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Russian Conductor Yevgeny Kolobov Dies

June 15, 2003

MOSCOW (AP) _ Yevgeny Kolobov, artistic director and chief conductor of the innovative Novaya Opera Theater, died of a heart attack early Sunday. He was 57.

Kolobov, a conductor by training who was honored as a People’s Artist of Russia, died at his Moscow home, theater spokeswoman Svetlana Panfilova said.

Kolobov and others founded the theater _ ``novaya″ is Russian for new _ amid the Soviet collapse in 1991, when some of the country’s big opera companies performing traditional works were considered artistically inert.

His creed, according the theater’s Web site, was ``to revive undeservedly forgotten works and deliver new, modern interpretations of well-known compositions.″

The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted critic Svyatoslav Belza as saying Kolobov’s death was ``a colossal loss for the Russian musical arts, because he was an outstanding conductor and a true innovator in his field.″

Among his innovations: placing musicians in the rafters and performing a shortened version of Tchaikovsky’s ``Eugene Onegin″ with no intermission and just two chairs as scenery.

A graduate of the Urals State Conservatory in Yekaterinburg, Kolobov was chief conductor of the opera and ballet theater in the same city _ then called Sverdlovsk _ in 1974-1981.

For the next six years he was a conductor at St. Petersburg’s renowned Mariinsky theater _ called the Kirov in Soviet times _ where he worked on such standards of Russian repertoires as ``Swan Lake,″ ``The Nutcracker″ and ``Giselle.″

In 1987, Kolobov became musical director of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theater in Moscow, where he staged Russian premieres of Bellini’s ``Il Pirata,″ ``Boris Godunov″ in Musorgsky’s original version and Prokofiev’s ``Romeo and Juliet,″ according to the Novaya Opera site.

Kolobov produced new stagings of Glinka’s ``Ruslan and Lyudmila,″ Golovin’s ``First Love″ and Verdi’s ``La Traviata″ and ``Rigoletto,″ the site said.

He appeared with foreign orchestras in the United States, Europe and Japan and performed with the Novaya at Carnegie Hall and on Broadway in New York, as well as elsewhere around the world. He once turned down a job offer from the Bolshoi Opera for the sake of greater independence.

The theater Web site quotes Kolobov as saying that conducting is ``a profession that looks beautiful but is tragic: Many people stand between me and the music.″

A dark-haired, sharp-featured chain smoker, Kolobov looked and acted the part of a romantic iconoclast, though he had support from powerful Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and his company was created with city funding.

Once performing in an intimate theater on Taganskaya Street, the Novaya Opera is now housed in an elegant central Moscow building that was built in 1997 and has a capacity of more than 700.


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