Akiva Talmi is Founder of Talmi Entertainment which specializes in producing fine art tours and special events marketing, and has toured Moscow Ballet annually in N America since 1993. During his 40 year career, he has included presidential daughters in Moscow Ballet’s “Dance with Us” program, presented at the National Press Club in Washington DC and been instrumental in building the careers of dancers including Alexander Godunov, Charmaine Hunter and Valentina Kozlova. Talmi holds a BS and MA in Music Composition from The Juilliard School. He is a recipient of the Metropolitan Opera Guild Award, the Richard Rogers Award (5 times in 5 years), Leonard Bernstein Award, and the AICF Award - Isaac Stern, President. He composed the music for feature length films "Two" (CoImar), "Longest Journey" (Columbia), and for “Carnival” and “From the Top” (CPTV). Talmi founded TE Inc. in New York City in 1980 and management offices are now located in the Berkshires, Massachusetts.
Talmi created and produced the 1974 TV program “From the Top” starring world renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman and NYC Ballet star Violette Verdy for CPTV. Yale Repertory Theater provided Obie Award winning playwright Lonnie Carter and actors Chuck Levin and Paul Schirmahorn for the production. UCT provided Dr Frank Ballard, puppet master, and his team and WGBH provided innovative film/video director Fred Barzyk. In 1981 he introduced Americans to Russians star ballet dancer Alexander Godunov in the The Alexander Godunov Retrospective Ballet Tour throughout the USA. Two years later, in 1983, Talmi produced From Bolshoi to Broadway starring Bolshoi Ballet artists Leonid Kozlov and Valentina Kozlova. Later Talmi secured the starring role in the Broadway revival of “On Your Toes” for Ms. Kozlova and subsequently principal dancer positions for both Kozlovs with NYC Ballet under George Balanchine. In 1983 and 1984 the Silk, Satin and Denim tour starred Valentina Kozlova and Nina Fedorova of New York City Ballet and featured the Haute Couture designs of Ungaro, Christian Dior, Pauline Trigere, Oleg Cassini, Donna Karan, and Michael Kors. This was a promotional and marketing project for Hess Department stores. The Cynthia Gregory Celebration Tour in 1984 starred America’s Prima Ballerina Cynthia Gregory and was a 34-city ballet tour. As sponsors of this national tour US President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan invited Mr. Talmi to the White House for the first ever official State Dinner on cultural events. First Lady Roselyn Carter and Vice Presidential wife Tipper Gore also served as honorary chairpersons for other tours.
1989 to 1992 saw the collapse of the “Iron Curtain” in Russia, the rise of independent ballet companies, and the rise of Talmi’s International Glasnost Festival Tours. The production traveled to 54 American cities and featured stars from the Bolshoi Ballet, the Kirov Ballet, the National Ballets of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and the People’s Republic of China. Accompanying seminars were presented at Yale, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Purdue, and Vanderbilt Universities. In the early 90’s “Russian Ballet Performances” at the Washington Constitutional Hall with orchestra, was aired on the National PBS TV stations and the Great Russian Nutcracker toured for the first time with a troupe of 80, award-winning dancers from top Russian schools including Bolshoi, Mariinsky, Perm and Vaganova. Talmi continues to tour Moscow Ballet annually presenting classic Russian story ballets including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet and more.
Scenic Designer and Puppet Maker
Valentin Fedorov is a graduate of the Stanislavski Institute. Known as “the Russian Bear” to his colleagues, he is a prodigy of Valery Leventhal of the Bolshoi Ballet, known for his diverse and often wonderfully comical sets. Based in Chuvash, central Russia, he received the title “Honored Artist of Chuvashia” and in 1991, his “Blackberry Along the Fence” won at the Best Performances of Russia Festival.
Fedorov has been art director at the Chuvashia State Theatre of Opera and Ballet since 1988, where he has designed more than 40 productions for opera and ballet to critical acclaim. Chuvash, a mostly rural province in the middle of the country has a centuries-old history of puppetry. Fedorov’s fanciful sets and unique 6-foot tall “stick” puppets add to the whimsical and imaginative storytelling that sets Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker apart from others.
Moscow Ballet Producer Akiva Talmi raves, “Valentin brings his love of life into his puppets and even into his backdrops by adding treats for the eye, such as angels with three dimensional trumpets, and paying homage to great Russian artists in the interior backdrop with the “painting” of the Russian Troika, the famous sleigh pulled by three horses abreast, which is practically a symbol of Russia.”
