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17 July 2003

Summer is a wonderful time for holding musical festivals in the open. In Europe their number has exceeded the mark of 1500. Even the smallest towns with some architecture sights, strive to organize a concert of classical music. The profit is obvious – the cultural status is growing, the tourism branch is developing. Music lovers who know the schedule of all European Fests move from one town to another. Between Russia and Europe there is still a gap concerning this sphere, and yet the most far-sighted producers are taking this path. Irina Cordier, head of the “Figaro” Producing Centre is undoubtedly one of them. For the third time, this year she held the Opera Art Festival commemorated to Feodor Shalyapin. Regarding the 130th anniversary of the great singer the frames of the Festival have been considerably widened. The Organization Committee included Galina Vishnevskaya’s Opera Centre, the Crimea Ministry of Culture and Mayor of Sudak. Galina Vishnevskaya became the Honored Member of the Festival, but unfortunately did not come to the Festival though sent a warm greeting, confessing that all of her life she had adored the great singer and that she was glad that “thanks to the Festival commemorated to Feodor Shalyapin there would appear some interest to arts in the souls of the young audience”.

It should be pointed out that drawing the younger generation to the classical music is the credo with Irina Cordier, the mother of four children. That is why the programme of the Festival always features children ensembles along with adult performers.

The base of the Festival was the town of Sudak – one of the most picturesque spots in the South East of the Crimea, with the fortress of Genoa rising high above the sea on the rock.

The opening and the closing ceremonies were fully left to the young performers. One of them was the exemplary youth ensemble “Tavrichesky Blagovest” at the Crimea State Philharmonic Society. The head of the Choir is Olga Shapovalova. The Ensemble sang spiritual compositions and modern composers’ works as well.

The Moscow school-theatre “Galina Vishnevskaya” gave several theatre scenes from famous operas. The head of the band Is Elena Tratsevskaya. The children aged from 10 to 16, have a vocal strength, feel the stage perfectly and move beautifully.

It was so nice to hear Triquet’s couplets from “Eugene Onegin” performed by a young treble or a pastoral scene from “Queen of Spades”, sung by tender shepherds dressed in stylized white-snow garments.

The situation with “Carmen” was quite different. The children tried their best to play adult roles. Should children play the adult repertoire? There is much to discuss among professors of music. But it is clear that the children opera is quite a rare genre, that is why the special material is not always enough.

The highlight of the Festival was the violin ensemble “Yakutia Virtuosos” of Higher Music School in the republic of Sakha (Yakutia). It is for a long time that the ensemble has become the visit card of the republic not only in Russia, but abroad as well. How could children from forest villages turn into high quality performers, who show a rich sound, sense of style and unconscious team spirit?

The miracle produced by Larisa Gabysheva and Stanislav Afanasenko is worth discussing. I can only tell that the repertoire of the northerners includes about 30 virtuoso transcriptions, their disc has been recently released and they are welcome at any festival.

One of the honored guests at the Festival was Pyotr Sheremetev, the head of the Russian Music Society in France and Director of the Russian Conservatoire in Paris, initiated by Feodor Shalyapin in 1923. He applauded the children so intensely and said that he would take them to Paris.

The culmination point of the Festival was Paata Burchuladze’s performance accompanied by the ensemble of Chamber music from the Bolshoi Theatre under Leonid Lundstrem in the Shalyapin grotto in Novy Svet (7 kilometers away from Sudak). For the sake of this exotic spot the whole festival had been initiated.

On July 5, 2003 in the grotto there was a lot of sparkling wine, roses and candles. And there were the Shalyapins: Marina Feodorovna Shalyapina-Freddi, Shalyapin s daughter, who is 91 now and his granddaughter Angela Freddi-Monterforte with her Italian husband. They arrived at the Festival by sea from Foros. The Organization Committee had organized a trip in a “time machine”, for Marina and her daughter were staying in the same house Marina had been to, aged four. Marina remembered all her life in the Crimea, how she used to go down to the sea, and dreamt of becoming a sailor. Her dream almost came true: she was a sea officer at trans-Atlantic voyages. Despite her age, Marina looks fantastic. She was touched with the audience s ovation and signed cards to everybody.

Paata Burchuladze was excited as well. He confessed that he had imagined some hall decorated like a cave. But he was absolutely impressed when he was brought to this unique natural grotto, to which there exist two ways: one of them is a mountain path, one kilometer long and the other – is by sea. He said that he would never forget such a concert in the grotto. Paata performed several romances and arias from Shalyapin’s repertoire, that sounded wonderfully in the natural acoustics. In the grotto there were five hundred people. When the concert was over, they showed a documentary film and the grotto was filled with Shalyapin s voice just like 90 years ago, everybody could not but feel that the time had turned upside down.