Compared with many other immigrant populations in Texas, the Russian community is small, and the state’s size makes it difficult for the community to keep close bonds with one another and maintain their heritage.
Opening Reception and meeting with the artist:December 20, 2013, 7:30p.m.
Wine will be served
A native of Moscow, Russia, Valentina Kisseleva studied graphic design and painting at the Belarus Art Academy in Minsk.
Valentina formed her own recognizable style as an integration of different artistic schools. She experiments with the line, color, and various styles of the past.
Valentina Kisseelva has participated in various solo and group exhibitions and shows in Minsk, Moscow, Kuwait, Venezuela, Houston, and San Antonio. Her paintings are featured in many private collections in Russia and abroad.
Prepare yourself for the biggest New Year celebration! While the rest of the world is back at work soon after December 31, the Russians get to celebrate New Year all over again in January with the Julian calendar.
We are thrilled to be bringing one of the largest annual international events to Houston and its visitors. This year the Julian Calendar New Year Celebration promises to be especially exciting due to a new lineup of artists performing a varied program of music and dance in a fantastic setting at the House of Dereon. The Boris Kurganov and Co. will fuse a vibrant blend of Russian and international music with American jazz standards.
In keeping with tradition, there will be tasty specialty foods on sale, including the quintessentially Russian blini (pancakes) and pierogy (savory pastries) as well as Russian vodka, wine, and beer.
The holiday season is here. Exchanging gifts has been an essential part of this wonderful time of the year, and we once again offer unique ethnic souvenirs and gifts that are hard to find anywhere else. Each and every one of them is hand-made in accordance with centuries-old Russian traditions.
We have a broad assortment of unique gifts that will satisfy the most demanding tastes.
Wooden figures of Father Frost;
Lovely lacquer jewelry boxes, hand-painted with the Russian fairy-tale motifs;
Intricately carved containers made of birch bark.
We also have vintage porcelain figurines by the famous Lomonosov (Imperial) Factory and golden wooden tableware called “Khokhloma.” And of course, there are the famous Russian Matreshkas or nesting dolls.
Add the Russian flavor to your upcoming holiday festivities!
This year well-known puppeteer Jean Keucher will perform Alladin and Princess Jasmine, the story from “The Tales of the Arabian Nights”. Her unique hand-crafted puppets and marionettes will dazzle all ages. Aladdin and Princess Jasmine outsmart Jafar to keep the magic lamp safe from evil hands. The Genie appears to grant wishes and transport palaces. After the story, Jean Kuecher reveals the special effects and back stage secrets.
After the show, Father Frost and his granddaughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden) will entertain the little spectators with games and songs. Father Frost in Slavic culture plays a role similar to Santa Claus.
Children will then recite poetry and rhymes in traditional Russian fashion, and then each child will receive a special gift from Father Frost.
Purchase your tickets in advance as the seating is limited.
In the program: the popular romances by great Russian composers
Performers:Elena Nikulshina-Fray (soprano) and Olga Zastrelkina-Szelc (piano)
Ms. Elena Nikulshina-Fray is a native of St. Petersburg, Russia. She is a graduate from St. Petersburg Conservatory in opera voice performance. As a soloist of St. Petersburg-Concert, Elena sang in over 500 performances. She appeared in major parties in such operas as Un Ballo in Maschera, Il Trovatore, Iolanta, Eugene Onegin, Queen of Spades, I Pagliacci, and Gianni Schicchi with numerous opera companies in Russia and in the United States. Currently Ms. Nikulshina-Fray teaches vocal at her Elena Voce Studio; she is also a head of the concert group Elena Voce & Friends.
Ms.Olga Zastrelkina-Szelc is a native of Yekaterinburg, Russia. She is a pianist-accompanist and the piano instructor/owner of Olga’s Piano Studio in Houston. Since moving to the U.S. in 2007, Olga has performed in numerous concert programs. She is also a member and staff accompanist for Elena Voce & Friends.
A couple of weeks ago, I have participated in a 2-man art exhibit with a fellow illustrator Igor Karash. What brought us together was the work that we have done forThe Folio Society, a British publisher of illustrated books.
The Folio Society is known for producing beautiful books and working with illustrators from all over the world. Back in 2010, its art director, Sheri Gee approached me to create illustrations for Gustav Meyrink’s classic The Golem. In 2012, Igor Karash won the House of Illustration Book Competition. The winning prize was a commission to illustrate The Folio Society’s edition of The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter.
The illustrations were done in completely different styles (Igor used watercolors and mine were linocuts), but there were some similarities in the subject matter that we have worked with. Both books by Meyrink and Carter revolved around dark and mystical themes. Also both authors used traditional tales, myths and legends as a source of inspiration.
