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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Elton John Does St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Johann Strauss Jr. made his first appearance before the Russian imperial court in 1856 at the tsar's summer residence, the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.

On Thursday night, a visiting British knight, Sir Elton John, took the same stage in Tsarskoye Selo, which was renamed Pushkin in Soviet times.

Fresh from a concert in Izmir, Turkey, the flamboyant pop star gave a 90-minute performance at an invitation-only ball attended by the cream of the Russian elite and an entourage from Britain that included members of the royal family.

The concert, sponsored by Alfa Bank, was billed as a charity event, with invitations being offered for minimum suggested donations of $1,500 each. All proceeds will go to the restoration and construction of St. Petersburg monuments, and Alfa Bank has already announced plans to use some of the funds to build a monument to emigre poet and Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Brodsky.

In keeping with the imperial atmosphere, guests were asked to dress in tuxedos and white evening gowns.

John brought more than 100 guests with him, including Queen Sophia of Spain and Prince Albert of Monaco. Among the expected local guests were conductor Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife, Galina Vishnevskaya.

The concert, which kicked off at 10:30 p.m., was to be followed by an auction of some of John's legendary costumes. Guests were also to be treated to a fireworks display and a tour of the palace grounds.

John himself chose the Catherine Palace for the concert, Alfa Bank representative Larisa Konoshonok said. He visited the palace on his last trip to St. Petersburg in 1979, when he gave concerts here and in Moscow. John last visited Russia in 1995 with a concert at the Kremlin Palace.

The concert Thursday came 145 years after Viennese master Johann Strauss Jr. made his debut before the Russian imperial court at the Catherine Palace. He conducted and played the violin before Tsar Alexander II, members of the royal family and St. Petersburg's cultural elite.

While that concert was only heard by a relatively small group of people, John's performance Thursday was broadcast simultaneously over the Internet. The pay-per-view broadcast, hosted by Microsoft Corp. on its MSN web site, came after a similar presentation of John's 90-minute concert at the Ephesus Theater in Turkey on Tuesday night. That broadcast cost $10 to $15 to watch and offered VHS-quality resolution and near CD-quality sound, Microsoft officials were quoted by The Associated Press as saying Wednesday.