Paying The Price of Freedom

The Kirov Opera barnstorms the U.S. as its chief, Valery Gergiev, confronts the dilemma of the arts in post-Soviet Russia: how to survive without subsidies

It's a good thing Valery Gergiev is a sturdy optimist. Gergiev is artistic director and principal conductor of St. Petersburg's Kirov Opera. His is the finest company in Russia, and it is now on its first ever U.S. visit, playing New York City's Metropolitan Opera House.

All of which may sound very grand, but the reality is harrowing. For the Kirov is a company in crisis, and the swarm of challenges it faces makes it emblematic of a whole culture in crisis. The Kirov, like virtually all the major performing troupes in the former Soviet Union -- the Bolshoi and countless...

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