Thursday, February 6, 2014

February 5, 2014 - DAY IN PHOTOS - VOA

February 5, 2014

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Published February 05, 2014
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A worker cuts ice-covered branches with a chainsaw in Postojna, Slovenia. Cars stood entombed in a crystal-like casing near the deserted railway station in Postojna.
Flowers and a portrait of a victim, killed during the eruption of Mt. Sinabung volcano, are left by relatives on a hill in Karo district with the volcano in the background. The volcanic eruption killed 15 people in a weekend and hot ash and rocks shot high into the air again on February 3, halting a search for any more victims.
A Pakistani child waves a flag of the fundamentalist Islamic political party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) during the Kashmir Solidarity Day rally in Karachi. Hundreds of people rallied across Pakistan to denounce Indian rule in Kashmir, the disputed Muslim-majority Himalayan state divided between India and Pakistan.
Newhaven Lighthouse is battered by waves during stormy weather on the southern coast of England. More than 8,000 homes were without power in southwest England after fresh storms battered the region, sending huge waves crashing onto the coastline and damaging sea defenses.
Schoolchildren attend a class while sitting near photographs of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez and Cuba's former President Fidel Castro at the Hugo Chavez Frias primary school in Havana. Different activities will be held in Cuba and in other countries during February and early March as a tribute to Chavez who died March 5, 2013.
Speedskaters from Russia train at the Adler Arena Skating Center prior to the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Supporters of a far-right Ukrainian party Svoboda march along the street near Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Commuters wait for their bus in blowing snow in Chicago, Illinois.  Heavy, blowing snow is moving across much of Illinois as the state gets pelted by the latest round of winter weather.
An anti-government protester with his face painted attends a gathering in Bangkok, Thailand.
Former England soccer star David Beckham holds a soccer ball at a Miami news conference where he announced he will exercise his option to purchase a Major League Soccer expansion team in Miami, Florida.
Canada's Sarah Reid speeds down the track during an unofficial women skeleton progressive training at the Sanki sliding center in Rosa Khutor, a venue for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics near Sochi, Russia.
Visitors look at ice sculptures during the 65th annual Sapporo Snow Festival in Sapporo, Japan. The week-long festival started with a total of 198 snow statues on display and expects to attract around two million visitors.
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Olympics Spotlight for Russia’s Musical Profile

