Moscow is one of the world’s largest cultural megalopolises. The city features 450 museums and exhibition halls, 250 theatres, 128 cinemas and 1,600 libraries. And this list is far from complete… One thing is for certain: it will take you only 10 minutes to get from any place within the Moscow Ring Road to one cultural facility or other.
Concerts, festivals, exhibitions and cultural initiatives are an essential part of people’s lives. On average, a Muscovite visits a theatre, museum or concert hall five times a year. Themed initiatives have been gaining in popularity of late: Museums at Night drew 450,000 guests, A Night of Arts – 300,000 and Libraries at Night – 60,000. What changed in Moscow’s cultural life in 2016?
Cinemas at Night attracted over 47,000 people
The Cinemas at Night initiative was first held last year. From noon until midnight, cinemas, libraries, museums, cultural centres and concert venues screened films and hosted meetings with famous cultural figures, concerts, lectures and themed tours. The initiative drew over 47,000 people and the Department of Culture decided to make it an annual event.
The city’s parks were transformed into creativity workshops where visitors were allowed to see first-hand the inner facets of the film production process and could even try their hands at acting as a film industry professional of their choice. For example, Gorky Park screened the film Good-Bye, Mary Poppins in a sing-a-long format so that visitors could dance and sing along with actors while watching the film. Tagansky Park was temporarily turned into an animation station for the Grand Animated Film Festival.
VDNKh invited visitors to an exhibition, You Never Dreamt of It, dedicated to the early days of cinematography while Mosfilm [a film studio] pavilions threw open their doors to the public. Guests of the Museum of Moscow were taken along Ivanovskaya Gorka, Povarskaya Street and Gogolevsky Boulevard where some of the scenes from popular Soviet films like Pokrovsky Gates, A Baby-Sitter with a Moustache and Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears were shot.
The Moscow Film cinema chain prepared new productions and classic films for the event, including St Petersburg. For Love Only, the series The Vanishing Spirit, as well as War and Peace, Legend No. 17 and The Battalion. In all, about 870 new productions and favourite old films were screened at over 130 venues picked by the organisers of Cinemas at Night.
Moscow’s first G20 Cultural Forum
Last year, Moscow hosted a Cultural Forum summit for the first time. Taking part in the Cultural Forum’s activities were over 30 cities around the world representing a population of over 200 million and with over 100,000 cultural facilities, which account for 60 percent of the global creative economy.
Representatives from 21 citiy attended the summit in Moscow to discuss the role of culture in the future of modern megalopolises, in particular the following issues: promoting a new creative atmosphere through the improvement of urban spaces; the role of city festivals and cultural centres in providing the impetus for the development of the economy; whether technology can be instrumental in developing creative cities; and new forms of service provision. Seoul, which will host a summit in 2017, has asked Moscow to help organise the event in South Korea.
A single day-off, New Year shows and a bot: innovations at libraries
Moscow’s libraries deserve much credit for their prolific activities in 2016. On 23 April, when World Book and Copyright Day are marked, the libraries switched to a new work schedule with a single day-off – now only on Mondays. The change was also introduced in time for a new initiative, Libraries at Night. Participants in a crowd-sourcing project, My Library, and the Active Citizen project proposed this particular format.
Since 1 December, 414 libraries have subscribed to the National Electronic Library, gaining access to 1.8 million rare books. The system consolidates the collections of Russian public libraries, research and educational institutions and copyright holders.
Also last year, city libraries introduced an SMS service to remind readers that a book is due back at a library. Another novelty is a bot that helps people find the nearest library, get information about its working hours, leave suggestions as well as learn about the top ten most popular books. Last year, New Year performances with Father Frost and gifts were staged at libraries for the first time. In all, libraries hosted over 20,000 events throughout the year, which attracted over one million visitors.
Libraries have stopped being just book depositaries – rather, they have become true cultural centres now. They host lectures, tea parties, workshops, meetings, theatrical performances, photo sessions and foreign language lessons and run over 1,200 study and hobby groups.
Moscow’s Best Image in Cinematography Award
Established in the middle of last year, the Mayoral Award For the Creation of Moscow’s Best Image in Cinematography has been open for submissions since early this year. A competition jury will make up a list of contenders and Muscovites will choose the winning entry by a public vote on the Active Citizen website.
Feature films, documentaries, series and animated films encapsulating life in today’s Moscow are invited to take part in the competition. The awards will be given at the Moscow International Film Festival every year. Prizes will also be given: the winner will be awarded 50 million roubles and those who come second and third, 30 million roubles and 20 million roubles, respectively.
Mayoral grants for gifted children
Looking back, 2016 was a successful year for the city’s art schools. All of the students who took part in 80 international competitions returned with awards. For example, the Ponomaryov Vesna Children’s School of Choral Singing came out on top in all the choral singing categories at the Bela Bartok International Competition.
In addition to international recognition, gifted students from art colleges and schools receive support from the city. In 2016, Moscow Mayoral grants were introduced instead of the Moscow Government’s prizes that had been awarded previously. The prize fund has increased two and a half times to a total of 2.6 million roubles. Mayoral Grant 1st Class amounts to 50,000 roubles, Mayoral Grant 2nd Class to 25,000 roubles while Mayoral Grant 3rd Class is 15,000 roubles. The number of contestants has grown tenfold since 2015. In all, the competition has attracted 2,200 entries; 1,500 students have made it to the second round; and 100 contenders eventually received Moscow Mayoral grants.
The number of theatrical performances and concerts staged in 2016 exceeded the figure for any of the five previous years – 26,900, or by about 50 percent more than in 2010. There were 280 new productions out of over 23,400 theatrical performances. For example, the Novaya Opera Theatre staged the one-act operas Gamblers and Maddalena: these two self-contained performances are chapters of the diptych, the first night of which was timed to coincide with the 125th anniversary of Sergei Prokofiev's and the 110th anniversary of Dmitry Shostakovich's births.
The Taganka Theatre staged the drama Viy based on Nikolai Gogol’s novella of the same name in a rock ‘n’ roll style. Last autumn, the Moscow Operetta Theatre came up with a premiere performance, Anna Karenina, and the Mayakovsky Moscow Theatre staged a jazz “road movie”, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, based on Bertolt Brecht’s play. Another of the theatre’s productions, The Russian Novel about Leo Tolstoi, was nominated for The Golden Mask theatre award.
In the run-up to its 95th anniversary, the Vakhtangov Theatre showed King Oedipus – a co-production of the theatre and the Athens-based National Theatre of Greece. The performance was directed by Rimas Tuminas who managed to re-enact the era of classical antiquity by breathing new life into it charging it with emotions and passions, and also imbuing it with contemporary references in order to connect with audiences. The Bolshoi Theatre showed the premiere performance of an opera based on Billy Budd, a novella by American author Hermann Melville.