Free Concerts, Museums for MoscowТs City Day

MTPreparations for the party are in full swing. The stage opposite the City Hall on Tverskaya Ulitsa is already up.

Despite the country’s economic turmoil, Moscow birthday celebrations are promising to be no less extravagant than in past years.

The Moscow city government has planned 560 events, ranging from the odd, such as the 17th International Waiters’ Race by Hotel Metropol, to the high culture, like the “Great Voices in the Kremlin” opera concert on Sobornaya Ploshchad, featuring Anna Netrebko and other world-class opera singers accompanied by Mikhail Pletnev’s Russian National Orchestra.

Kicking off at noon Saturday, the celebrations are expected to attract 3.5 million people from across Russia and Belarus.

This year’s events won’t be limited to the downtown. All city districts will see smaller-scale local happenings, such as openings of new schools and kindergartens, concerts starring young local artists, athletic competitions and charity concerts for the poor and disabled.

While tickets for the high-profile “Great Voices in the Kremlin” concert start at 3,300 rubles ($104) and go up to 38,500 rubles, almost all the capital’s parks will host various concerts and educational programs with free access.

In addition to various City Day activities for children, the Izmailovo Park will host an outdoor performance of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera “The Tsar’s Bride” and the “Saturday Jazz at the Izmailovo Park” concert, while the Tsaritsyno Park has invited soloists from Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theater along with an ensemble comprised of the well-known pop singers Iosif Kobzon, Oleg Gazmanov and Nadezhda Kadysheva.

“I feel that it’s really important to familiarize people with culture through such free events as the City Day celebrations at the estate parks,” said a Tsaritsyno Park employee, who asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak on the topic.

“Almost no ordinary person can afford the tickets to ‘Great Voices in Kremlin,’ and that’s when we come in with our high-quality concerts,” the employee said.

Numerous museums have also embraced the City Day programming, as the Pushkin Museum, the Museum of Moscow, the Borodinskaya Panorama Museum, the Yeltsin Memorial Museum, the State Gulag History Museum, and the Moscow House of Photography — to name only a few — will be open for free over the weekend.

However, not every Muscovite is excited about a weekend of nonstop festivities, which will inevitably lead to hideous traffic jams because of the blocked highways and city center. In addition to the traditional closure of Tverskaya Ulitsa and Mokhovaya Ulitsa, the Garden Ring will also be closed for a grandiose event — the annual policeman’s relay race.

“Those with cars going to the celebrations from outside the city center will have a hell of a time trying to get to the festivities because of the crowds of people and the street blockages,” said Daria, a student.

“Also,” she added, “I am definitely not looking forward to the dangerous mass gatherings of drunk people, who will be peeing all over the city center.”

City Day fans and foes can see the list of events at www.mos.ru/wps/portal/WebContent?checkPublic=false&documentId=124235