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Valery Gergiev is considered a lock to conduct. The Russian diva Anna Netrebko is widely suspected to be singing. And a host of top Russian ballet stars are expected to dance.
If Renée Fleming’s performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday brought a dash of operatic flavor to American sports fans, the Winter Olympics in Sochi are expected to give Russia, a country that still takes its opera and ballet very seriously, a chance to showcase its classical talent to a broader global audience. It will serve as a reminder of a musical revolution that has been playing out in plain sight over the past quarter of a century: the remarkable extent to which Russian musicians, dancers and repertory have captured the world’s stages.
The details of exactly who will be performing at Sochi’s opening ceremony on Friday and the closing ceremony on Feb. 23 are being tightly held. Asked in a recent interview about the rampant rumors of her participation, Ms. Netrebko replied coyly: “I don’t think I can tell you. I cannot, it’s kind of a surprise. You will see. If you see me, I will be there. If not, I will be somewhere else — in Florida!”
The ceremonies are being planned as a point of Russian pride, a bright spot at a moment when the Olympics have drawn attention to the nation’s new law restricting the discussion of homosexuality, questions about safety amid fears of terrorism and worries about the readiness of the facilities. While Russian pop stars are expected to perform, too, the classical world is abuzz about the concerts and ballet performances planned around the games — which cannot help calling attention to the way the proliferation of Russian artists and repertory has changed the face of opera and dance in the decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russia is so closely identified abroad with its high culture that when a furor erupted in the West last year over gay rights in Russia, the first high-profile protests called for a boycott of Russian vodka, while the next took the form of demonstrations at several of Mr. Gergiev’s performances.
Mr. Gergiev, the artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, was the busiest conductor in the world last year, according to performance statistics assembled by the classical music website Bachtack. The world’s most prolific choreographer may very well be Alexei Ratmansky, artist in residence at American Ballet Theater, who was formerly artistic director of the Bolshoi and who had world premieres on three continents last year. And while Russian dancers still defect, these days it is often from one Western company to another.
On Thursday, the Metropolitan Opera, which has greatly expanded its Russian repertoire over the past two decades, will open a new production of Borodin’s “Prince Igor” — its first performance of the work since 1917.
The influx of Russian talent goes beyond marquee names like Ms. Netrebko, who has starred in the Met’s opening-night galas for three years in a row. A look at the Met’s roster is instructive: During the 1988-89 season, the last full season before the Berlin Wall came down, there were only three singers from the Soviet Union performing there. This season, by the Met’s count, the list had 46 singers from Russia and the former Soviet republics.
For her part, Ms. Netrebko marveled at the enormous growth in the number of Russian singers with international careers in the nearly two decades since she first came to the United States on a tour singing Lyudmila in Glinka’s “Ruslan and Lyudmila.”
“If you go to Italy, to La Scala, to Pesaro, the Rossini Festival — which, you know, is sacred to Italian singers — there is a pool of Russians, which is amazing,” she said by telephone. “I’m not surprised anymore. Russians, they are everywhere.”
The reasons are rooted not just in geopolitics and the lifting of Soviet-era travel restrictions, but in linguistics as well. For years, there was literally a failure to communicate.
Opera in the Soviet Union was generally performed in Russian, so in those days a leading Aida could not easily transfer her success to a Western opera house without relearning the part. When Mr. Gergiev became principal conductor of the Mariinsky Theater in 1988 and its artistic director in 1996, he made a point of performing operas in their original languages.
Gianandrea Noseda, who is conducting “Prince Igor” at the Met, said the change came shortly before he joined the Mariinsky in 1997 as its first foreign principal guest conductor.
“Three or four years before my first coming to Russia, they still did ‘L’Elisir d’Amore’ in Russian, they still did ‘La Traviata’ in Russian,” he said. “So I think I went there in the right moment, when everybody was very keen to sing all the operas in their original languages, and, of course, that opened a huge door, a huge window for them to spread out the music in the world outside Russia. And now we can see the result of that idea.”
One result: At the Teatro Regio Torino, in Italy, where Mr. Noseda is the music director, there is more Russian repertory, and more Russian singers. Asked if Italian audiences accept Russian singers performing Verdi, Mr. Noseda protested. “Accept it?” he asked. “They are loved, not accepted!”
It was only a generation earlier that the Met began performing operas in Russian. A 1972 performance of Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades” was the company’s first performance of a Russian opera in its original language; it had originally performed the work in German.
This week will be the Met’s first “Prince Igor” in Russian; when it first did the work, in 1915, it was sung in Italian. Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” was originally sung in Italian at the Met as well — except for an unusual version in the 1920s, when the great Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin sang the title role in Russian, with the rest of the company singing in Italian.
The company’s comfort with Russian has led it to add repertory: Over the past two decades, it has given its first performances of Shostakovich’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” and “The Nose”; Prokofiev’s “War and Peace” and “The Gambler”; and Tchaikovsky’s “Mazeppa.” It opened this season with a new production of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.”
But this season, the flowering of Russian arts abroad has become closely linked with Russian politics at home.
As Russia has invested in the arts — renovating the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and opening a new Mariinsky II theater in St. Petersburg — its artists have become closely associated with their patron, President Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Gergiev, who is seen as close to Mr. Putin, drew protests at the Met,Carnegie Hall, and the Barbican in London.
Mr. Gergiev declined an interview request, citing his schedule. In an interview on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” that was broadcast Sunday, he said that he thought the law was being viewed differently abroad from the way it is viewed in Russia, but added that, while he has not read the law, “I myself question very much why the country needed something like this law.”
Asked in the interview about Mr. Putin’s checkered record on human rights, Mr. Gergiev suggested that Mr. Putin was misunderstood, saying, “I think a lot of people are wrong about President Putin.” And he praised his support of the arts.
“Russia without culture is not a country, let’s say,” Mr. Gergiev said. “It’s just a huge piece of land. A country makes it, together with culture, an entity. And then it’s a country with a big C.”
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Members of Russian Punk Band Get Warm Greeting in Brooklyn

