With new home, Mariinsky builds Russian roots

LONDON, Dec 18 (Reuters) - With the imminent opening of its

third home venue, St. Petersburg's Mariinsky opera and ballet

will ramp up an already prodigious output but may ease back on

hectic foreign touring, director Valery Gergiev said on Tuesday.

World audiences have come to know Gergiev and his company

well as they crisscrossed the globe after the collapse of Soviet

state funding. But with Russians now pouring the kind of money

into the arts that has just built the $700-million Mariinsky II

theatre, he wants to concentrate on domestic performances.

"It's important for us to continue to go to London, Berlin

or Chicago," Gergiev told Reuters after a presentation of plans

in London. "But now we are more comfortable at home."

Touring remains important, not for commercial gain but for

"national pride" in promoting Russian music, he said. Some 300

of 1,000 performances in 2014 would be on the road - but many of

these would be not abroad but in distant Russian regions where

Gergiev sees it his mission to bring music to the provinces.

For those unable to visit St. Petersburg, where the

2,000-seat new venue will open on May 2 to complement the

150-year-old opera house and a concert hall opened in 2006, the

company, known as the Kirov in Soviet times, is expanding its

recordings and video broadcasts to theatres worldwide, including

in 3D.

A 3D recording of Christmas ballet "The Nutcracker" is in

cinemas this winter and Gergiev will go a step further in what

he acknowledged is not a risk-free experiment with a live 3D

broadcast from St. Petersburg of "Swan Lake" on Feb. 14 - St.

Valentine's Day. It is being produced in partnership with the

Hollywood 3D studio of "Avatar" director James Cameron.

Turning 60 next year, Gergiev shows little sign of slowing

down; he plans to direct all three of the orchestras that will

play under the Mariinsky name once the new venue opens, will

begin new recordings of Wagner's "Ring" cycle and plans to

complete his series of discs of all Shostakovich's symphonies.

While working the company hard, he denied there have been

serious rumblings of discontent in the ballet troupe over pay

and conditions. Responding to a letter of complaint from dancers

that was widely publicised in Russian media last month, he said:

"There's nothing terrible happening in the Mariinsky - no way."

In a move to address concerns, however, he announced a plan

to build 50 or more apartments to house performers: "They will

be relatively cheap apartments, basically a gift to them from

the company," he said. "But then they have to perform."

(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald, editing by Jill Serjeant)

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