The story of how the Russian folk dancing by the Sarasota Ballet began in our musical, Elizabeth of Russia, goes back to a book that seemingly popped off a shelf decades ago. Wife Sharon was walking through Brant’s Used Book Store in Sarasota, Florida. A book presented itself to her. The book was about Elizabeth of Russia, daughter of Peter the Great. Although she immediately wrote wrote a rough draft for the play, the idea then sat dormant in her mind for twenty years: After all, Russia, at that time, was called by some, “the evil empire” (viva la Star Wars). Finally, the Berlin wall came crashing down. Sharon conferred with husband David. They teamed up and wrote the story, words, lyrics, and music. As a result, Elizabeth of Russia, their first their joint musical, was born. Elizabeth was not power crazed. She turned the throne down on several occasions, and just wanted to be with the man she loved- who was low born. As a result, we are thinking of renaming the musical: The Princess and the Peasant.
Elizabeth of Russia saw its world premier at Players of Sarasota Theatre. It had over 30 actors. The principle dancers of the Sarasota Ballet were employed. Their incredible performance can be viewed in the thumb video above. The dancers were a gift from a prominent Sarasota doctor. On the initial date of this blog, it has had over 12,000 hits.
The sold out premiere also featured Rubinoff’s Stradivarius violin. It was then played by Damaeon Pegis, a member of the Florida West Coast Symphony Orchestra. Rubinoff purchased the Strad in 1929 for $100,00,00. Today, some say it could be worth up to 5 million. The Strad, made in 1729, belonged to Czar Nicholas II. It has the official crest and seal of Czarist Russia on the finger board. The crest, of course, is set with diamonds and rubies. The history of the violin possibly parallels the recent hit movie, The Red Violin: It has been speculated that it could have been in the same vicinity as Czar Nicolas II when he was assassinated.
Since Rubinoff had past away, I had then had access to his violin through his kind and wonderful widow, Dame Darlene Rubinoff. She flew in with it from Houston . Check out my blogs on this website about the Rubinoffs. Also, I posted a live concert that Dave and I gave in New York. At the time of the video, in 1984, he was 86 years old. The full concert is on the thumb video above. Don’t miss it. I worked over 20 as Rubinoff’s arranger and accompanist. Right after he plays the first two notes, you know you are in the hands of a great master.
Elizabeth of Russia was then chosen to be an official event for the joint centennial celebrations of St. Petersburg Florida and St Petersburg Russia. They are sister cities. The event happened at the Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg Fl. Amy Schwarz- Morretti, at that time principle violinist with the Florida Orchestra, dazzled sold out houses by playing Rubinoff’s Dance of the Russia Peasant. She wanted to play the Stradivarius with such a passion that even though she was double booked on one of the nights; she left her nearby concert during intermission and had a waiting taxi by the back door of Symphony Hall. Then she was shuttled to the Palladium Theatre. She played the violin. Then great maestro ran out its back door of the Palladium to her waiting taxi cab as the audience gave her a roaring, standing ovation. Of course with her excellent musical timing, she made it back to the Florida Orchestra with time to spare, and masterfully played the 2nd half of the other concert. I will never get over thinking what a Stradivarius in the hands of a great master can do!