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Arts festival looks to be a Kirov coup

The Kirov Opera, the Kirov Orchestra and the Kirov Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia, could be here in February for a weeklong festival at the Bayfront Center Arena.

Called A Festival of Kirov, the event is being put together by Rockville, Md.-based producer Alexander Morr, executive director of A Festival Inc.

"There is something major in the works," Morr said Wednesday. "All the ducks need to be in a row, but there's very little likelihood of it going sour at this point. I'd like to have it engraved in stone by Monday."

Morr said the upcoming Treasures of the Czars exhibit "was the reason the festival looked at St. Petersburg as the venue," although there would be no formal tie between the two events.

Morr said his company is a non-profit organization "formed last spring for this purpose."

Wednesday's report of the possible Kirov festival came a day after it was disclosed that a deal was in the works to bring White Oak Dance Project, a modern dance company headed by Mikhail Baryshnikov, to St. Petersburg in January. Baryshnikov was a star with the Kirov Ballet before defecting to the United States in 1974.

Numerous alliances have been struck between Western presenters and Russian performing arts groups since the fall of communism. The Russians have turned to international touring to replace state subsidies they received in the former Soviet Union.

Several weeks ago, Morr discussed plans for the Russian music and dance festival with James Broughton, director of Treasures of the Czars, on a visit to St. Petersburg.

"I'm sure it's a very expensive proposition," Broughton said. "If he can do it, people would come from all over the Southeast. Anything like that is the sort of thing you like to see associated with the Treasures of the Czars."

The producer also met with Bayfront Center Arena general manager Jeff Chelesvig, who said Wednesday that physical arrangements for ballet, opera and symphonic music in the arena were still to be worked out. Chelesvig estimated seating capacity at 6,500.

The Kirov Opera, under artistic director Valery Gergiev, would be a strong draw, because it has not performed widely in the United States. Gergiev's performances with the opera company and orchestra have been acclaimed in recent years. There was a Mussorgsky cycle of five operas at the Edinburgh Festival and the complete Shostakovich symphonies at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Wednesday, the 41-year-old conductor was scheduled to conduct the opening performance of the Kirov Opera production of Prokofiev's The Fiery Angel at the San Francisco Opera.

The Kirov Ballet has some links to the bay area.

Its U.S. tour in 1991 included performances at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Dancers from the company have been in The Nutcracker of Dance Theatre of Florida at Mahaffey Theater. Kirov Ballet artistic director Oleg Vinogradov owns a condominium on Longboat Key off Sarasota.