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 Post subject: Russian oil revenue effect on ballet?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 6:11 am 
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If you've read the June 2008 issue of National Geographic, there was a very long and substantial article on the oil boom in western Siberia, which has substantially enriched the Russian Federation, especially since most of its output is sold in western Europe.

Given all that revenue, you really have to wonder what effect will it have on the Mariinsky and Bolshoi Theatres, the two most prominent ballet troupes in the country. Does this massive uptick in oil revenue mean the Russian government is willing to provide much more financial support for both troupes? (Remember, we are talking a country where ballet and opera are strongly revered by its citizens; I'm sure someone like Ulyana Lopatkina is as well-known to Russians as better professional athletes are to Westerners.) And does increased financial support mean better pay for the people working for these troupes, and eventually for smaller ballet troupes in Russia?

Already I do know that they're spending US$730 million to renovate the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, and they're about the spend much more to renovate the current Mariinsky Theatre and to build a new theatre next door (which I believe will open some time in 2009).


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 4:04 pm 
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Wow, great question. I hope Catherine will give us her opinions.

I wonder, do Russian ballet companies solicit private donations as well? Do all the new billionaires contribute? Do they try to buy themselves pretty new mistresses from the corps de ballet as was done 100 years ago?

I now so little about the finacial structuring of russion ballet companies. I hope someone will educate me.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 9:43 pm 
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LMCtech wrote:
I wonder, do Russian ballet companies solicit private donations as well? Do all the new billionaires contribute? Do they try to buy themselves pretty new mistresses from the corps de ballet as was done 100 years ago?


Well, given that the official name of the Mariinsky and Bolshoi troupes have the State Academic Theatre title on them, I think they get most of their money from the Russian government. With all that oil money recently, they could afford to do the renovations I mentioned earlier. :) (The pictures I've seen of the plans for the new Mariinsky Theater makes me think it's going to be most avant garde performance art center since the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA.)


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 3:42 am 
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I only saw this thread now, because it is highlighted on the main page of this month's magazine. Or I'd have contributed sooner. I don't tend to read the Dance Issues thread very often which is prolly why I missed it.

In any case.

Allow me to share with you what I know.

The last I discussed this officially was with Vasiev in 2004, so please take it with a grain of salt, but the main principles here remain the same -- things in Russia change very slowly.

The theatres, ALL state academic theaters, are no longer entirely supported by the state. In 2004, the amount that the Mariinsky received from the government was minimal and not enough to cover operating expenses much less produce new works. With the fall of the USSR, that state funding siphon went bye-bye -- for the most part -- for all theaters. That is to say there is still a small federal budget for arts institutions in each city and that is divided among the major theatres. So in St. Petersburg yes the MT gets some, but so does Eifman, the Maly-Mussorgsky-Mikhailovsky (MMM), the Hermitage Theatre, in addition to the non-balletic theatres (drama -- the Jazz Music Hall, the Musical Comedy Hall, the Dramatic Theater -- there is a long long list). And the Bolshoi and Perm and Ufa -- all the theaters in the country get something.
But at this point it is not enough to survive on that amount alone.

As Vasiev explained it to me, it wasn't city specific, it was country-based, and based on size. So the larger theaters get a larger cut, but because it is divided so many ways, they dont end up with much.

Bottom line: since the shift to a market economy the theaters have been dependent on outside investment and philanthropy. HEAVILY dependent.

Whether the country has oil revenue or not is similar I suppose to the US, whether it has... I dont know, what does the US produce and sell massively? Cars? Whatever. If it has such revenue it doesnt necessarily follow that it would go to "state" arts institutions. It might, if someone decides to delegate it to that area. But it's not a given that it will be. It's an issue of budget, and what is allocated where. Unfortunately to date (and I cannot speak for 2008 but until now for sure), there hasn't been any huge increase in revenues for the ballet theatres in Russia.

I can open any of my 500+ playbill covers and here is what I see:

OAO Bank BTB, General Partner of the Mariinsky Theater. OAO Gazprom, sponsor of the 225th ANniversary Season of the MT, Sverbank Russia, Total (Oil), Main sponsor of the MT, Base Element COmpany, BP, JT International, MDM Bank, AFK Systems.

ANd on the back cover: Philanthropic and social organizations providing help to the Mairinsky theatre: Fund of Valery Gergiev (Moscow), Fund of the White NIghts of America (NYC USA), ANO Musical Festival Stars of the White Nights (St P), Association of the Friends of the MT (Paris), Fund of the MT (London, UK);

and partners of the MT are listed as PepsiCo, Imperial Collection and Hennessy. During the WHite NIghts festival, MontBlanc, Bombardier and other firms are added to those lists.

