September 18th is the first day of the new season in the Yekaterinburg Philharmonic Hall (or Philharmonia in Russian).
A week before the opening my colleagues from the local travel agencies and I were invited for an excursion to the theatre. It’s true that the Philharmonic Hall of Yekaterinburg is one of the best in Russia but very few people outside the city know about it, though our orchestra has frequent performances in Europe and the USA and the concerts are always sold out.
The Art Nouveau style building on 38a, Karl Libknekht St. was completed in 1917 but after all the turmoil in Russia, the Hall was opened only in 1936. In 1973 the Phiharmonia bought a huge German pipe organ that weighs 23 tons.
Today the Philharmonic Hall gives 250 concerts a year including concerts of the world famous musicians such as Vladimir Spivakov, Dmitry Khvorostovsky, Yuri Bashmet to name a few. Therefore, it’s better to book tickets in advance. The website of the Philharmonia offers on-line booking however it’s only in the Russian language: http://www.sgaf.ru You can also watch there some concerts on-line.
I hope this post will convince some of you to visit the Philharmonia. At least the excursion by the director Alexander Kolotursky convinced me to buy a ticket to the concert of the Hong Kong Orchestra of Chinese National Instruments on October 5th. This concert is a part of the Euro-Asian Festival of Music held in Yekaterinburg for the second time. Musicians from the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Korea and India are performing on the main stage of the Philharmonic Hall from October 4th to October 16th.
Tickets are still available.
Prices range from 300 to 2000 rubles.
p.s. on the Facebook page of the Philharmonia https://www.facebook.com/sgafru I’ve found this video: One Day with the violinist Leonid Orlov. Leonid is a good friend of mine. Have a look at the working day of a violinist in Yekaterinburg.
I made this video two years ago. It looks like I've put on a few kilos since that while the city hasn't changed at all. Enjoy and come for a visit this summer!
Yekaterinburg is already proud of the first monument to the Beatles in Russia (read about it: http://askural.com/2010/09/new-monuments-of-yekaterinburg/) Now the city has a sculpture of Michael Jackson too!
Local fan club of the King of Pop gathered money to erect a sculpture in the city centre. Michael, who had never been to the Urals, appeared on Vainer St. in front of Greenwich Shopping Mall on June, 25th - 2nd anniversary of Jackson’s sudden death.
Michael Jackson gave his first concert in Russia in 1993. The main difficulty for the Moscow organizers was to find 8 computers for the show. Those days few Russians could afford them. Due to high ticket prices and heavy rain the stadium was only half full and Michael refused to start the show. At the last moment the organizers had to open the gates and let passersby enter for free.
On the first day of winter Russian director Rinat Timerkaev presented his new animated film I Love You. The film shows his native city Yekaterinburg in spring and based on Marina Chengikmakher's poetry.
More info about the film on Rinat's blog (in Russian) http://timerkaev.livejournal.com/
Young Ural filmmakers made a video about Yekaterinburg. Vadim Ovchinnikov, Artur Pogosyan, Irina Tratyakova and Stepan Kukharev were inspired by the local band David Orchestra and their music theme ‘I had a dream where Davlet Giray was telling about the sky’. They just took a camera, went out and started to shoot everything around.
– We were surprised to spot so many human stories on the streets and to find out how beautiful the city was. Artur Pogosyan the director of the video confessed.
The video is called Yekaterinburg. November. Night.
This month Yekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre celebrates its 98th anniversary. The theatre is located in the city center on Lenin Avenue. It has been restored lately and looks just as in 1912 when its first season started with A Life for the Tsar - an opera by Glinka also known as Ivan Susanin. The history of Russian Ballet began in Yekaterinburg in 1914. The first ballet staged in the Urals was The Magic Flute. The ballet is on in Yekaterinburg this season.
The local theatre received international acclaim. It's especially popular in Thailand now. Every winter the theatre performs in Bangkok. The Royal Family of Thailand are huge fans of Russian culture and ballet in particular. My good friends - the violinists of Yekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre like to tell a story how they received a present from the King of Thailand - a vase that they nearly lost in a platskartny train during excessive drinking on their way home (musicians are human too, you know). The parcel kept on falling from the top bunk onto their heads and a provodnitsa in the train nearly threw it away. Only in Yekaterinburg they realised what kind of a present they had got. The jewelers failed to assess the vase stating it was priceless.
