The International Rostropovich Festival took place for the fourth time in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku December 12 to 19. As in the past, the participants included leading musicians from various countries and talented young singers and instrumentalists. On December 13, soloists of the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre performed Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen, as directed by Ivan Popovski and conducted by Yaroslav Tkalenko, on the stage of the Azerbaijan State Theater of Opera and Ballet. The production, which had already played for several years in Moscow with great success, proved a complete triumph. The audience greeted with particular warmth a native son of Azerbaijan, Opera Centre and Bolshoi Theater soloist Elchin Azizov, who sang the role of Escamillo. And it received a surprise in the form of an appearance by the eminent French actor Gerard Depardieu, a special guest of the festival, who, prior to the opening curtain, read excerpts from the short story Carmen by Prosper Merimee. Sensing the mood of the audience as a result of the actor’s appearance, the soloists of the Opera Centre gave a particularly inspired performance, which met with spirited applause and repeated curtain calls.