Illustrations from the Golem by Vladimir Zimakov
Besides being book illustrators and working with the same publisher, what also tied us together were our Russian roots and our Texas experience. Igor lived in Houston for a long time after moving to the US and I have spent a bit of my formative years in Dallas, where my parents still reside.
Illustrations from The Bloody Chamber by Igor Karash
We were introduced earlier this year by Sophia Grinblat, the president of the Russian Cultural Center in Houston. She was the one who proposed that we do a show together at her gallery, which was located in the heart of the city’s art district.
It’s always tricky and challenging to do group shows, especially when the artists live in different cities and have to fly in a few days before the exhibition for installation. This time, I wasn’t so much worried. After briefly talking to Igor over the phone for the first time, I knew that we were on the same page with this.
When I have to exhibit and install the show in cities other then mine, the first stop after the plane lands is IKEA, which has the best deal on frames. You can also count on them for having a bunch of them in stock. That way one can carry a whole exhibit of graphic works in a large folder or a roll. Igor took a very similar route.
With the generous help of a fellow Houston artist Boris Kaplun and the staff of the gallery, Igor and me were able to frame and install the whole show in one long day.
There’s always something that breaks or needs to be matted right during the installation, and as the fate would have it, the only business that was open within two blocks on a Thursday night was a frame shop…
Igor has exhibited original drawings, prints and sketches for The Bloody Chamber.
Since my prints for The Golem were smaller, I have also decided to show the illustrations from Meyrink’s Walpurgisnacht, Andersen’s The Nightingale, Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum and some of the work that I have recently done for Amanda Palmer.
Also on display was some of the most recent stuff that I am currently working on inspired by ancient myths and the writing of Alexandr Chayanov. In a typical manner, some of those were finished the night before I boarded the plane for Houston.
The opening night was held on Friday, April 5th.
The Folio Society was very generous to send the Russian Center copies of our books for signing. We set up a table in the middle of the gallery showcasing the books and prints.
And here’s a photo taken at the very end of an exhausting but gratifying day.
Vladimir Zimakov & Igor Karash (photo by Lola Vayner)
Go here to see all illustrations from The Bloody Chamber and other works by Igor Karash.
Here you can see all of my illustrations for The Golem.
This is the site of The Folio Society, where you can check out all the great books that they publish.
On January 26 a Houstonian audience had the unique opportunity of hearing a solo concert performed by Albina Shagimuratova accompanied by the pianist Semyon Skigin. For the concert Maestro Skigin chose a program that could not be improved upon to showcase the unique, multifaceted vocal abilities of the singer. In the first part she sang romantic lieder of the composer S.V. Rachmaninoff, conceived and written for high, technically faultless voice, such as the one Shagimuratova possesses. The romances in full measure communicate comprehensively the Russian origins of the composer’s melodies.
Albina has a special respect for the music of Rachmaninoff. In the singer’s own words, “One can endlessly immerse oneself and be astonished by the never-ending, constant, evasive beauty of Rachmaninoff’s melodies.” She performed the composer’s amazing vocal miniatures, “Beauty, Do Not Sing For Me,” “Daisies,” “Springtime’s Waters,” “It Is Good Here,” and others with great feeling and love. Albina admits “I put of part of myself in every one of Rachmaninoff’s romantic lieder.” In Semyon Skigin’s performance, all of the colors of Rachmaninoff’s piano style, with its powerful, truly orchestral sound and with the subtlest nuances, sparkled in all of its tones.
In the second half of the program, undoubtedly, for the first time in their history, were gathered together into a single performance three of the most complicated arias of Italian Bel Canto. Their complexity lies not only in their cosmically high registers, where the soprano has to perform a head-spinning cascade of coloraturas and dynamic contrasts – from a full forte to a whispery piano. The acting demands in these scenes of madness and sleepwalking from operas by Bellini and Donizetti are equally theatrical and vocal tasks, and few are they who can fulfill them. In the present day, Albina Shagimuratova has no equals. They fully entered into each character, communicating the entire complicated spectrum of the feelings and emotions of her characters, thoroughly demonstrating her fiery onstage personality. Her clear, crystalline voice steamed, buttressed by the inspired playing of Semyon Skigin. Such a program demands a master of the highest order and tremendous endurance. Albina astonished the audience with how she acquitted herself of this heavy task.