Despite the priceless gift from the King of Thailand, the life of Russian ballerinas hasn't changed much since the Soviet times when many of the dancers attempted to fleet to Europe or to the USA. The local ballerinas enjoy very modest salaries of 700 US$, saying however that the sensation of dancing on stage can't be compared to anything else. So they keep on tiptoeing and that is why Opera and Ballet Theatre in Yekaterinburg is always packed. Book your tickets in advance!
A few words about Russian traditions of going to the theatre: a night in an Opera is a festive occasion for the Russians. Theatre goers are dressed up so the foreigners are easily spotted by the jeans and sneakers. During an intermission people rush to the cafe to buy pastry and drinks. Beer is not common in the theatres but vodka and brandy is always available.
Last weekend I chatted to Rick, an Englishman in Yekaterinburg. Rick used to work in the music industry in London and now he teaches English in the Urals. Naturally, we talked about music. It turned out that Rick is a huge fan of the Ural rock bands even though they sing in Russian. So he gave me an idea to share the phenomenon of Ural rock with you. This is a story about the bands that had and still enjoy a huge following all over Russia and former Soviet territories. What's more important, they made Sverdlovsk-Yekaterinburg a leading music scene in 1980s - early 1990s
Rock music in the USSR was a protest against the regime and mainly became a prerogative of engineering intelligentsia. With a large number of technical engineering institutions in Yekaterinburg (those days Sverdlovsk) no wonder so many rock bands sprang up here before Perestroika. Nautilus Pampilius was one of the most prominent bands of that time. Though often criticised for being too pop, this band formed the core of the Soviet rock phenomenon due to their unusual unsoviet style and their lyrics targeted at social problems. A charismatic front man Vyacheslav Butusov disbanded Nautilus in 1997 when the era of Perestroika turmoils came to an end. He moved to St Petersburg and formed a new band there U-Peter. However, the piercing songs of Nautilus Pampilius are still very popular and sound very much up to date. I particularly love their hit Goodbye America. Butusov is singing about the place behind an iron curtain he will never be able to see. In 1988 it seemed a very true imposibility.
Yekaterinburg music scene of the 90s is connected with the name of Agatha Christie. The post punk band had nothing to do with English detectives though. It was formed by the Samoylovs brothers, the students of the Ural State Technical University (now named after its famous graduate Boris Yeltsin). The brothers didn't get much into politics and sang about love and deception in a gloomy murky manner so natural to the lost generation of the new Russian country. Agatha Christie proved to be a long lasting project. The Samoylovs brothers started in 1988 and broke up only this year. Here is their top hit of 1993 Kak na Voyne (Like at War)
The real dinosaurs or veterans of the Ural rock are Chaif. The name is a combination of the words chai - tea and kaif - feeling high. The thing is that during the rehearsals the Soviet rockers in the Ural Rock Club were drinking liters of ... tea (those were innocent times) Probably, that was the reason why the band formed in 1985 still works in full swing. Chaif are the best representative of the Ural rock as unlike other bands they didn't move to Moscow or St. Petersburg for better career prospects. They live in Yekaterinburg and regularly take part in charities and activities of the local community: volunteer to clean the city parks and speak against the authorities' decision to tear down wooden houses of the last centuries in the city centre, that has recently become a burning issue in Yekateriburg. Chaif plays a mix of rock and roll and blues sometimes with reggae influence as in their son Argentina - Jamaica 5:0 written after World Cup 1998. They can easily gather a crowd of 20 thousand fans as it was in Moscow at their 20th Anniversary. Chaif 1991 hit Oy-yo Nikto ne Uslyshit (Oy-yo, No one will hear) is definitely their trademark song about existential crisis of a Post-Soviet man.
Like all post-Soviet cities, Yekaterinburg has many impressive Soviet monuments including ubiquitous Lenin on Lenin Avenue. Fortunately, the 21st century artists have paid their tribute. The new monuments and sculptures of Yekaterinburg are less grandeur, more true-to-life and attract many tourists. Thanks to them the city looks cosier warmer and unique.