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“I’d like to thank Pussy Riot,” Madonna said, “for making the word ‘pussy’ a sacred word in my household.”
She was speaking from the stage of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, introducing two members of that Russian activist group, who had recently emerged from prison not just outspoken women and critics of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but global symbols of rebellion. On Wednesday night, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were two of the main attractions at a benefit concert for Amnesty International, where the musical stars included Blondie, Tegan and Sara, Imagine Dragons and the Flaming Lips, and the message was one of supporting human rights.
Madonna did not perform, but, in head-to-toe black, read from a long statement to welcome Ms. Tolokonnikova and Ms. Alyokhina, known to their fans as Nadya and Masha.
“It’s not a coincidence that I was on tour and that I happened to be in Moscow the day that Pussy Riot went on trial,” Madonna said, because she had been horrified to hear of their 2012 arrest, on charges of hooliganism, for performing an anti-Putin song in a Moscow cathedral. She added that she had been threatened with arrest herself, for performances in Russia that were said to promote “gay behavior.”
“Needless to say, I did not change one moment of my show,” she said, but 87 members of her audience were arrested over displays of gay pride.
All of this made her more vocal than ever in defending free speech, she said, and in commending the punk protesters for their actions.
“It’s time for the rest of the world to be as brave as Pussy Riot,” she said, as the women took the stage and hugged her. Ms. Alyokhina began by thanking those who had written them letters while they were in jail. “Those letters helped us stay alive,” she said through a translator.
“We have to remember,” Ms. Tolokonnikova added, “that freedom is not a given. It’s something we have to fight for.”
They were released on Dec. 23, after spending 21 months in separate, remote penal colonies, their plight drawing intense international attention. Their appearance at Barclays Center capped two whirlwind days in New York, during which they taped a slyly funny segment on “The Colbert Report,” visited with the editorial board of The New York Times, met Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the United Nations, and were feted by Yoko Ono and the English musician Roger Waters at a private reception for Amnesty International on the Upper East Side. More interviews and meetings with academics and prison officials, to promote their new cause, prison reform and freedom for political prisoners, were to come, organized in part by the Voice Project, a nonprofit group that, along with Amnesty International, drummed up legal support and raised money for the women when they were jailed.
But their newfound acclaim did not sit smoothly with the other, still-anonymous members of Pussy Riot. Hours before the concert, those women emailed an open letter — translated into English — to supporters of the group.
“We are very pleased with Masha’s and Nadia’s release,” they wrote. “We are proud of their resistance against harsh trials that fell to their lot, and their determination by all means to continue the struggle that they had started during their stay in the colonies.
“Unfortunately for us,” the letter continued, “they are being so carried away with the problems in Russian prisons, that they completely forgot about the aspirations and ideals of our group — feminism, separatist resistance, fight against authoritarianism and personality cult, all of which, as a matter of fact, was the cause for their unjust punishment.”
Ms. Tolokonnikova and Ms. Alyokhina, who have taken pains to say they are no longer members of Pussy Riot, refused to communicate with the existing members of the group.
“Yes, we lost two friends,” the letter said, “but the world has acquired two brave, interesting, controversial human rights defenders.” It was signed, under assumed names, by six members of the group.
Backstage before the show, in a dressing room adjacent to Lauryn Hill’s, Ms. Tolokonnikova and Ms. Alyokhina had no comment about the letter. On stage, they spoke mostly extemporaneously, making impassioned calls for the release of Russian political prisoners and reading from some of their legal statements. “We demand a Russia that is free,” Ms. Tolokonnikova concluded, leading the crowd in an English chant: “Russia will be free!”
The audience roared. Afterward, Ms. Alyokhina and Ms. Tolokonnikova, along with Ms. Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, were swept out of the arena quickly. They were still jet-lagged and had had an exhausting day. And besides, Madonna had invited them to dinner.
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SOCHI SCENE: Meeting Putin -

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SOCHI, Russia — Sochi may not be completely ready for the Olympics, but apparently the Russian leader himself cleans up quite nicely.
Although Vladimir Putin cultivates his macho image with occasional bare-chested photos, that wasn't the case when he stopped by the athletes' village this week for a flag-raising ceremony. Goaltender Molly Schaus was among a handful of players on the U.S. women's hockey team who met him.
How was he dressed? "World leader attire," she said.
Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter:

Italy center-right attack Senate speaker over Berlusconi trial

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ROME (Reuters) - Italy's center-right launched a fierce attack on the speaker of the upper house on Wednesday over his decision to have the Senate join a criminal case as an injured party against former Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

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