The Houston audience, adoring Albina, warmly greeted each of her sung compositions. The attendees were particularly won over by her rendering of the famous Rachmaninoff “Vocalise” (Opus 34, Number 14), which was performed finely and with the simplicity of genius. The “Nightingale” of A.A. Alyabev was heard during the encore, which Albina sang, literally, at the very boundaries of what the human voice is capable of. The audience was as literally shaken by this performance. The eyes of many persons shed involuntary tears of joy. It is in such moments that one actually understands that great art is truly inspiring, that it makes us purer and happier. This concert was very much needed by our Houston audience. We are also pleased that we, the Russian Cultural Center, was able to give such a gift to lovers of opera singing and to the fans of Albina Shagimuratova.
Following the concert there was a formal reception in honor of the artists. At the reception, Albina Shagimuratova was given an award, the “Hans Graf Prize for Contributions to the Development of Russian Culture in Texas.” This was the second year that the prize was given out by the Center.
Maestro Hans Graf was not able to attend the concert due to his being on tour. He did send a letter of congratulations to Albina:
“Dear Albina: You are very dear to all of Houston’s music lovers, especially so to the Houston Symphony and myself. You are a bright star in the musical firmament that has given us moments of great joy!
Regrettably, I am not able to attend the concert in person, but I am with you in spirit. I send my congratulations and I am proud of your achievements.
With Love and Admiration,
The reception attendees included the Consul General of the Russian Federation in Houston, Aleksandr Zharov and the Deputy Consul Sergei Azizov and their wives, His Excellency Prince Piotr Galitzine and wife, and sponsors of the event, representatives of Singapore Airlines, Frost Bank, Beauty Medica, the Stinemetz Law Firm and Elena Wunderlich. Unfortunately, some sponsors, Viktor Dunaevskiy and the representatives for the companies Atlantic Ro-Ro and Svytrys were not able to attend the recital. Nonetheless, the Russian Cultural Center is extraordinarily grateful to all of the sponsors for their support.
Some consider the Russian language to be complex because they feel mystified by its alphabet but, undaunted by the task; many people decide to study it anyway. Some need to learn Russian for professional reasons; some plan to travel to Russia; some seek a Russian bride because of the famous beauty of Russian women; and some are simply attracted by the beauty of the sound of Russian heard in songs or opera performances.
In his treatise on Russian grammar, the nineteenth century Russian poet Mikhail Lomonosov praised the beauty of the Russian language: “The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, used to say that you spoke in Spanish to God, in French with friends, in German with acquaintances and in Italian with the ladies. But, I believe, if a person had a fine command of the Russian language, he would find it has the splendor of Spanish, the vivacity of French, the strength of German, Italian tenderness as well as the powerful laconic imagery of Greek and Latin.”
THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE WILL TAKE YOU ALL THE WAY TO MOSCOW!
Much like the American saying, “Go west, young man, go west”, the proverb above stressed that knowing Russian well was the way to success for the peoples of all the many nationalities that composed the Russian Empire.
But for the students attending classes at the Russian Cultural Center (RCC), the attraction is less to the beauty of the Russian language than their interest in Russia. “I am awed by my students,” says Tatiana Mechtchanskaia, their instructor. “They do not want to rely entirely on guides when they travel to Russia. So, in the evening, after a full work day, they come to class to learn the language, dedicating time to homework assignments, as well. Frequently, they delay their trips until they feel able to explain themselves adequately. They are amazing people. They love Russia and are interested in our history, museums, theaters, and our history with its unique culture and customs.”
Tatiana gives an example of one of her students: A 60-year-old Houston man studied Russian for two years at RCC, taking additional private classes and watching Russian films at home. After a three month trip to Russia, he came home and continued his Russian classes. He then went on further trips back to Russia, to the Ukraine and Siberia and to the Turkic-language speaking Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union. He has now taken a break from Russian classes and is learning Turkish. He plans to be off again soon, this time … to Turkey!
Of course, for students moving to Russia for business, the RCC classes provide not only language skills but also a survival course for living in Russia. “I remember when I came to America fifteen years ago, everything was unknown, everything was done differently from what I knew. It was difficult to adjust,” says Tatyana. This is why it is important to the instructor that students know basic skills, what to do if luggage is lost at the airport, how to describe their suitcases, how to catch a taxi (and how to avoid taking the wrong taxi!), how to buy a subway ticket, which can be confusing even for a Russian-speaking foreigner, how to stay safe and navigate their way around skillfully. There are role-playing classes for every possible situation – from airport arrival to ordering meals in a restaurant to mapping the way to museums and theaters, and what to do when you get there. In one situation, students are lost travelers and learn the most important words to say including “Please,” “Thank you,” “I need…” Even though the latter phrase would sound too demanding from a Russian, foreigners would be allowed to ask for help in that way. The instructor also teaches students how to behave if they are invited to a Russian home, such as removing their hat and shoes and, oh heavens, never take a peek into the refrigerator!”
