The spotlight will shine on some of the university's Russian ties as various Johns Hopkins divisions and cultural institutions participate in the Vivat! St. Petersburg Arts Celebration, an upcoming city-wide event that is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors to Baltimore. Starting this week, the university will host a number of cultural and educational offerings to coincide with the unprecedented event, including musical performances, film screenings, personal enrichment courses and library and museum exhibits. (See box below for details.)
Vivat! St. Petersburg, which takes place from Feb. 13 to March 2, celebrates the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Russian cultural and artistic mecca with a calendar of more than 90 events involving nearly 50 arts organizations from throughout the metropolitan region.
The festival was organized by the city's five major arts institutions--the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Baltimore Opera Company, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Center Stage and the Walters Art Museum--together with the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. Inspiration for the event came from Yuri Temirkanov, the Russian conductor who is musical director of both the BSO and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.
In early 2001, organizers sent out letters to various cultural institutions suggesting they consider using the theme of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg when planning programming for February and March of 2003. Among those from Johns Hopkins to quickly answer the call was Linda DeLibero, associate director of the Film and Media Studies Program in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.
About the time DeLibero learned of the festival she was using the Russian silent picture October in one of her classes. Directed by Sergei Eisenstein, the film was commissioned by Joseph Stalin in 1927 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.
DeLibero says that having taught the film--which was shot entirely in St. Petersburg--just days before she was contacted about Vivat! was nothing short of "kismet." She promptly called Jed Dietz, director of the Maryland Film Festival, who agreed that October should be part of the citywide film series he was putting together in association with Vivat! St. Petersburg.
"I figured if they don't show this movie for this festival, what will they show? It was such a perfect fit--and events like these really help give Hopkins' cultural offerings visibility," says DeLibero, adding that she later discovered that Eisenstein happened to be one of Yuri Temirkanov's favorite directors.
October will be screened on the Homewood campus at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22, in Shriver Hall Auditorium. Other Russian-themed films will be shown at the Walters and the Charles Theater.
Kicking off Hopkins' connection with Vivat! St. Petersburg will be A Russian's Winter in Baltimore: Leon Bakst at Evergreen, 1922-1923. Opening Feb. 9, the exhibit highlights Evergreen House's Bakst Theatre, the only surviving private theater designed by avant-garde Russian-born artist Leon Bakst.
Robert Saarnio, the director of the university's historic houses, says that Vivat! provided an impetus to both interpret the history of "Evergreen's wonderful theater space" and conserve rarely viewed Bakst material stored in the house. The newly conserved Chansons Orientales, one of three Bakst stage sets designed for the Evergreen theater, will be displayed for the first time in 70 years.
"This theater is unique, and not something that historic houses typically have," Saarnio says. "People who come to the exhibit can expect to see a dazzling array of color: vividly beautiful and brightly colored stage sets that Bakst designed for [the home's former owners] the Garretts. We promise lots of visual drama."
Evergreen is also the primary lender to the Baltimore Museum of Art for its contribution to the St. Petersburg celebration, The Brilliance of Bakst: Theatre and Textile Designs from Baltimore Collections, which runs Feb. 12 to May 4. The exhibit features the original stage set Seville Street Scene created for use at Evergreen, as well as designs for the decoration of the theater.
Beginning Feb. 13, the central branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library will display Vivat! A Panorama of St. Petersburg From the Johns Hopkins Collections. The exhibit will feature photographs, watercolor paintings, musical scores, maps, books and letters from the various university archival collections and the Sheridan Libraries.
Highlights of the exhibition include historic photographs and images depicting the experiences of JHU's first president, Daniel Coit Gilman, as a young attaché to the American legation in St. Petersburg during the 1850s, Tchaikovsky's visit to the Peabody Institute in 1891, concert programs documenting Baltimore performances by some of St. Petersburg's finest musicians and materials documenting the work of renowned physiologist Ivan Pavlov with Hopkins physician W. Horsley Gantt during the 1920s.
"This event inspired us to look into our archival holdings, and we were delighted to find out that we had lots of connections to St. Petersburg," says Pamela Higgins, assistant director for external relations of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. "There are some really fascinating connections, and the opportunity to have all these materials displayed at Enoch Pratt was wonderful."
Other Johns Hopkins events that coincide with the festival include an all-Russian program by the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, a Peabody chamber music concert commemorating the golden age of Soviet musicians and four spring semester Odyssey courses and an Evergreen program on Russian history and culture.
Joan Davidson, the Baltimore festival's executive director, says that the university has truly embraced the spirit of collaboration that has infused the city.
"Johns Hopkins has been a wonderful partner with this festival, providing an incredibly diverse and marvelous series of programs," Davidson says. "All of the events associated with Vivat! St. Petersburg help to market Baltimore as a cultural destination in ways we've never really been able to do before. Our goal here is to tell the world of the richness of Baltimore's arts institutions. Sure, we are famous for baseball, the Inner Harbor and crabs, but we would like to also shine the spotlight on the other riches of our community."
More information about Vivat! St. Petersburg, including a full list of events scheduled throughout the city, is available at http://www.vivatfest.com.