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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fomenko Grabs Top Golden Masks

For MTPyotr Fomenko accepting a Golden Mask.
The seventh annual Golden Mask festival wrapped up Monday night with top honors going to director Pyotr Fomenko, a lifetime achievement award for actor Yevgeny Samoilov and a riotous parody of the Three Tenors.

"Some people may be ironic about the Golden Mask award, but people were ironic about the Eiffel Tower, too," Fomenko, one of Moscow's most beloved theatrical personalities, told the crowded hall at the Bolshoi Theater as he accepted the Golden Mask for best director for his production of "War and Peace: The Beginning of the Novel."

Minutes later he was summoned to the stage again to the accompaniment of whoops and hollers to receive a second award -- the jury had named his production of Leo Tolstoy's novel as last season's best small-scale drama production.

The award ceremonies for the Golden Mask national theater festival, which honors accomplishments in drama, dance and musical theater for the 2000-01 season, were easily the most polished since they were first held in 1996. Festival general director Eduard Boyakov hosted the evening at a brisk pace, deftly segueing award presentations with brief but well-received entertainment numbers.

Other popular figures pulling down awards and big ovations were world-famous artist Mikhail Shemyakin, for his design of the Mariinsky Theater's "The Nutcracker," and Maly Theater actor Samoilov who, on the eve of his 90th birthday, was honored with the lifetime achievement award.

Shemyakin, in his trademark black blazer, black T-shirt and knee-high jack boots, admitted he was pleasantly surprised by the award. "I didn't expect it after the way the press panned the show," he said.

Samoilov, who was accompanied on stage by six children dressed as angels, quipped it was a shame to receive the award at 90, rather than 60, when he might have been able to win for a performance.

The unquestionable highlight of the entertainment numbers between the award presentations was a parody of the now-standard Three Tenors act. Vyacheslav Voinarovsky took the stage alone to sing "O Sole Mio" but before long, Alexei Kozyrev leaped up from his seat in mid-hall to steal the initiative from him. Immediately afterward more and more tenors began popping up all over the theater, until seven singers were competing fiercely for the attention of the hall, which had broken out into laughter and applause. Eventually the seven -- now waving colorful handkerchiefs -- joined forces on stage for the aria's final stanza.

Thanks in part to the success of the entertainment segments, the ceremony's usual level of controversy -- referred to by Fomenko in his remarks -- was remarkably low.

When time came for the drama awards, always the most hotly debated, it was enough for Boyakov to pronounce the word "drama" for the hall to begin buzzing. But aside from a handful of surprises, the results, if not always expected, were usually well-received.

Judging by the audience response, the biggest surprises were awards going to Lev Dodin's production of Chekhov's "The Seagull" for the Maly Drama Theater of St. Petersburg, as best large-scale drama production, and to Alexei Porai-Koshits for his design of that show's set. This show had not garnered wide support, as could be discerned in the weak applause greeting the announcements.

The best actor and best actress awards, in contrast, were hugely popular favorites. Maxim Sukhanov won for his powerful, unorthodox portrayal of Cyrano in "Cyrano de Bergerac" at the Vakhtangov Theater. Galina Tyunina received the nod for her performance of numerous roles in the Fomenko Studio's production of "War and Peace: The Beginning of the Novel."

Few were surprised, but most were delighted that Ilya Epelbaum and Maya Krasnopolskaya were awarded the prize in the innovation category for their strange and delightful project called "The Lilikan Museum of Theatrical Ideas," an on-going series of puppet, shadow and video shows incorporating the work of various major artists from around the world.

Awards in the music and dance categories were seen as something of a rational compromise. They were spread out over most of the shows that participated so that most shows won recognition.

It was no revelation that St. Petersburg's mighty Mariinsky Theater again pulled down the lion's share of awards. Aside from Shemyakin, six more Mariinsky collaborators or shows were honored. In the field of ballet, Natalya Sologub was cited for her performance of Masha in "The Nutcracker;" John Neumeier was singled out for his choreography in "Three Ballets by John Neumeier;" and Darya Pavlenko was issued a special jury award for her performance in "The Nutcracker." In the field of opera, Valery Gergiev was named best conductor for "The Valkyrie" and Dmitry Chernyakov pulled down best director for "The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh." This show was also named best opera.

In all, St. Petersburg, on the strength of its total domination in the field of musical theater, again walked away with 13 Golden Masks, the majority of the awards. Moscow retained six awards, and five other cities shared the remaining eight citations.

One of the most striking aspects of the evening was that not a single award winner resorted to reading a prepared statement and, with only one or two exceptions, everyone stuck to the 30-second acceptance speech limit.

Raymond Stults contributed to this report.