Through April 26 at the Art of Russia Gallery. Free. 410-494-4438.
"The Brilliance of Bakst: Theater and Textile Designs from Baltimore Collections." Through May 4 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. 410-396-7100.
"Art of the Ballets Russes." Through May 4 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Gallery talks Feb. 20 and 27. Admission fee. Also, interactive craft activities through May 4. 410-396-7100.
"A Russian's Winter in Baltimore: Leon Bakst at Evergreen, 1922-23." Through May 25 at Evergreen House. Reception 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Feb. 13. 410-516-0341.
"The Origins of the Russian Avant-Garde." Through May 25 at the Walters Art Museum. Admission fee. 410-547-9000.
"The Faberge Menagerie." Through July 27 at the Walters Art Museum. 410-547-9000.
Lectures, literary events
"Afro-Russian Thursdays." Lecture on Alexander Pushkin Feb. 13, Pushkin poetry slam Feb. 20, "Rappin' Russia" Feb. 27 at the Great Blacks in Wax Museum. 410-563-3404.
Robert Alexander. Meet the author of The Kitchen Boy, a story about the execution of Nicholas II, the last Russian czar, 2 p.m. Feb. 15 at Enoch Pratt Central Library. Free. 410-396-5430.
"Imperial Legend, Legendary Needs: Lessons from St. Petersburg." Lecture by Alexis Troubetzkoy, international church liaison for International Orthodox Christian Charities, 11 a.m. Feb. 15 at Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church. 410-243-9820.
"History of Russian Art: From Icons to Russian Revolution of 1917." 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at Enoch Pratt Free Library, Reisterstown Road Branch. Free. 410-396-0948.
"The Russian Connection." Lecture about the Moscow-St. Petersburg Railway and the American connection, 7 p.m. Feb. 20, B&O; Railroad Museum. Free. 410-752-2490, Ext. 222.
"Slide Lecture: Sergei Isupov." Slide show by the Russian artist, 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at Baltimore Clayworks. Admission fee. Also, a demonstration workshop 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 22. 410-578-1919.
"The Ballets Russes: Diaghilev and Bakst Lecture." 9 a.m.-11 a.m. Feb. 22 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. 410-396-6321.
"Literary Masterpieces of Russia: Akhmatova, Blok and Pushkin." Staged readings by actors from the Baltimore Theatre Alliance, 2 p.m. Feb. 22 at Enoch Pratt Central Library. Also, 2 p.m. Feb. 23 at Enoch Pratt Free Library, Reisterstown Road Branch. Free. 410-396-5430.
"History of the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Art Museum." Slide lecture on the history of the czars, 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Enoch Pratt Central Library. Free. 410-396-5430.
"The Four P's: Poems, Prose & Plays by Pushkin." Presented by the Arena Players, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 and March 1 at Arena Playhouse. 410-383-1632.
"Opera at the Lyric -- Lectures and Performance." Mini-course on Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Lectures 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Feb. 25 and 27 at the Johns Hopkins University. Performance 2 p.m. March 2 at Lyric Opera House. 410-516-4842.
"St. Petersburg: The Splendor of Its Art." Seminar relating to the Faberge Menagerie exhibit, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. March 1 at the Walters Art Museum. 410-547-9000, Ext. 237.
"St. Petersburg: History and Culture Slide Lectures." 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. March 5, 12, 19, 26, April 2, 9, 23, 30 at the Johns Hopkins University, Homewood Campus. 410-516-4842.
American Balalaika Symphony concert, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at Goucher College. 703-217-6669.
"From Russia With Love." Opera Vivente presents Stravinsky's Mavra and performs excerpts from operas by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, 7 p.m. Feb. 15 and 2 p.m. Feb. 16 at Evergreen House. Reception after Feb. 15 performance. 410-547-7997.
"Homage to the Masters." Stravinsky's Pulcinella, Tchaikovsky's Mozartiana Suite, works by Mozart and Ravel. Performed by the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, 8 p.m. Feb. 19 at Goucher College. Pre-concert lecture 7 p.m. 410-426-0157.
"Not Love Alone." By Rodion Shchedrin. Also, Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. Performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, 8 p.m. Feb. 20-21, 11 a.m. Feb. 22. 410-783-8000.
"Music of St Petersburg." Presented by the Handel Choir of Baltimore, 8 p.m. Feb. 21 at Old St. Paul's Church. 410-366-6544.
"Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk." By Dmitri Shostakovich. Presented by the Baltimore Opera Company, Feb. 22, 26, 28 and March 2 at the Lyric Opera House. Time varies. 410-727-6000.
"All Night Vigil, Op. 27." By Sergei Rachmaninoff. Presented by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, 5:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. 410-523-7070.
