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Magnetic Vitebsk

There is a city in Belarus in which one always feels better, with a smile appearing on one’s face and one’s soul uplifted, by life, art and mutual understanding
I’m talking about Vitebsk, of course. Visiting the city during the Slavianski Bazaar International Festival of Arts, you’ll experience euphoria and catharsis. It’s a place of magic, where stars are lit and marriages are made in heaven. This year, the festival celebrates its 25th anniversary. Chatting with organisers some time before the event kicks off, on July 12th, we had only one thought: how can we wait until this grand party starts. The tickets for the most popular concerts at the Summer Amphitheatre are already sold out. Let’s look at the brightest premieres of the upcoming festival, and delve into the ‘must-sees’ of this glorious attraction.

Vitebsk ready to welcome guests

Everyone knows the story of Maxim Galkin and Alla Pugacheva, who met at Vitebsk’s Slavianski Bazaar, and fell in love. I was there at the time, watching the slim, curly-haired boy with clever eyes, standing at the gate to the Summer Amphitheatre, trying to persuade the guards to let him in, although he wasn’t accredited. As Alla passed by, she instantly assessed the situation and told them to ‘Let the child in!’ 

The ‘child’ was Galkin, who is now referred to by his patronymic, Maxim Alexandrovich, and who will celebrate his benefit night on July 13th at 10pm, on the stage of the Summer Amphitheatre: the very venue guards wished to keep him from entering. It’s a morality tale, suggesting that we never know whom we may meet. The most important thing is to read well, and learn from the best, as Maxim did. Alla Pugacheva promises to be a special guest at Galkin’s concert in Vitebsk. They’ve now been together for 15 years.

At the opening concert on July 14th, viewers will enjoy seeing another duo, an artistic one, not a couple. Marylya Rodovich and Valery Leontiev will perform their hit Colours of this Fair. According to concert director Ilya Glazunov, Marylya will bridge this year’s Slavianski Bazaar with the early days of the festival (when it was called the Polish Song Festival). Leontiev and Rodovich met back then and created a song with eternal appeal. 

At Vitebsk’s stage ground


Piotr Yelfimov, the Grand Prix winner of the Vitebsk-2004 International Pop Song Performers Contest:

For me as a performer, the festival was a springboard. Therefore, I take close interested in all connected with it. It’s a great honour to participate in the opening concert this year. I can’t wait for the 25 Moments of Summer programme, in which the festival’s best singers from past years will be performing. It will be a strong concert in terms of line-up and orchestral accompaniment, directed by maestro Finberg.

Most of all, I’m excited about the Vladimir Mulyavin tribute concert, taking place on July 17th at the Vitebsk Regional Philharmonic Hall. In the first part, we’ll perform the folk & rock opera Song of Destiny. The second part will feature songs by Mulyavin, with me singing Song of the Russian Toy, with lyrics by Yevtushenko. I premiered this composition last winter, at the Kremlin, and Vladimir Mulyavin fans welcomed it. I hope that Vitebsk audiences will be moved to hear the work of our great countryman, who would be celebrating his 75th birthday this year.

Sergey Petrov, Concert Programme Director:

Traditionally, the opening concert is the brightest and most appealing of the festival. All performers commemorated on the star square in Vitebsk will be performing on the opening night. Part of the programme will be dedicated to composers Igor Luchenok, Alexandra Pakhmutova and Polad Byulbyul-ogly. Another part will commemorate Vladimir Mulyavin; Belorusskiye Pesnyary band will deliver a tribute entitled Saved in the Heart. Foreign music will be represented by Thomas Anders and Michael Bolton. Festival friends will be performing, including Pugacheva, Galkin, Leontiev, Babkina, Orbakaite, Alekhno, Gostyukhin and Yarmolenko — there are dozens of celebrity names on the posters. The pinnacle of the show will be the first performance of a song by Yevgeny Muraviev and Kim Breitburg, Happy Birthday, Festival! — being sung by all concert participants. The final will be fascinating. I’ve been chatting with performers daily and I can tell you that they’re very excited about meeting the Vitebsk public and have been rehearsing hard for the concert on the main festival stage.

Alexander Sidorenko, Director of the Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk International Festival of Arts:

This year, interest in the event has been so immense that I have to apologise for not being able to accept all bands and solo performers willing to participate. It’s just physically impossible to fit everyone into the programme; it comprises more than 100 events already. It’s a packed programme, from July 12th to 20th, featuring all genres of art, from cinema, drama and painting, to ballet, opera and pop music. Street musicians, performers, artists and DJs will be entertaining the public in the centre of the city. I’m sure that, in coming years, our festival will expand not only to central squares and avenues, but across the entire city of Vitebsk. I suggest that guests buy tickets early. With online ticket services, tickets are available all over the world, and most have been already sold. Be sure you’ve got yours.

By Victoria Popova 
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