- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2001

For previews of coming attractions, its hard to beat the intimate performance granted guests at Fridays Library of Congress fete by stars of the Mariinsky (Kirov) Theatre, introduced by Artistic Director Valery Gergiev. (The entire Kirov ballet and opera are scheduled to appear at the Kennedy Center for 10 years running on a grant from New York arts patron Alberto Vilar.)
The personable, world-renowned conductor-director spoke movingly beforehand about the point of the evening a black-tie event celebrating an ambitious cooperative project instigated by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington to use library resources to preserve for scholarly research the valuable historic documents in Russias Mariinsky Theatre archives.
Mr. Gergiev and Mr. Billington first met through Lucky (Selwa) Roosevelt. His opening line that "it sounds again like we are lucky to have Lucky" won the audience from the start. He went on to speak of "the power of classical music that has no limits or borders tyrant, no czar, no firearms can stop a composer" and plugged international cooperation as being "even more important for the future of the arts."
Nasty weather and canceled flights nearly derailed the program, but the stars managed to appear on time for an hourlong formal concert. Mr. Gergiev had taken a car from New York and was returning in time to conduct the Metropolitan Opera orchestra the next day.
"We are soul brothers, but we never have been in the same room together," said an obviously pleased Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser, referring to his friendship with Mr. Gergiev, Mr. Vilar, and Washington Opera Artistic Director Placido Domingo.
Love of the arts and of artistic cities such as Russias St. Petersburg moved New York arts patron Mrs. Charles (Jayne) Wrightsman to help fund the project. "I first went there in 1956," Mrs. Wrightsman recalled at the buffet dinner that followed upstairs in the Jefferson Buildings Great Hall.
Not having waiters serve dinner cut costs, Mr. Billington noted. Other donors to the project giving a total sum that the librarian would only say was "in the six figures" include James Kimsey, Bill and Buffy Cafritz and Frederick and Diana Prince as well as the James Madison Council.
Notable no-shows whose table cards were not picked up included Washington high-tech entrepreneur Michael Saylor and London banker Lord Jacob Rothschild. Russian Ambassador Yuriy Ushakov smiled a lot and left early, possibly to avoid talk of spies and secret tunnels.
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day OConnor was only too glad to talk about the recently dedicated Phoenix courthouse named for her an act of Congress was required to do it, she said and called the building far more beautiful than a complex in the District bearing the name of a powerful political personality that she preferred not to identify.
Sen. Ted Stevens, tired after the weeks labors in the Senate, came in spite of himself. "I wanted to take off for two days in the sun in Phoenix, but my wife said, 'Youre coming here," he said, adding that budget negotiations may keep Congress in session through the Easter recess.

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