With that said, I recently saw the ads for Eifman's troupe and was shocked to learn that their starting salary is what I am earning as an underpaid trilingual expat with two degrees and 13 years work experience (post Bachelor's). For an 18 year old, they are earning what the equivalent is of probably double or triple what I made just out of university in the USA. My point: they are far from starving. Additionally, they earn extremely high rates when on tour -- their base (high) salary plus a performance fee for each day on tour in addition to per diem. Oh -- and guaranteed life employment and pension. It's really an unbeatable setup.

As for private donations, yes the MT is constantly seeking those. One of the reasons they have the balls at the Astoria or at Tsarskoe Selo is to get the donor money as I understand it... Those tickets are not cheap.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 12:42 pm 
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Wow, nice set up for those dancers. Do you have any sense of what a Bolshoi or Maryinski dancer is making? More than the Eifamn dancers? I had no idea they were doing so well.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 10:00 am 
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Catherine,

Thanks for the great comments! 8)

While the pay is fairly reasonable, if you're a top-flight Russian ballet star the pay nowadays is amazing--witness Svetlana Zakharova working for the Teatro alla Scala's ballet company or Diana Vishneva working for the American Ballet Theatre as guest dancers and earning probably over US$1 million per season--which explains why Vishneva can go to expensive Parisian stores to buy clothing like we saw in the French documentary Ballerina or her showing up to practice at MT driving an Lexus RX300 SUV (I saw that in a documentary online!). Pity that Ulyana Lopatkina appears to have too much allegiance to the teachings of her late tutor Natalia Dudinskaya, because (in my humble opinion!!) Lopatkina could be making WAY over US$1 million per year as a guest dancer with another company (I would LOVE to see her do Odette-Odile in the Vladimir Bourmeister choreographed version of Swan Lake at the Stanislavsky Ballet in Moscow).

I think that a Russian company like Gazprom or Lukoil (both of which have massive capitalizations) should consider doing a large-scale sponsorship of MT or the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow--after all, for many years here in the USA the arts got huge sponsorship from petroleum companies (especially Texaco, which some years ago merged with Chevron). It would offer a huge PR boon for Gazprom or Lukoil, to say the least.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 7:24 am 
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Actually, witness Diana Vishneva not only guesting with ABT, but guesting officially with the Bolshoi, with V. Malakov in Berlin, travelling with her own revue (Dance in Motion) in addition to Mariinsky perfs and other guest performances worldwide in various countries and cities... I am not aware of any other dancer who guests in more places per year than she does. In fact, Gergiev has had serious talks with her about this, something about her dancing more abroad than at home...

Sacto regarding Uliana, I highly agree. The irony is (is it ironic?) that Lopatkina's integrity and values don't allow her to "sell" the Mariinsky traditions abroad, and yet she is (IMHO) the single ballerina who most epitomizes the MT's classical Vaganova traditions. (There are others, but she among the principals).

Your idea seems good although Gazprom is already a sponsor of the MT. I would presume if they wanted to be moreso, it would have happened already. My guess is despite the comparatively higher popularity of ballet here, and the comparatively more widespread knowledge and understanding of the arts in general, companies like Gazprom can likely get more bang for their rubles by sponsoring soccer teams or Olympic athletes...but that is just a guess. I kind of just presume if there was something in it for them they'd do it, or have done it already.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 10:08 am 
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Quote:
Sacto regarding Uliana, I highly agree. The irony is (is it ironic?) that Lopatkina's integrity and values don't allow her to "sell" the Mariinsky traditions abroad, and yet she is (IMHO) the single ballerina who most epitomizes the MT's classical Vaganova traditions. (There are others, but she among the principals).


Catherine, are you saying that dancers guesting elsewhere somehow lack integrity? Sorry, but I don't see that at all and surely invitations to appear with other companies come down to one of three factors:

1. A very good agent

2. A reputation (good or bad)

3. An acknowledgement that the performer is world class

I suspect Lopatkina lacks the first, but is perhaps too limited in her repertoire for the international circuit.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 1:07 pm 
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I saw both Vishneva and Lopatkina when they were in San Francisco and I liked Lopatkina better, so I don't think she wouldn't have international appeal.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 8:17 pm 
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Catherine Pawlick wrote:
Sacto regarding Uliana, I highly agree. The irony is (is it ironic?) that Lopatkina's integrity and values don't allow her to "sell" the Mariinsky traditions abroad, and yet she is (IMHO) the single ballerina who most epitomizes the MT's classical Vaganova traditions. (There are others, but she among the principals).

Your idea seems good although Gazprom is already a sponsor of the MT. I would presume if they wanted to be moreso, it would have happened already. My guess is despite the comparatively higher popularity of ballet here, and the comparatively more widespread knowledge and understanding of the arts in general, companies like Gazprom can likely get more bang for their rubles by sponsoring soccer teams or Olympic athletes...but that is just a guess. I kind of just presume if there was something in it for them they'd do it, or have done it already.


