* * *

Today is the funeral in Monaco of my director, the great impresario of many great orchestras and conductors of the world. He was exceptional and extraordinary in death, as in life. He died at least once a week and yet he succeeded in surprising us all by his unseemly end.

There were eight people at his funeral, only the staff of his artistic agency "Phoenix" in Monaco, myself included. He had neither friends nor family and his parents were dead. The body of his boyfriend Demis had been taken by his family to be buried in Greece. Mme Duval, the administrative director had brought a bouquet of white chrysanthemums. "White chrysanthemums and the Kyrie of Bach mass in B minor not at all Mendelssohn Funeral March" - his dramatic and macabre voice still echoes in my head. He always repeated this phrase during the countless death scenes which we witnessed when he was alive.

"Bach"? I hear this quivering murmur fluttering around the small funeral cortege like a breath of wind followed by a wave of shrugging shoulders and painful embarrassment. As if we were afraid that he would rise from his coffin and reprimand us.

Nobody had thought of Bach.

After having meticulously organised hundreds of concerts, ballet and opera productions throughout Europe and South America for twenty-five years his company had failed with the simple organisation of his own funeral in Monaco a stone throw away from his office.

Not even a Bach fugue accompanied his departure from this world. He, for whom music was his life, was given a farewell in complete silence. Only the wind intermingled in the branches of the trees blew a sad air. The sky was as heavy and as grey as lead. No one cried, but we all were drowned in thoughts as heavy as the sky. I threw a handful of soil onto his coffin and watched it slowly slide to the dark depths.

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust!" I hear the monotone voice of the priest who finishes his prayer.

"Dust we are born and to dust you return !" echoes in me the final humiliation of he, who wished to conquer his destiny and have total control of his life with the help of metaphysical and occult forces.

But life, tenacious and insubordinate, continues after him as it will continue after all of us who are gathered around his grave.

Because the only way to defeat death is
by leaving something behind you,
a mark of your work.
a sign within a childs smile which resembles your own.
and through which you touch eternity.

* * *

It all began one January day three years ago, in Monaco.
I had applied for a position in an artist management agency which was looking for a multilingual assistant able to speak Russian and capable of organising classical music concerts.

I had lost my fiance and the child I was carrying in a car accident in Austria and I wanted to change my life.

I had abandoned everything my travel agency in Vienne, my friends, my apartment and had settled in Nice in a tiny pied a terre which I had used as a holiday home.

I wanted to forget everything and start all over again.

For many months I was in a stupor and only the beauty of nature and the sun tempted me out of doors.

I would walk to the Promanade des Anglais, sit on a blue chair in front of the Meridien Hotel spending hours looking at the sea and the sun or sometimes, I would walk along the coastal road of Cap Ferrat, Antibes or Cap dAil not a thought in my head and my eyes filled with the beauty of the surroundings.

Lying in the grass, I would study the ants busily occupied with grains much bigger than them. Lost in the infinity of the blue sky, the humming of the insects soothed by the monotone croaking of the crickets, listening to natures orchestra playing its hymn to life.

Nature in its perfect and all embracing beauty was so overpowering, that my existence here and now was reduced to its right proportion and weighed less heavily on my shoulders.

Beauty, so useless and indispensible had been my saviour.

Eventually, I came to forget, to erase my memories, to simply live at one with nature.

I had met a man whom I liked and his unexpected love had shaken me from my torpor and given me back my love of life.

Life, steadfast, invincible, regained its rhythm.

* * *

"Ah, yes Inochka. I was thinking of Prokofiev. He was a friend. He was in disgrace like Shostakovich you know. Once when I was at his home while he was ill, he asked me to make some tea. I went into the kitchen looking for sugar. I opened all the cupboards. They were empty. In the whole kitchen there was only one slice of bread as hard as stone and tea. I didnt say anything. Neither did he. He only apologised for not having any sugar. I understood that he was ashamed.
The next day, I asked all my colleagues from the conservatoire to make a collection for him. They didnt realise that Prokofiev was starving."
A deep and sorrowful silence filled the room. I am shocked.
"It was a hard time, he was banished by the authorities who considered him a decadent composer without talent etc. He was living a miserable existence but told no- one, he never complained. Human dignity Inochka, has no price. He who has it is sooner ready to perish than give it up".

* * *

"Inochka, you dont know what we lived through during the communist regime Prokofiev, Shostakovich and thousands of other artists, less known, but great.
The rejection of our art, the devastating and shameful public criticism, the humiliation, the isolation, the misery, the hunger, yes the hunger. But, out of everything the hunger was the easiest thing to cope with. It was the isolation and rejection which was the hardest. When Olya and I were in disgrace, when our passports were confiscated and our engagements in Russia and abroad cancelled most of our "friends" turned their back on us. In the street they made out they didnt know us. In the beginning our letters used to arrive opened or not at all. We frequently said during this time that the walls had ears. It was psychological terror everywhere. People were afraid of everything. One could go to prison for telling a joke. I understood them, but I also suffered for them, for their lack of artistic honour and courage to defend their art and convictions, for their betrayal. Yes, courage cost allot, even life itself. Understanding them did not help me feel good.

I had always defended my convictions at whatever price. I couldnt not do otherwise. When we were expelled from Russia Olya, myself and the girls after one year of total isolation, rejection and misery, we were convinced that was the end.