Tatiana Mechtchanskaia has considerable experience teaching foreign languages. For many years, she taught English to students of the Electro-Technical Communications Institute in Moscow, including many exchange students from Europe and Africa. Since coming to the U.S, she teaches at the University of Houston Clear Lake (UHCL) as well as to employees of NASA and Boeing Corporation.
Tatyana considers the curriculum at the RCC better tailored to student needs than elsewhere. “At other language schools, there are usually only two levels, beginners and advanced. This means that a student who has already learned the alphabet and can speak a little could be sitting next to someone who has no knowledge at all. At RCC, we have three separate beginners’ classes! That permits the instructor to give individualized help to each student at their specific level, thus maximizing the learning experience. And the lessons are per class, not the whole semester ahead of time. This is also more convenient”.
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
Some of the students studying Russian are American parents and…bridegrooms!
“Parents who have adopted children from Russia often want to learn the language, even when their adopted sons and daughters, many for obvious reasons, do not want anything to do with their native country and its language”, says Tatyana. “It is the parents who are thinking of the child’s future. They understand that when the children grow up, they might change their minds about Russia. The parents try to know more about the Russian heritage of their children so that they can impart it to them as they grow up”.
Tatyana speaks with no less warmth about her students who have found the love of their lives in Russia – one is now married to a Russian, two others are awaiting the arrival of their Russian brides. In contrast to their less empathetic American brothers who believe that a wife should adapt herself to life here and learn English, these men are concerned about how their beloveds will feel when they arrive in a foreign land without knowing the language. These men study Russian diligently and intend to bring their brides to the Russian Cultural Center to enjoy the activities and meet with fellow Russians. In return, the Russian ladies can be of great help to their husbands in their mastery of the language, helping them with homework and learning famous poems by heart.
As their command of Russian improves, the lessons themselves become more interesting. “I am absolutely convinced that lessons that consist of grammar and exercises are totally boring. So I have the students read poetry, as well. They write their own short stories, on any topic, even about having gone to a movie. The students were not receptive to writing stories, at first. But now everybody writes them and we enjoy the stories, some of which can be quite amusing. In this way, everyone can feel that they are living the Russian language, not just studying it. That’s the main thing,” says Tatyana.
The Russian Cultural Center maintains fond ties with the students, even after they finish their course of studies. For example, a fifteen-year-old girl completed three years of Russian at RCC before becoming an undergraduate at Rice University. She placed directly into advanced level Russian courses. Tatyana also maintains contact with a military man, now stationed in the Middle East, who previously studied at RCC. He traveled worldwide but when he would come back to the U.S. for three months each year, he always came to class. “In general, I would say I have wonderful students,” says Tatyana. “They are special people. They’re not only the highly educated professional types, but they are all the kind of people who are interested in things, in expanding their horizons. Great students!”
I enrolled in the classes in late January of 2013. I began learning Russian while in college in 2004. I studied the language for 2 years and then quit. I’ve rededicated myself to learning Russian and am loving every session with Tatiana. The classes are fun, very learner friendly, and we even get tidbits of Russian culture throughout the lesson. I look forward to continuing on with this journey.
I started Russian classes at RCC about 5 years ago, going on Saturday mornings, and taking extra lessons for a month or two before trips to Russia. I travelled to Moscow for work in 2006, and was fascinated by the city, and the people. I wanted to return on a private trip to explore and having knowledge of the language adds to the enjoyment of the visits. You know being able to read signs, and do some basics without having to depend on an interpreter all the time. I also thought that having the language would help build friendships with a couple of the people that I met and wanted to form stronger bonds with. I have found the classes at RCC great and Tatiana to be a wonderful teacher. I like having the ability to set my own pace for learning and having the small group allows Tatiana to be flexible on what is learnt. I have found the classes very helpful, as we take things slow, are able to practce and ask questions. The big plus is that beyond the grammar/vocabulary our teacher freely shares Russian culture and I believe truly enjoys giving the students that want it, an understanding of history and customs as they pertain to our lessons. I find it to be an exploration, where there is always something new to understand. The Russian language is full of idiosyncracies, and Russian culture filled with contradictions.
The best works of independent Russian movie makers will be screened in five cities in Texas – Houston, Dallas, Austin, College Station and Lubbock. Our partners are: University of Texas at Austin, SMU-Dallas, Texas A&M – College Station, University of Houston, Texas Tech University – Lubbock, and Houston Community College.
This year we present the following movies:
“Tomorrow” by Andrey Gryazev
“Born in the USSR: 28 and Up” by Sergey Miroshnichenko
Our honored guests will be Andrey Gryazev and Ksenia Adamovich, movie director and producer, crew member of the film “Born in the USSR:28 and Up”. They will present movies and participate in Q/A sessions.