on 26 May 2000

Join the New Elite at the Johann Strauss Ball

One of the Russia’’s youngest, but most respected festivals, "Musical Olympia" is coming to St. Petersburg for the fifth time on May 28. The eight-day event begins with a concert at the Shostakovich Philharmonic featuring conductor Dorian Wilson (USA), violinist Sayaka Shoji (Japan) and singer Vladimir Moroz (Russia), performing works by Paganini, Verdi, Tchaikovsky and Leonard Bernstein.

"Musical Olympia" is the brainchild of prominent pianist Irina Nikitina, who prefers to trust live impressions rather than recordings and others’’ opinions, and visits the world’’s leading musical festivals herself to select the most talented participants - not necessarily the gold medal winners - for her annual festival.

This year’’s event will be no exception, with young talent from Russia, Germany, Denmark, Japan, France, Ireland, Italy, Great Britain and the United States performing in the halls of the Shostakovich Philharmonic, the Hermitage Theater, Glinka Philharmonic and St. Petersburg Conservatory.

"Musical Olympia" is more than a festival, but part of a large project, also featuring the annual Johann Strauss Ball, created last year to mark the 100th anniversary of the Austrian composer’’s death. The idea proved to be so successful that the ball is now an annual event.

The city administration of Vienna is by far the largest sponsor of the ball, as part of a strong tradition to support and promote Austrian culture abroad. It organizes several dozen balls worldwide, including balls in Hong Kong, New York, Cologne and Prague.

"A ball should have an idea, a basis, or it simply won’’t last," Nikitina said."From that point of view, Strauss is a very successful choice."

"An elite is only now beginning to form in this country. For me, people with fancy cars and mansions don’’t necessarily belong to the elite. At the ball I’’d like to see educated and intellectual people who understand the concept of the event, not New Russians," she said.

The Strauss Ball, taking place on May 27 this year, is including the work of Mary McFadden, a prominent New York fashion designer. Nikitina believes that Mary McFadden is from a rare breed of designers whose creations look perfectly natural in palace interiors.

Nikitina is planning to invest the money raised from the ball in a new project, building a concert center in Pavlovsk, where an artistic academy will operate every summer. Nikitina believes that Russians should consider reviving the long-lost tradition of cooperating with Italian architects, and already has one in mind to design the building - Mario Botta.

"I don’’t feel like restoring a museum relic, the venue should correspond to the realities of modern life," she said. "Botta is just right for this job: a fresh-thinking artist who can envision the future."

Given Nikitina’’s taste, excellent managerial skills and determination, we may well soon see this dream come true.


Author: Galina Stolyarova  Edition: The St. Petersburg Times   Date: 26.05.2000