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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clowns Put a Smile on Golden Mask

Itar-TassClowns presenting Ruslan Kudashov with the best puppet director award for "Nevsky Prospekt" on Monday in St. Petersburg.
ST. PETERSBURG -- It took a bunch of clowns to salvage the mundane awards ceremony for the ninth annual Golden Mask Festival, honoring productions that premiered during the 2001-02 season.

Moscow artists ran away with the majority of the awards at the 18-day festival, which was held for the first time in St. Petersburg, and luminaries such as directors Kama Ginkas and Lev Dodin, ballerina Ilze Liyepa and actor Alexander Kalyagin were honored for their work.

But most of the spectators in the sumptuous Mariinsky Theater on Monday night seemed destined to fall asleep until the stage was invaded by the St. Petersburg-based clown outfit Litsedei.

Their job was modest -- to hand out four awards in the category of puppetry -- but they noisily marched through the hall and boldly took the stage like conquerors and saviors wrapped into one.

Ridiculing everyone as they danced, mimed and cut up, the clowns repeatedly attacked Ruslan Kudashov of St. Petersburg's Potudan Theater to keep him from receiving the best puppet director award for "Nevsky Prospekt." They smothered Svetlana Mikhailova of the Arkhangelsk Puppet Theater with kisses before inundating her in red paper hearts, as she accepted her award for best puppet actor in "Hamlet, Prince of the Danes." And they set up roving human barricades when a man stepped up to receive the best designer award for "A Winter's Tale" by the Kukolny Dom Theater from Penza -- before chasing him away angrily when it turned out he was a stand-in for absent winner Konstantin Melnikov.

Waging a counterattack, the entire cast of "Nevsky Prospekt" took the stage to receive the award for best puppet show. But they were no match for the half-dozen Litsedei clowns, who sprayed water on the actors, tugged at their clothes and covered them in colored wigs to the utter delight of the crowd.

Things were much calmer earlier on, as Moscow systematically hauled in seven of the eight major awards in opera and ballet. Liyepa took best female dancer for her work in the Bolshoi's "The Queen of Spades," while her partner Nikolai Tsiskaridze won best male dancer. "Roland Petit's Evening of Choreography" at the Bolshoi was named best ballet, but Petit and other nominees were snubbed when the jury declined to bestow the best choreographer award.

In opera, Moscow's Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater enjoyed a near sweep with its production of "Madame Butterfly." It was honored as best opera and garnered best female singer for Olga Guryakova, best director for Lyudmila Naletova and best designer for Yelena Stepanova.

Vladimir Ponkin was singled out as best conductor for his work on "Lulu" at Moscow's Helikon Opera. No award was made in the male singer category.

"Nord Ost," which was derailed by a terrorist attack last fall, was named best musical. Accepting the award was co-director Georgy Vasilyev, who said it had been important to remount the production after the tragedy to show that "good is stronger than evil not only on stage but in life, too." The show's star, Yury Mazikhin, was named best male performer in a musical.

Best female performer went to Teona Dolnikova for her work in "Notre Dame de Paris" at the Moscow Operetta Theater. No award was made for best director of a musical.

Several heavyweights walked away with awards in drama. Ginkas, who had never won an individual award despite four nominations in the past, finally copped the best director award for his exquisite production of "The Lady With the Lapdog" for Moscow's Theater Yunogo Zritelya.

The show also was named best small-stage production.

Best large-stage production went to "The Moscow Choir," directed by Dodin and Igor Konyayev for St. Petersburg's Maly Drama Theater-Theater of Europe, while this show's sublime star Tatyana Shchuko was tabbed best actress.

Kalyagin, chairman of the Russian Theater Union and one of several presenters at the awards ceremony, was named best actor for his comic turn as a clown-like ruler in "Ubu Roi" for Moscow's Et Cetera Theater.

The other awards were:

Best Modern Dance Production: "Expectation," Theater of Modern Dance, Chelyabinsk.

Musical Jury Awards (2): "Wedding Cortege," Choreographical Miniatures Ballet Theater, St. Petersburg; and Svetlana Matveyeva, a singer with the Yekaterinburg Experimental Musical Theater.

Critics' Award: "Wanderers and Hussars," OKOLO Theater, Moscow.

Audience Appreciation Prize: "Oblom Off," Playwright and Director Center, Moscow.

Innovation Award: "Sine Loco," AKhE Theater, St. Petersburg.

Best designer, drama: Yury Kharikov, "Mother Courage," SamArt Theater, Samara.

Drama Jury Awards (2): "Kashtanka," Theater Yunogo Zritelya, Yekaterinburg; "Oedipus Rex," Theater Na Liteinom, St. Petersburg.

Lifetime Achievement Awards (2): Yury Grigorovich and Lyudmila Zhivykh.