'Triumph' Awards Laud Artists

Artists of many muses gathered at the Bolshoi Theater on Tuesday for the Fifth Annual Triumph Awards, honoring outstanding contributors to Russian culture.

This year's laureates were author Vladimir Voinovich, screenwriter and theater director Rezo Gabriadze, actor and television host Leonid Filatov, filmmaker Rustam Khamdamov, and pianist Yevgeny Kissin.

Each received $50,000 and a platinum, gold, and silver statuette, "The Golden Elf," designed by famed sculptor Ernst Neizvestny and produced by the New York-based Russian World Gallery.

For the artists assembled, it was a day of optimism after what was a gloomy, underfunded cultural year.

Upon receiving his award, Gabriadze described this as "the best Christmas of my life." Scriptwriter for such well-known films as Georgy Danelia's "Mimino" and "Kindza-dza," Gabriadze is also the founder of the Tbilisi Marionette Theater and an accomplished theater director, artist and sculptor.

"You show us all is not lost," actor and jury member Oleg Tabakov said to Gabriadze. "Sometimes that's hard to believe."

Voinovich, who has become a well-known satirical writer both in Russia and abroad, for years fell afoul of the tastes of the Soviet authorities. His works touched on such themes as the absurd contortions people had to go through just to get new living accommodations ("Ivankiad") and the often-petty but relentless pressure for artists to conform ("Fur Hat").

Jury member Neizvestny, a longtime fan of Voinovich, lauded the author's "satire with a sense of self-irony that doesn't allow us to see him as mean-spirited."

Kissin burst onto the Russian musical scene at age 14 with performances of Chopin concertos with the Moscow Philharmonic. Now in his mid-20s he is the youngest Triumph laureate ever but could not be at Tuesday's ceremony because of performance commitments.

In a letter, he promised to stage a series of concerts honoring the awards' fifth anniversary. He left Russia several years ago and now lives in New York. A letter was read exempting him from Russian military service.

Laureate Rustam Khamdamov, an iconoclastic film director best known for "My Heart is in the Highlands" and "Anna Karamazoff," is also a respected painter and jewelry designer.

"It's impossible to describe his films with words. They're like music," said jury member and fellow filmmaker Vadim Abdrashitov. "It's absolute cinema."

The most dramatic moment of the ceremony was the honoring of Filatov, who has been seriously ill. Filatov starred in such films as "Success" and Eldar Ryazanov's "A Forgotten Melody for the Flute." Filatov also emerged as a theater and film director and a writer of parodies. He received broad praise for his television show "For Us to Remember," which told of the actors of Russia's past.

Poet Andrei Voznesensky called the actor "a Christmas present to all of us."

The permanent awards jury is made up of 13 prominent Russian artists, including the husband and wife pair of Voznesensky and Zoya Bogoslavskaya, the coordinator of the jury and the director of the foundation. The jury members are ineligible for the award.