Two comments:

1) Lopatkina--because she's the de facto "prima ballerina" at MT--is probably quietly well-compensated by MT to stay full-time with the troupe. As such, she can "pick and choose" almost whatever role she wants to dance. (In my humble opinion, MT should drop its pretenses and just give her the "prima ballerina" title, especially now she has the right dance partner to try a larger variety of ballets.)

2) The reason why I want Gazprom to do very substantial sponsorship for MT is simple: good public relations. After all, ballet is HIGHLY revered in Russia (so much so that even the Bolsheviks discarded the idea of dropping ballet after too many Russians complained); a substantial sponsorship deal will ensure that the Russian ballet tradition will continue far into the future. :) Here in the USA, Texaco got a lot of good PR for sponsoring the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts from New York City, and Mobil Oil (before they merged with Exxon) got a lot of good PR for funding Masterpiece Theatre TV broadcasts on PBS.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 8:24 pm 
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Cassandra wrote:
I suspect Lopatkina lacks the first, but is perhaps too limited in her repertoire for the international circuit.


The problem with Ulyana Lopatkina up until very recently was that because of her unusually tall height for a Russian ballerina (almost 5 feet 10 inches tall!), it was very difficult to find a male danseur that would match well with her (that was a bit of a problem when she was paired with Danila Korsuntsev in Swan Lake). But now that Lopatkina has been paired with Ivan Kozlov, that might finally make it possible to Lopatkina to expand her repertoire of dancing roles.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 06, 2008 4:51 am 
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Cassandra, GERGIEV was saying that when one of the company's top principals dances more performances outside her "home troupe" per year than she does at home, that that is a problem (for him). You will note he has a very strong relationship with Lopatkina -- the same cannot be said for his rel'ship w/Vishneva. I think it has to do with loyalty. Sort of, how can she (Diana) call herself a Mariinsky ballerina when she is never around in Petersburg. He (and others) see her as using the Kirov name for her own ends.

LMCtech, that's my impression as well.

Sacto - I like your two-point plan! :-) About Kozlov... although he isn't quite as polished as a solo dancer just yet, he and Lopatkina toured quite a bit last fall, performing a rather varied repertoire (Gibeli Rose, Raymonda, Giselle, Legend-- I am blanking on all of them now, but at least several other pieces or pas de deux) in various cities here and there. So rep isn't that much of an issue anymore, I don't think. An appropriate partner though, as we all know, really can make or break a ballerina in some ways...


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 06, 2008 9:44 am 
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Catherine,

Because Lopatkina has a good working relationship with Gergiev (and now she has a proper dance partner with Kozlov!), I really can see her getting not only the prima ballerina title officially, but maybe eventually even the more prestigious title prime ballerina assoluta by 2014. 8) I do see Ivan Kozlov evolving into a better danseur over the next few years.

Anyway, I can see Lopatkina dancing (if she stays in good health!) until at least 2023, and then get fast-tracked to become the Ballet director of the Mariinsky Theatre (her sense of ballet history is more appropriate as a Ballet director than to head the Vaganova Academy).

But getting back on topic, I do think Gazprom is the right company to do a major sponsorship deal with MT, given Gazprom has a capitalization of US$348 billion (as of May 2008) and the fact the company will build a huge corporate center in the Saint Petersburg area.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2008 5:19 am 
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Sacto, who knows, maybe Gazprom will be (or already is) considering such a plan. I presume we'd only hear about it after it was a signed/sealed/delivered done deal. The uproar about their building in St P has ruffled more than a few feathers of late though, so I would think they're focused on that at present.

I wonder if the MT would bestow such a title again on anyone, and if so when. And who would bestow it? Gergiev? That would be strange, as he's not a ballet person so to speak (head of the theatre but not a judge of ballet)... There should be some sort of International Ballerina Title Association that bestows such things...


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2008 7:00 am 
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Catherine Pawlick wrote:
Sacto, who knows, maybe Gazprom will be (or already is) considering such a plan. I presume we'd only hear about it after it was a signed/sealed/delivered done deal. The uproar about their building in St P has ruffled more than a few feathers of late though, so I would think they're focused on that at present.

I wonder if the MT would bestow such a title again on anyone, and if so when. And who would bestow it? Gergiev? That would be strange, as he's not a ballet person so to speak (head of the theatre but not a judge of ballet)... There should be some sort of International Ballerina Title Association that bestows such things...


Well, that Gazprom corporate center is definitely quite controversial, but then, it might be the only major skyscraper complex to be built that's visible to everyone in Saint Petersburg given how even UNESCO wants to preserve the historical skyline of the city because much of Saint Petersburg is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sure, Gergiev is more an opera/symphony person, but given how he fondly talks about Lopatkina in public, I do think she has a chance to at least get the prima ballerina title officially. :) By the way, I recently saw online a clip from Kultura TV of a new modern ballet she danced in with Kozlov--maybe it's the start of new trend with a much wider repertoire of ballets, classical and modern? 8)


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