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August 21, 2003

U-M celebrates St. Petersburg’s founding with multi-arts festival

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—“Celebrating St. Petersburg: 300 Years of Cultural Brilliance,” a three-month festival hosted by the University of Michigan, will mark the Russian city’s anniversary with rich and diverse offerings in art, music and drama, made possible by the depth and breadth of the University’s artistic assets.

“The Romanovs Collect: European Art from the Hermitage,” at the University of Michigan Museum of Art will display 140 pieces of fine and decorative art that chronicle the royal family’s passion for collecting all things European. The UMMA exhibition will be the exclusive U.S. venue, and marks the first collaboration between the State Hermitage Museum and a North American university.

The University Musical Society, considered one of the five most influential arts presenters in the United States, will offer the U.S. premiere of Declan Donnellan’s production of “Boris Godunov,” one of only two U.S. venues for the performance. The full festival offerings of UMS will feature several additional Russian companies as well.

The U-M’s 50-year-old Center for Russian and East European Studies (CREES) has played a critical role in establishing the cultural partnership between U-M and the artistic leadership of St. Petersburg. CREES, a major partner in the entire festival, has also organized a dance symposium and a “theme semester” that extend the cultural impact of the activities.

The festival marks the latest in a series of successful collaborations between U-M and major artistic forces throughout the world. The U-M and UMS have sponsored such activities as two five-week residencies of the Royal Shakespeare Company (2001 and 2003), a one-week residency of the Count Basie Orchestra, the Kronos Quartet and the Senegalese Dance Party’s Orchestra Baobab.

The U-M School of Music has been rated the nation’s best for composition, and its faculty includes such well-known artists as MacArthur-winning composer Bright Sheng, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcolm and soprano Shirley Verrett.

—“The Romanovs Collect: European Art from the Hermitage” at the U-M Museum of Art exhibition will document the evolving aesthetic of the Russian tsars with art that includes furniture, jewels, tapestries, porcelain, drawings, paintings and sculpture bearing the names of Wedgwood, Meissen, Aubusson, Lorenzo Bernini and Jacob Jordaens. Curators from the Hermitage and scholars of Russian art history will offer a series of lectures to complement the UMMA exhibition. The exhibition is made possible by Ford Motor Co., which marks its Centennial in 2003.

—The 125-year-old University Musical Society will present seven events that express St. Petersburg’s cultural history in music, dance and theater. In addition to “Boris Godunov,” the epic drama that follows a climactic struggle for power in tsarist Russia after the death of Ivan the Terrible, offerings will include the St. Petersburg Academic Capella Choir, which sang at the inauguration of St. Petersburg in 1703 and boasted Peter the Great as an occasional member.

Dance presentations will feature the work of St. Petersburg-born George Balanchine, performed by the dance companies of two Balanchine protégés, Edward Villella’s Miami City Ballet and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet. The Kirov Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev, and violinist Vadim Repin and the St. Petersburg String Quartet will round out the schedule.

—The U-M Center for Russian and East European Studies (CREES), together with the UMMA and the UMS will present a series of events celebrating the distinctive cultural life that flourished in St. Petersburg from its founding in 1703 to the present. St. Petersburg, conceived by Peter the Great as a “window to Europe,” became the country’s new capital representing opposition to the former capital of Moscow. St. Petersburg became the European facade and a symbol of the Russian Empire for the world.

“From the Mariinsky to Manhattan,” an academic symposium, will feature Balanchine dancers Suzanne Farrell, Violette Verdy and Edward Villella, who will share their perspective of the practicing artist and reminisce about their training with Balanchine. Russian and U.S. scholars will examine the influence of George Balanchine on American ballet.

CREES has also spearheaded a “St. Petersburg theme semester” for Fall 2003 that will include courses in history, art, political science and Russian language, tied to the St. Petersburg celebration. Theme semesters are a longstanding feature of the University’s curriculum that enable students to enrich their learning with high quality experiences beyond the classroom.

—University units have activities on the festival theme. The University Library will draw on its Special Collections Library to present “St. Petersburg: Window on the West/Window on the East;” the Department of Theatre and Drama in the School of Music will present dramas by Russian playwrights; and the Dance Department will feature choreography to music by St. Petersburg composers.

A concert by Arthur Greene, professor and chair of the Department of Piano, U-M School of Music, will close the festival with works by Russian composers.

Related links:

Calendar of events >

Additional information and details of exhibitions, performances and educational opportunities >