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Wednesday, 2009 June, 3rd, 7 PM

Great Guild Hall


The 100th anniversary of Sir Isaiah Berlin





The poetry of Anna Akhmatova



Sir Isaiah Berlin was one of the great intellectuals of modern times, and
the most internationally famous Latvian of the 20th century.

June 6th 2009 marks the 100th anniversary of Berlin's birth in Riga, Latvia.

The centenary offers the occasion for a week of events in Riga examining and celebrating Berlin's life and work, paying particular attention to his political thought, his Jewish identity, his Russian-Jewish cultural heritage, and his early family life in the Riga of 1909-15.

Dr Vaira Vîíe-Freiberga, President of Latvia from 1999 to 2007, has kindly agreed to serve as patron of the centenary.



“After the war, Anna Akhmatova received a visit from the
philosopher/diplomat/historian Isaiah Berlin. He was one of the twentieth
century's greatest men of letters. An Oxford don, he had been born in Russia
and knew the language fluently. When he visited St. Petersburg in 1945 he
asked about Akhmatova but did not even know if she was still alive. She,
for her part, had not spoken to anyone from the West for decades. Theirs was
an entirely unexpected meeting of two of the greatest minds of the century.
Berlin captured the encounter unforgettably in his essay "Meetings with Russian Writers”, and Akhmatova immortalized Berlin in her long "Poem Without a Hero," a poem that she began during the siege of Leningrad and worked on for more than twenty years. Berlin appears as the guest from the future in that poem, and Akhmatova was someone for whom the guest/host relationship was a sacred and favorite theme. It was as if Berlin had arrived as avisitor from another planet.

Akhmatova fell in love with her guest: "That late-night dialogue turned
into/The delicate shimmer of interlaced rainbows." She knew, of course,
that they would have to separate, but she addressed the guest from the
future in her poem: "Promise to visit my dreams again./ You and I are like
two mountains.../You and I will not meet in this world./ If only at the
midnight hour/ You'd send me a greeting across the stars."

The meeting was crucial for both of them. Akhmatova came under suspicion
again by the Stalinist regime for espionage, especially as Randolph
Churchill, Winston's son, called for Berlin as he and Akhmatova were
finishing their all-night conversation. Akhmatova came to think that this
incident was the beginning of what would become known as the Cold War.
Berlin turned his attention to Russian intellectual history, and wrote some
of the finest essays on that subject that we will ever have.
Meetings with
Russian Writers
is one of the greatest essays ever written about the fate of the intellectual in the Stalinist universe”.

                                                     by Bruce Thompson


Alla Demidova who has become a legend of the Taganka Theatre, is an actress who is Theatre herself. In her brilliant performance of Phaedra with Dmitry Pevtsov in her Theatre "A" the two drew skillfully on an empty stage the bewitching and enigmatic patterns of Marina Tsvetaeva's verses and Greek passions. Then there was Medea staged by the Greek director Terzopulos. And Hamlet – long-dreamt of and finally played by Demidova. She is a writer and a performer for poetry programs and of literary and music compositions based on Requiem, the poem by Anna Akhmatova performed together with Moscow Virtuosi ensemble. Alla Demidova is undeniably an outstanding, bright individual, both on stage and in life. She can present herself as finely harmonious, silent, or can appear extravagant and unpredictably shocking. As a famous actress whose name is often spoken of with admiration, she insists that she has no gift at all, and that her stage life has been determined by fate. In no case will she admit to being a star and will assure you that she has no desire to meet with the audience or appear in any play. She has even made the shocking statement that she has long lost interest in playing women: "Neither old ones, nor young ones... they have all been played over and over again and lived through... but the world of the man's mentality is like a flight to another planet."



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03.06.2009  19:00
Great Guild Hall

The poetry of Anna Akhmatova


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