18 december 2009

Vladimir Putin visits the Georgy Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre (GABDT) in St Petersburg in order to inspect the condition of the theatre building


The theatre staff led the Prime Minister on a tour of the building and showed him the stage. Mr Putin inspected the upper floors. In some places, there were noticeable cracks in the walls and stains on the ceiling from past leaks.

After the inspection, Mr Putin was invited to tea with the actors and theatre management to discuss the future of the building. Well-known actors Oleg Basilashvili and Alisa Freindlikh, St Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko and Russian Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev all took part in the discussion.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, distinguished friends, hello. When Ms. Freindlikh (Alisa Freindlikh, People's Artist of the USSR) and I met recently at the Hermitage, I wished her a happy birthday, at which point Ms. Freindlikh brought up the condition of the GABDT.

Alisa Freindlikh: That's right.

Vladimir Putin: The GABDT is one of Russia's oldest theatres, beloved not only in St Petersburg, but all over Russia. It is a special school of theatre. It has existed for 90 years. But it is specifically with the arrival of Tovstonogov that the golden years of the theatre are associated, as well as its popularity in Russia and the Soviet Union in general.

These traditions continue. And of course, we should pay attention to more than just the creative side of things, which goes without saying. But this is primarily the task of the artistic director of the troupe and the theatre. We, for our part, must help keep the theatre in good condition. And, for that matter, we should always support culture.

Alisa Freindlikh: We are one of the links.

Vladimir Putin: By the way, a government resolution was quite recently passed allocating subsidies in 2010 to support creative associations, including the Union of Theatre Workers. But this is beside the point. Mr Kontrebinsky (the theatre director) has shown me around the theatre building.

I already talked with the Emergency Situations Ministry and a work crew already came by. Experts are studying the condition of the building. But as I understand it, there are other issues besides financial ones. Because there is no money allocated for repairs of the BDT in the 2010 federal budget. We will now discuss this issue in more detail.

But apart from this, there is another problem - what will the theatre and its troupe do during the repairs, if we do start them after all? And what ways do you see to solve this problem? This is what I would like to talk about.

On my directive, the Deputy Culture Minister (Pavel Khoroshilov) is visiting the theatre. He has been here for several days already. He also has his own opinion, which he will now relate. The experts from the Emergency Situations Ministry will make their report before December 23 or 25 of this year.

We will then know the expert opinion on the theatre's condition, as well as the necessity and urgency of performing the appropriate work. I propose that we discuss this quickly, because you have a performance tonight, don't you?

Alisa Freindlikh: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Freindlikh said that it's time for her to go to the dressing room. Well, we'll try not to delay you. All the more so as the issue is very important.

Alisa Freindlikh: Well, I'll go onstage without make-up, if only the problem is solved.

* * *

Commenting on his visit to the GABDT, Vladimir Putin told journalists, "We agreed that we would allocate money out of the Culture Ministry's existing resources - 200 million roubles. They will prepare plans and an estimate, and work is slated to start sometime in the spring, but this will be work that will not require the troupe to relocate."

Mr Putin confirmed that for all next year work will be carried out on the foundation structures and parts of the theatre that will not require the troupe to relocate to a different stage.

"In 2011, we will find the necessary funds for a full-scale renovation and will carry out this renovation in 2011-2012," said Mr Putin. In the meantime, he noted, a large stage will need to be found for the main troupe.

"In May 2010, we will commission a small stage on Kamenny Ostrov for the youth troupe and experimental productions," said Mr Putin.