"Chamber Music by Candlelight." Members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Borodin, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at Second Presbyterian Church. Free. 410-744-4034.
"St. Petersburg Showcase." Presented by Concert Artists of Baltimore, 2:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Engineers' Club. 410-625-3525.
"Overture to Russlan and Ludmila." By Glinka. Also, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. Feb. 28-March 2 at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Time varies. 410-783-8000.
"The St. Petersburg Suite." Pianist George Spicka's musical tribute to the history and personalities of St. Petersburg, 8 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Creative Alliance. 410-276-1651.
"Antiphony of Youth." Presented by the Children's Chorus of Maryland, the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra and Galaktika (a youth chorus from St. Petersburg), 2 p.m. March 1 at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. 410-494-1480.
"Vivat! St. Petersburg Festival Concert." Guest conductor Leon Fleisher leads the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, 8 p.m. March 1 at the Peabody Institute, Friedberg Concert Hall. 410-659-8100.
St. Petersburg String Quartet. 7:30 p.m. March 2 at Shriver Hall, the Johns Hopkins University. 410-516-7164.
"Russian Symphonic Music Lectures." Course explores how 19th- and 20th-century Russian composers developed a national symphonic sound. Eight sessions starting March 5 at the Johns Hopkins University, Homewood Campus. 410-516-4842.
"Catherine the Great: A Lust for Art." A look at Empress Catherine and the history of the Hermitage Museum, 2 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Enoch Pratt Central Library. Free. 410-396-5430.
"Window to Paris." Satire about the differences between Eastern and Western Europe and Russia's foray into the world of capitalism, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Walters Art Museum. 410-547-9000.
"October." A study of the October Revolution of 1917, presented with live music and discussion afterward, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Johns Hopkins University. 410-516-7164.
"Tyrants and Heroes: The Nineteenth Century Czars." Focuses on Russian rulers and tells the story of how during the reign of Nicholas I the Hermitage Museum burned to the ground and was rebuilt, 2 p.m. Feb. 23 at Enoch Pratt Central Library. Free. 410-396-5430.
"Russian Ark." A look at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and 300 years of Russian history, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Charles Theatre. 410-727-FILM.
"Love." The first film version of Anna Karenina, with live music, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Walters Art Museum. 410-547-9000.
"From Czars to Commissars: A Museum Survives." Documentary on Russian history, 2 p.m. March 2 at Enoch Pratt Central Library. Free. 410-396-5430.
"Fabulous Faberge Eggs." Hear stories about Russian culture and decorate your own Faberge egg, 3:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Hampden Branch. Free. Reservations required. 410-396-6043.
Russian storytelling and crafts. 2 p.m. Feb. 15 at Enoch Pratt Central Library. Free. 410-396-5430.
"Vivat! Weekend." Make Faberge-style eggs and paper nesting dolls, try on Russian folk costumes, learn to make ice cream in a plastic bag, more, Feb. 15-17 at Port Discovery. 410-727-8120.
"Story Mountain Goes Global!" Make your own Faberge-style egg ornaments and see the "Eggscape" exhibit by Mitzi Perdue. Through Feb. 23 at Port Discovery. 410-727-8120.
"Fabulous Faberge Studio Workshop." Craft-making and more, Feb. 22-March 2 at Port Discovery. 410-727-8120.
"Brunch With the Ambassador." Former U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation James F. Collins discusses the changes in Russia over the past decade, over brunch, 11 a.m. Feb. 16 at the Museum of Industry. 410-727-4808, Ext. 133.
"Sights and Sounds of St. Petersburg: A Multimedia Odyssey." 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Feb. 17 at Loyola College. Free. 410-617-2017.
"Zion Church Historic Worship Service." Liturgy according to the Prussian Agende, with music by Bortnianski, who influenced German church music, 11:15 p.m. Feb. 23 at Zion Church of the City of Baltimore. Free. 410-727-3939.
Baltimore Museum of Industry tour. Tours of the museum's galleries with a focus on the role Russian immigrants played in American industry. Through March 2. 410-727-4808, Ext. 133.
Jewish Museum of Maryland tour. Tours of the B'Nai Israel Synagogue, which was the temple of Baltimore's Russian-Jewish immigrant community at the turn of the last century. Through March 2, beginning at the JMM. 410-732-6400.
"The Magic of the Ballets Russes Mini-Course." Tour the exhibit Art of the Ballets Russes at the Baltimore Museum of Art, then attend slide lectures about ballet, for six sessions on Wednesdays beginning March 12. Sessions are at the museum and the Johns Hopkins University, Homewood Campus. No session April 16. A talk and reception takes place April 23 at Evergreen House. 410-516-4842.