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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MARQUEE: That Quirky Golden Mask

They must do this on purpose. I don't mean the strange nominations that the council of experts often puts forward for the Golden Mask awards that each spring honor the best in Russian drama, dance, music and puppetry. Controversial and even silly nominations are part and parcel of any award system.

No, I'm talking about something more fundamental in the Golden Mask's apparent desire to irritate. At the award ceremonies three years ago, the organizers caused several moments of awkward silence by awarding a prize to an actor, Oleg Tabakov, who had not been nominated.

Two years ago, the ceremonies disintegrated into catcalls due, in part, to an experimental show accompanying the award presentations. This year the scandal hit before the awards ceremony that will take place at the Bolshoi Theater on April 5.

It seems the experts making the nominations were unable to find in all the vast Russian lands a single candidate worthy of nominating for best dramatic actress. Has anyone considered whether the problem is in the "experts" rather than in the actresses? Next year I would suggest they send all potential "experts" to Svyatoslav Fyodorov's eye clinic for a good check-up. In any case, this year no actress will be honored.

On the positive side, this year's nominations are much more varied. In the past all individuals were drawn only from a pool of productions also nominated for best show. Now, without that limitation, the field is much broader.

In the domain of drama, St. Petersburg is poised to repeat last year's triumph when it swept most of the major honors. Four of the eight shows nominated are from St. Petersburg, while only one - the Satirikon's "Jacques and His Master" - is from Moscow. Other cities included in the best show nominations are Yakutsk ("King Lear"), Novosibirsk ("Ivonna, Princess of Burgundy") and Vologda ("Carmen"). Declan Donnellan from England is one of eight nominees for best director ("The Winter's Tale," Maly Drama Theater, St. Petersburg).

For the first time in years, the Bolshoi Theater received several major nominations - four in the field of opera (two each for "Francesca da Rimini" and "The Love of Three Oranges"), and five in the field of ballet, led by "Dreams of Japan." The Golden Mask festival will bring to Moscow most of the shows involving nominees from March 20 to April 4.

- John Freedman