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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

St. Pete Stars Show Midas Touch for Mask Prizes

In spite of a strong showing from Moscow theaters, the big winners at the fifth annual awards ceremonies of the Golden Mask festival were once again contestants from St. Petersburg.

The Mariinsky Theater's well-known artistic director Valery Gergiyev and the renowned Maly Drama Theater f joined by one of St. Petersburg's newest talents, director Yury Butusov f led the way at Monday's ceremony at the Bolshoi Theater, receiving eight of the 22 awards handed out. The festival honors the best in Russian drama, opera, musical theater, ballet and puppetry. It was the second year in a row that St. Petersburg artists collected the lion's share of key awards.

The major prizes f best drama ("The Winter's Tale," Maly Drama Theater), best director of a drama (Butusov for "Waiting for Godot," Lensoviet Theater), best opera ("The Song of Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke," St. Petersburg Opera), best conductor (Gergiev for "The Flying Dutchman," Mariinsky Theater) and the critics' prize (Butusov) f all went to St. Petersburg nominees.

Other winners from the city on the Neva included Svetlana Zakharova for best female role in a ballet, Yelena Ternovaya for best female role in a musical, and Boris Eifman, who gained a special jury prize, for "achievement in contemporary choreography."

Sharing in the St. Petersburg triumph was British director Declan Donnellan. "The Winter's Tale," which Donnellan staged in October 1997, reaped the reward for best production.

The Golden Masks are awarded each spring for shows that opened in the previous season, in this case the 1997-1998 season.

Moscow nominees f led by the miniature, though mighty, Tyen Opery puppet theater f claimed victory in terms of sheer number. Ten Golden Masks went to local artists and venues.

The very first Golden Mask in the "Innovation Competition" went to the delightful reinterpretation of the futurist opera, "Victory Over the Sun," directed by Alexander Ponamaryov for Moscow's National Youth Theater. That announcement was greeted by a barrage of cheers from the otherwise sedate spectators at the ceremonies.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Moscow actor Yevgeny Krasnitsky receiving the award for best male role in a drama for his performance in Andrei Bely's "Petersburg" at the Gogol Theater.

While Krasnitsky delivered a powerful performance as the authoritarian Senator Ableukhov, he was up against famous actors like Konstantin Raikin and Yevgeny Mironov. Krasnitsky's victory is one of many signs that the Golden Mask competition may have at last overcome its previous reputation as a rigged operation.

For the Tyen Opery puppet theater, Ilya Epelbaum and Maya Krasnopolskaya won the Golden Mask for best director for their production of "P.I. Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake: The Opera," which also took the prize for best puppet show. Natalya Barannikova, an actress in the production, received a special jury prize in the field of drama.

The Bolshoi Theater and the Helikon Opera shared five prizes in the categories of opera and ballet.

Representatives of four other Russian cities also prevailed, including Svetlana Savina for top female performer in an opera ("Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk," Novosibirsk Theater of Opera and Ballet).

Lifetime achievement awards went to St. Petersburg actor Kirill Lavrov and Georgia-born, Moscow-based designer Iosif Sumbatashvili.