We had taken the plane to London wondering were and how we were going to live. Arriving in London and coming out of the plane we were blinded by photographers flashbulbs.

Imagine the shock! Hundreds of journalist and photographers were waiting for us. We had left dishonoured and disgraced and had arrived in London as heroes despite ourselves. Misery and glory can go hand in hand.

I was listening stunned. Maestro was speaking in a calm and sad voice, absorbed in his painful memories.

"And you know what still makes me feel bad? Following the fall of the Berlin wall I had been rehabilitated and returned to Russia. And I saw these same people who had excommunicated me before were there to praise me now, as if nothing had happened. It hurt to see these people who had refused in the past to shake my hand as I held it out to them. Now I shook their hands, I forgave them. But even so their betrayal had hurt me. Its a double maybe even triple betrayal. A betrayal of me in the past, of themselves today and of the human dignity in general. It is for that reason that I do not wish to return to Russia nither does Olya. Too many painful memories and too many reminders of them".

He was curled up on the sofa, as if the weight of his memories was too much to bear. I was speechless with emotion.

"I am tired Inotchka. I am going to rest. I will give you the letters later".

I covered him with a blanket.

"Thank you lapochka*. You never ask me for anything. You simply listen and you understand. It is so relaxing"

* * *

I enjoy my lunch break and walk around Monaco.
I often have a coffee in the Cafe de Paris and observe the town and its people.
Monaco is a perfect town, with perfect infrastructure and perfect private and public services. A perfect order and total security reigns.
Monaco is The Reserve of the worlds rich. The rich of the entire world have their residence there, almost 30,000 people. There is also the Monegasque 5,000 people, who run businesses or work in the public sector. Their presence gives the town a false image of being like any other.

However, Monaco is unique in the world, here the rich represent a majority.
Its the "Utopia" island of Thomas More, made real partially, if there were no poor to remind us that we are always far from the Utopia of an ideal society.

The "poor" or the "commuters" - the workers and the employees from the neighbouring towns which come here to work - as well as the tourists are all just passing through. There are nearly as many commuters as residents.

One can easily recognise the rich, even when they keep a low profile or are badly dressed.

There is a freedom in the way they move, a confidence and complaisance in the way they carry themselves. They are never in a hurry, never stressed, they are the masters of their time and their lives.
No matter where they appear, they take over, they are at home. Monaco is their living room.

Ones sees in their expressions a blissful serenity in an assured future, protected from the vicissitudes of the world. A certainty lost for ever for the workers of the world, their only certainty being that of an uncertain future.
One can recognise the visitors by their behaviour of poor cousins visiting their rich aunt. They are silent, intimidated, respectful, taken aback by the luxury, full of admiration for the beauty and elegance of the surroundings.

They take photographs on the steps of the Casino or in front of the numerous Ferraris, Rolls Royces, Bentleys and other luxury cars parked side by side.

All these people passing through disappear by evening, leaving the town to its true masters, the rich.

It is around six to seven oclock, the time when the offices close that the two Monacos meet. Never is the difference more obvious between the haves and the have nots than at this hour.

The workers, who come away exhausted from their jobs after a ten hour day, perspiring, badly dressed, bad tempered, who run to catch the train which will take them home and the rich relax, elegantly dressed, good humoured, who go out for dinner in the smart brightly lit restaurants beginning their day in a world of luxury, beauty and calm.

One can almost smell the waves of perfume emanating from the rich mixing with the waves of sweat from the workers. It is the unique perfume of Monaco and also the unique possible mixture between these two worlds the mixture of odours.

It is not their money which makes me dream, it is their freedom. They are able to do what they want, when and where they want and with whom they want. The supreme luxury!

* * *

The opening night of Romeo and Juliet was going to its end in the theatre in Sao Paolo.
I was tense, excited.

It was the first production of my agency "Phoenix" of Monaco risen from the ashes. The name finally came into its own as if M. Shlomsky had foreseen the destiny of the agency, he had given it the symbolic name at its birth.

Despite all the help and support of Maestro Sergeevich and of all the team at Phoenix with the exception of Donatella who had left, I was not sure of its success.
The curtain falls.
A profound silence fills the room.
I hold my breath.
It is an unbearable weight.
It is pure terror.

Roger holds my hand in encouragement. For the first time I see Giorgio very stressed. I regain my courage and turn to the public for their reaction.

A thunderous applause resounds around the room.

I remain rooted to the spot. A tear flows involuntary.
What beauty, faces radiating enthusiasm, fanatic applause, cries of "bravo", delirium. I am overwhelmed! At last I can relax. I embrace Roger and Georgio.

The curtain rises, the stage is full of actors, the Maestro comes on stage and beckons for me to join him.
I hesitate. He insists.
I go up to the stage and towards him.
He hugs me.
It is a great success lapochka. I told you so.
Thank you so much, dear Vanya. It is thanks to you.
And to you, lapochka !
And to Phoenix !

And to M. Shlomsky, I think without saying anything. I thank him from my heart and dedicate my first production to him.

Vanya holds my hand. I turn to the audience and bow humbly before the public, before the destiny which has given me this chance, before the genius of Prokofiev, before the genius of Maestro Sergeevich, before the genius of all the great artists known and unknown and their sacrifices for art, before the human genius, before Art

Art which we "have so that we may not to perish by the truth."

Eternal Art


"Im Vorbeigehen"

"Alles wird in Ordnung sein"