Title: Early Risers, St. Pete Take Golden Mask Awards
Author: John Freedman
Date: April 20, 2009
Publisher: The Moscow Times
It was a day that began with rain in the morning, moved on to bright sunlight in the early afternoon and ended with a few lonely snowflakes falling as the clock ticked on toward midnight. It was an ideal meteorological setting for the closing of the Golden Mask Festival, a two-pronged awards ceremony that this year seemed to have something of everything even more than usual.
For the first time in its 15 years of existence, the Golden Mask did the almost unthinkable on Saturday -- it rousted the Moscow theater community from bed to attend a formal affair that officially began at noon under the skylight of the Atrium at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater. Mercifully, it got under way only at 12:30 p.m., but it still may have been the earliest gathering ever held of Russia's theater elite, all of whom are hard-core night owls.
The ceremony, in which 31 awards were handed out to actors, directors, designers and producers to honor the top achievements in Russian dance, opera, drama and puppetry during the 2007-2008 season, was only the beginning, however. An evening continuation of the festivities included the presentation of several honorary awards announced previously and featured a delightful performance of "Golden," a new one-act opera by Alexander Manotskov, designed and directed with tongues planted firmly in cheek by Andrei Moguchy and Dmitry Krymov.
Above all, it was a day that honored winners, and no one took home more of the jeweled ceramic-and-glass Golden Mask plaques than dancer Diana Vishneva and her producer Sergei Danilyan. Vishneva was named Best Dancer for her work in "Diana Vishneva: Beauty in Motion," while Danilyan stepped up to accept the award when the show was named Best Ballet. For good measure, "Beauty in Motion" also received the Critic's Prize.
One of the most stirring moments of the afternoon session came moments before Vishneva received her award. The legendary ballerina Maya Plisetskaya was introduced as the presenter for the dance awards, and the entire hall stood for a prolonged standing ovation. "Today, I have a very pleasant job," she said before beginning to read off the names of winners handed to her in specially printed Golden Mask envelopes.
Another multiple winner in the dance category was Sergei Smirnov and his production of "Clay Wind" for the Sergei Smirnov Eccentric Ballet of Yekaterinburg. Smirnov was named Best Choreographer, and his show was declared Best Contemporary Dance piece. Smirnov drew chuckles from the crowd with his identical and brief acceptance speeches, "I want to thank my brilliant dancers!"
Acceptance speeches generally were kept short and sweet by the ingenious but almost imperceptible work of two percussionists -- Manotskov and Dmitry Vlasik -- whose Eastern-flavored musical accompaniment was present throughout the ceremony. Dubbed "these two magical people" by presenter Konstantin Raikin, they tactfully but insistently began tapping out a rhythmic tune each time a speaker exceeded the 30-second limit. Almost everyone took the hint, keeping the proceedings moving at a brisk pace. The entire afternoon ceremony lasted just 80 minutes.
St. Petersburg theaters came away as big winners in the field of opera. Mariinsky Theater artists took three awards, including Rodion Shchedrin as Best Composer for his opera "The Charmed Pilgrim." The Zazerkalye Theater was honored with awards for Best Conductor (Pavel Bubelnikov) and Best Opera ("Cinderella").
With the exception of one award -- a special Jury Prize to Natalya Makarova and Alexander Khryakov for their outstanding acting duet in "Woyzeck" for the Altai Drama Theater from Barnaul -- Moscow and St. Petersburg theaters hauled in all the honors in the field of drama.
Accepting the nod as Best Actress for her performance in "Without a Dowry" at the Fomenko Studio, Polina Agureyeva thanked her teacher Pyotr Fomenko for giving her the opportunity to take chances and "make errors." It was a fitting sign of reverence offered to the veteran director, since his former students have won four of the last eight Best Actress Golden Masks.
The Alexandrinsky Theater of St. Petersburg hit gold with three major triumphs: Krystian Lupa's staging of "The Seagull" was declared Best Large-Scale Production; Valery Fokin was named Best Director for his work on "The Marriage"; and Alexander Borovsky took the Best Designer award for his work on the same show.