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Have you Heard?

Bolshoi Remont

In its 150-year history the stage of the Bolshoi has seen performances by some of the greatest stars of opera and ballet. But that stage will soon be changing. The Bolshoi troupe will move across the street to the New Stage for several months each season until 2007, as the old stage is modernized and the cramped practice studios are redecorated. Improvements will also be made to the cafeteria, toilets, cloakrooms and dressing rooms. But not everyone is happy: the controversial move of demolishing an unseen and unused entrance, the northern portico, to create more room for rehearsals has led to accusations of vandalism and corruption from enraged traditionalists. And there is no word yet as to whether the floorboards of the stage will be strengthened to support the weight of portly ballerina Anastasia Volochkova, who made headlines last year after being fired for being too heavy to lift. Subsequently reinstated, Volochkova remains at the theater.


Fast Toys for A Rich Boy

Ah, Britain. That noble land of ancient tradition Beefeaters standing guard at Buckingham Palace, Ravens in the Tower andobscenely wealthy Russians buying famous sporting concerns? At the start of August it was revealed that Russias youngest millionaire, 23-year-old Nikolai Smolensky, had snapped up elite sports car manufacturer TVR. Reputed to be worth $100 million, the oligarchturned- auto-mogul is the son of Alexander Smolensky, founder of the first private bank in Russia, Stolichny. Smolensky Sr. was also behind the banking group SBS-Agro that collapsed in August of 1998, leaving thousands of Russians to spend years trying to recover the cash they had lost. Since then Smolensky Sr. has not been a very popular man in his homeland and currently lives in Vienna. However, the Smolensky familys controversial history doesnt worry Peter Wheeler, TVRs previous owner and now senior engineering consultant. He said: Its time to hand the reins over to a younger man and I look forward to helping him with his exciting plans.



Action on Red Square

Watching Russian television recently, viewers may have been disturbed to see armored vehicles and heavy trucks filled with troops trundling into Red Square. A repeat of the coup attempt of 1991 or the storming of the White House in 1993? No, just the filming of a scene from a forthcoming movie, called Icon, starring Patrick Swayze as a an ex- CIA agent who saves Russia and the world from an evil genius who has become president of Russia and unleashes a diabolical scheme, that involvesbut, no, we cant give the ending away; youll have to see the film when it is released at the end of this year or in early 2005.

Icon is not the only Hollywood movie to be filmed in Moscow of late. The climactic chase scene in recent release The Bourne Supremacy, a sequel to The Bourne Identity starring Matt Damon, was also filmed in Moscow.


Grunting Beauty

Until recently gorillas and pigs have had the monopoly on grunting in the animal kingdom, but soon they may have to make way for a new species the beautiful female Russian tennis player. Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapovas grunt is as powerful as her forehand; in fact, the 17-year-old starlet has the loudest shriek on the womens pro tour. There is a rule, said Nathalie Dechy, a recent opponent who asked Sharapova to turn down the volume on her grunt during a match earlier this year. You are not supposed to scream like that. Halfway through that match officials censored Sharapova after Dechy and competitors playing on nearby courts complained the roars she let out as she whacked the ball were throwing off their game. Fortunately the willowy Siberian beauty can control her noise emission and managed not only to reduce the volume, but to beat Dechy. Post-Wimbledon, the screaming star is attracting the attention of every glossy magazine and modeling agency between Moscow and Miami, so it looks like well be seeing and hearing a lot more from her in future.


Cash Watch

Its Russias answer to The Matrix, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, and its still raking in the cash. Despite having some of the most primatively designed advertising billboards in history (man clutches fluorescent tube lighting in front of Nintendoquality castle) Russian movie phe- CASH WATCH nomenon Night Watch keeps going from strength to strength. In its first 11 days in theaters the film took in a whopping $8.5 million in ticket sales, and now holds the record for largest box office gross of any Russian film. Buoyed by their success, Channel One, the films producers are looking not to double but to triple their money, as Night Watch is only the first part of an envisioned trilogy. Soon to be released is the films imaginatively titled sequel, Day Watch, and Dusk Watch is due to follow that. The Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox has bought distribution rights for the trilogy another first among Russian movies and plans to pump some serious cash into the making of Dusk Watch.

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