Well, this one is following the Soviet traditions being rather gigantic - QWERTY monument is relatively new but has already become one of the main city attractions along with Church on the Blood. It's interesting, that in a few days after the official opening of the monument somebody stole two concrete letters (each letter weighs 80 kg!) The letters were never found and were replaced by the new heavier ones. You can find it and jump from Enter to Delete on the eastern bank of the Iset River between Malysheva and Kuybysheva streets next to the Beatles monument.
Book the city tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/city-tour
Sir Paul hasn't had time to visit it yet but John Lennon's band Quarrymen came to the opening ceremony and that was more than enough to make the post-Soviet fans happy. Now the monument is also supported by the Wall of Love. The wall depicts the houses of the Beatles in Liverpool and everyone can leave a peaceful message on it.
The Russian music fans like to take pictures at the monument to Vladimir Vysotsky and Marina Vlady in front of Antey skyscraper
Vainera walking street (a so-called Uralski Arbat) is full of bronze sculptures dedicated to the city dwellers of the past. For example, the sculpture of Artamonov - a local craftsman who invented a bicycle. Didn't you know that the bicycle was invented in the Urals? Every local child will tell you so. Okay, it wasn't the first bicycle ever but the first created in Yekaterinburg.
If you go to the right from the Central Train Station you get to the old station which is now a Rail Museum. There are some interesting sculptures of the station workers in front of the museum:
Yekaterinburg has also the one and only monument to an Invisible Man. I intentionally didn't post the photo of it so that you can use your imagination and think how a monument to an Invisible Man may look like. To find the answer just visit Yekaterinburg. You will spot the monument near the main entrance to Belinski Library on Belinskogo st, 15.
Book the city tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/city-tour
Here are some more photos of the new monuments and sculptures in Yekaterinburg:
According to this year statistics, more than 420.000 foreigners have visited Yekaterinburg so far, twice as many than last year. Among them 43% come to work, 31% are private visitors, 19% come on business, 3% are tourists and 2% study here.
If you are tired of the Russian language and want to speak English for a change, to meet English speakers in Yekaterinburg is easy. Just look for a place that has loads of booze, Russian girls and music (not necessarily in this order)
Everjazz, Lunacharskogo 137, www.everjazz.ru A new jazz cafe has just opened in the building of Dom Kino cinema and promises to become a top place for jazz lovers from the Urals and abroad. Foreign and Russian live bands play here every night from 8p.m. Note that you will have to pay an entrance fee from 500 to 1.500 roubles depending on the act and it's a good idea to book a table beforehand if it's the like of All Foster Quartet playing.
Alibi Bootlegger's Booze Bar, Malysheva 74. This bar is the newest fad in Yekaterinburg - fun atmosphere with booze (a large variety of whiskey), girls and dancing thus a foreign friendly place. I've personally hold a grudge against it though since last time the bouncer didn't let me in with my female friend. When I asked if he would let us in with male companions he genuinely said - Yes. I understand that there is a disproportionate number of men and women in Russia but it doesn't mean that being a woman I can't get to the bar in my city. Being a foreigner however you will be welcome in any bar, so don't worry about it.
Dr. Scotch pub, Malysheva 56a. A pub in Yekaterinburg means something between a disco bar and an expensive restaurant. Dr Scotch is not an exception. With two large areas for eating and for dancing it attracts a lot of party lovers both locals and foreigners. One Friday night (that was exactly the night when we were rejected in Alibi then fortunately hit Dr. Scotch) I spotted there a teacher of English from the UK, a guy from South Africa, an Italian tourist and two workers from Spain. So the statistics didn't lie about purposes of foreign visitors.
Rosy Jane pub, Lenina 32. Another English pub that isn't quite English but is popular with foreigners in Yekaterinburg. There is not enough space for dancing but there are many TV screens to watch football or hockey matches plus live music at weekends.
Rancho restaurant, Gogolya 36, www.theranch.ru The restaurant is located next to USA General Consulate, so you can often meet its employees there. Rancho holds Cinema Nights once a month when you can watch American movies with Russian subtitles.
Yellow Submarine bar, Lenin ave 46. The Beatles themed live music bar. Local bands play there every night. The bar is open from 6p.m. to 6a.m. however live music starts only after midnight which is OK for the Russians but is rather late for the foreigners who got used to the early parties.
You can also meet English speakers in the English Club in Keeer Restaurant-Brewery, Mamina Sibyarika 36, every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Those who study English join the club on Wednsday nights for a drink and a chat in English only!