I had a busy, busy weekend, and now I’m sick.
On Friday, I went to a fantastically unique and kind of weird concert, again at the former Lutheran church. It was a truly multi-cultural concert. First, a quartet from Norway played a few classical pieces. Then, the headliner of the show, a Norwegian soprano, joined them in just a bedazzlement of drama. She wore a long red gown under a floor-length midnight teal robe with a high collar and gigantic sparkling red earrings, her short hair slicked back over her head. She also sang magnificently.
The next piece was a new work by a Norwegian composer, who actually came to conduct it as well. It was performed by the Norwegian quartet, a Russian string ensemble, three Russian traditional folk singers, the Norwegian soprano, and a Nenets soloist. The Nenets are a Russian indigenous people. The Norwegian part of the composition was very dischordant and clashed with the traditional Russian and Nenets singing dramatically. It was interesting and I would recommend it, but I can’t say that I enjoyed it.
Then, on Saturday, there was a particularly interesting conversation club at Dobrolyubova. It was advertised as a “conversation club for adults,” and so there was a wide variety of people from the community, from a dentist to an engineer to a philosopher. The conversation was about Russian culture, and whether it exists or not, and why the rest of the world doesn’t know anything about it. Some people cited Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, and Chekhov as the only Russian culture. Some said that culture is what you do every day, and it’s not that much different in Russia from anywhere else. One man said that it was too personal for him to talk about in public. Another said that most Russian culture was destroyed during the Soviet times. Then, the suggestion arose that it was impossible to talk about Russian culture while in Russia, that one had to leave the country to be able to talk about it objectively, to be able to compare it with other cultures. Again and again, they mentioned the tension of being positioned between East and West, between China and Germany, the idea that Russian culture could never reconcile itself to that geographic contrast. It was fascinating to hear all these very strong, differing opinions, but it was also very stressful to be at the center of this very complex conversation that I felt both responsible for and unqualified to direct.
And then, on Sunday, I went to the Maslenitsa celebration on Solombala island with Nikolay from the conversation club and Łukasz! Maslenitsa is the Russian version of Mardis Gras, the festival right before Lent begins where you eat a lot of blini and butter and other delicious things. I took a ton of pictures, and you can check them out on my facebook album here.
I was meant to substitute teach some classes today for another teacher, but I felt so miserable last night that I called off and slept for twelve hours instead.