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Skepticism Over Glasnost

February 05, 1989|SHAUNA SNOW

Despite dancer-defector Natalia Makarova's landmark return to perform in Leningrad last week--two Soviet musician-defectors warn that skepticism is necessary when looking at new measures of "artistic freedom" in the Soviet Union.

"Maybe (Makarova's return visit) means others can come visit Russia, maybe it doesn't," said Maxim Shostakovich, music director of the New Orleans Symphony and son of the Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich. "What's happening now sounds good, but only when freedom is absolutely protected by law like in the U.S. is it good. It seems to me that things can change now in any direction--maybe tomorrow it will be better, or maybe tomorrow it will be worse. It's unpredictable.

"If it's good for her (Makarova), it's her decision. . . . But for me, there's absolutely not enough artistic freedom (to go back). If they asked me, I would go back only if everybody in Russia could go to the U.S., because freedom only for exceptional people is not enough. . . ."

Pianist Alexander Toradze, who defected from the Soviet Union when performing in Spain with the Bolshoi Symphony in 1983, echoed Shostakovich's skepticism: "The returning of former Soviet artists is natural and I fully welcome that thought," he said. "But we shouldn't forget what happened before. . . . We need to see that this (the Soviet government's new ways) is not a temporary thing . . . and (that) they are not going to . . . go back (to the old ways) again."

Toradze added that he would not return to his homeland until he believed the country's political climate had changed enough to provide "a relative happiness" for all Soviet people. Both musicians, however, acknowledged the benefits of Makarova's return to her homeland.

"Artistic exchange is always good, because when artists travel they bring ideas from one nation to another," said Shostakovich, who defected in 1981 with his pianist son, Dmitri, while on tour with the Soviet Radio Symphony.

Former Bolshoi dancer Valentina Kozlova, however, had only positive comments on Makarova's return. Kozlova, who defected with her then-husband Leonid Kozlov in 1979, called the dancer's visit "wonderful," adding that it brought great promise to other artists who would like to visit the country.

"I think it's fantastic what's happening," said Kozlova, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. "I would love one day to come and dance as a guest artist in Russia . . . and I expect that sooner or later it's going to happen."

Kozlov, who is also a City Ballet principal, said he was not in the least surprised by Makarova's invitation to visit her homeland.

"We've seen this coming," said Kozlov. "if (Gorbachev and the Soviets) are what they say they are on TV, this openness and everyone going there, then it was logical and normal that (Makarova) should go. After her London performance with the Kirov (in August), she saw all of her friends, they . . . wanted her to come to the theater, and she said she wanted to go."

Kozlov added: "It would be marvelous if every artist (could) just go and dance everywhere--then people won't have to defect."

As to whether he would go back to the Soviet Union if invited, Kozlov said he didn't know, but that if he did, he would "like to dance what I've learned here, not their usual stuff. I would not like that kind of invitation (to go back and dance the same Russian repertoire I danced 10 years ago)," he said.

Toradze credited fellow defectors such as Shostakovich and Mikhail Baryshnikov with prompting his and Makarova's invitations to return to the Soviet Union.

"It was coming slowly but surely," he said. "Each of the artists (who left) . . . contributed to what is going on now in Russia. . . . We demolished brick by brick this wall that was separating artists from the Western world. . . . (And) if it is real, that will be visible very soon."

ZARZUELAS FOR LOS ANGELES, ORANGE COUNTY: When Los Angeles Music Center Opera launched its first locally produced season of opera in 1986, LAMCO's artistic consultant Placido Domingo talked about bringing zarzuelas, the traditional Spanish music-theater genre, to Los Angeles, specifically to the Music Center plaza between the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Mark Taper Forum.

Twenty-eight months later, what has happened to these plans?

Last week, Domingo was traveling in Europe and not reachable. But LAMCO Director of Marketing John Howlett said that "preliminary discussions have been held, and, probably within three to four seasons, we expect to be able to present zarzuelas here in the proper context."

Meanwhile, in Orange County, David DiChiera, general director of Opera Pacific, told The Times that plans for his company to bring zarzuelas to its subscribers remain indefinite.

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