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Massachusetts Prepares To Host Hundreds of Soviet Performers

January 23, 1988

BOSTON (AP) _ Hundreds of performers from the United States and the Soviet Union will make cultural history next month, when the first of nearly 100 dance and theatrical performances has its premier at the Opera House.

Plans for Massachusetts to host about 285 Soviet artists, including members of the Bolshoi Ballet, culminates a 10-year quest that has fluctuated with superpower relations, said Connie Navin, spokeswoman for the Boston-based Festival Operating Co., which is organizing the three-week event.

Next year, American artists will travel to the Soviet Union.

The program, ″Making Music Together,″ is scheduled to include about 90 dance and theatrical performances around the state using American and Soviet cast members, said Navin. Also, Soviets will visit schools and stay in the homes of some local residents, she said.

″This will put world attention on Massachusetts as an arts center,″ said Festival president James Hangstefer.

Details of the schedule will be outlined by organizers Thursday.

Hangstefer said the idea of a large-scale exchange was first discussed in the late 1970s by Sarah Caldwell, artistic director of the Opera Company of Boston, and Rodion Shchedrin, a Soviet composer whose works include scores for the ballets ″Anna Karenina″ and ″Carmen.″

Shchedrin’s wife, the renowned former Bolshoi ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, is scheduled to participate in the program.

The talks, however, were abandoned following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan eight years ago and not rekindled until the November 1985 cultural exchange accords signed in Geneva.

A formal agreement was reached last year following several visits to the Soviet Union by Caldwell and local officials, including State Rep. Nicholas Paleologos, said Hangstefer.

″Besides the size of the exchange, another unique aspect is that U.S. and Soviet performers will be on stage together,″ he said. ″It’s not just like they are coming over here and doing their thing and going back.″

The Bay State program may be the largest exchange both in size and scope, said Molly Raymond, deputy coordinator of the President’s U.S-Soviet Exchange Initiative with the United States Information Agency in Washington.

″It’s very ambitious by trying to involve all kinds of performing arts,″ said Raymond. ″(Caldwell) really has a grand scheme, ... It’s one thing to go somewhere and go on stage, but this will focus on joint projects. It’s the kind of thing that really get artists excited.″

In addition to the performances, the exchange will bring about 18 student and four professors from the Moscow Conservatory to the New England Conservatory of Music in mid-February to take part in classes and a special joint concert series, said school spokeswoman Mary Sweeney. The school will send a delegation to Moscow next year, said Sweeney.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is also planning a show of Soviet theatrical design, said Navin.

″I understand some of this work was previously underground and could be the first time shown outside the Soviet Union,″ said Navin.

In 1989, many of the American performers participating in the spring events will visit the Soviet Union to complete the exchange.

Navin said the $3.5 million to $4 million for the U.S. portion of the exchange will be jointly funded by the state and private contributions.

Hangstefer said the Soviets will likely have freedom to travel.

″I understand that security will be rather loose,″ said Hangstefer. ″There should be a lot of interaction between the public and the Soviet visitors.″

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