Internationally renowned puppeteer Roger Titley created the “flying” Dove of Peace puppet which premieres in Moscow Ballet’s 25th Anniversary Season. The Dove of Peace character, originally appearing in the 1994 Moscow Ballet North American tour, is danced by Moscow Ballet dancers and is exclusive to Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker. The new “Dove of Peace” puppet is seen flying across the stage as if by magic.
Internationally renowned puppeteer Roger Titley created the “flying” Dove of Peace puppet which premieres in Moscow Ballet’s 25th Anniversary Season. The Dove of Peace character, originally appearing in the 1994 Moscow Ballet North American tour, is danced by Moscow Ballet dancers and is exclusive to Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker. The new “Dove of Peace” puppet is seen flying across the stage as if by magic. Roger works from in Knysna, South Africa creating fantastic life-like and other worldly puppets and creatures. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Puppeteer Roger Titley grew up in Grahamstown and spent 2 years in the Air Force before receiving a national diploma in Graphic Fine Art from Cape Technikon in 1983. Roger started building puppets in 1986. From 1990 to 2008 he worked for film and television where he has been involved in close to 1000 productions. He was featured in many commercials for well-known brands such as Coca-Cola, Shell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Volkswagen, Citroen, Vodacom, Audi, Nissan, Fiat, BMW, Toyota, Peugeot, Philips, Mercedes Benz, Husqvarna, Daewoo, Ford, and Lever Bros. Work such as Elephants hatching from eggs for IBM, crocodile that loses its teeth for Toyota Hilux, bungee jumping baby for Vodacom, BBC’s Walking with Caveman series and the flying ostrich for Microsoft are just some of the award winning projects that he was involved in. Roger used his puppetry technique to build the Dung Beetle and Elephants that were featured in the Fifa 2010 Soccer World Cup. Puppets were also created for professional performances such as the World Economic Forum in Davos-Switzerland in 2010, stadium opening in Turkmenistan in 2011 and National Day in Dubai in 2012. Honors include receiving the Western Cape Cultural Affairs Award for 2014 from the Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport and, most recently, building very large creature puppets for the 2016 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro where 56 Brazilian dancers were trained to perform in them.
Roger studied fine art and started his career in Johannesburg in 1984 as a freelance illustrator, teacher and cartoonist. In 1986 he was commissioned to build puppets for a live production and his fascination for this ancient art began. Johannesburg had a strong community of puppeteers in the 80's and they met regularly to inspire eachother’s enthusiasm. Among these puppet builders and performers were Handspring Puppet Company who recently created the famous “Warhorse.” Roger collaborated with Handspring on several occasions through workshops and commissions. Although Roger started creating simple hand operated puppets with projects such as “Puppets against Aids,” his ability to create highly realistic puppet creatures quickly drew him into the world of TV commercials, film and documentaries.
From 1990 to 2008 most of his work was for camera where he was involved in close to 1000 productions, many of them for well-known international brands such as BBC, Coca-Cola, Lever Brothers, Mercedes and BMW. In 2009 Roger returned to building live performance puppets where he developed his famous white creatures in an attempt to bring the spirit of wildlife to urban jungles. He has facilitated several puppet building and movement coaching workshops in cities around the world including Linz, Austria; Istanbul, Turkey; Burgos, Spain; and Helsinki, Finland. Thousands of people joined in to build and perform with his creatures in performances and parades.The puppets were also commissioned for prestigious performances such as the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the 2010 World Cup Soccer opening and closing ceremonies, and the opening ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016. Most recently Roger created puppets for Franco Dragone, one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil. Roger now lives in Wilderness on South Africa's beautiful Garden Route.
Moscow Ballet Set Designer
Carl Sprague has worked on more than 30 films, which have a combined total of 29 Oscar nominations and he was “Set Concept” designer for Academy Award winning movie La La Land. Carl’s set designs for Moscow Ballet’s backdrops are three dimensional, intricately detailed with ornamentation and historic elements, and contribute in a large way to the magical, sumptuous and entertaining spirit of this Russian Christmas ballet. The ballet opens with a set by Sprague featuring Moscow’s iconic dome skyline at sunset; next is Mayor Stahlbaum’s Grand Ballroom in Act I which is historically accurate in its portrayal of traditional Russian lacquer art and foreshadows scenes in the ballet. In Act II the artic Snow Forest set slyly melts to become the paradise-like Land of Peace and Harmony and finally Sprague’s ultra-romantic Waltz of the Flowers Plaza feels almost as alive as the company of dancers that perform in it. His first feature film design work was on Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence. He has since worked on The Paper, Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, andWes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel to name a few.He received a Guild nomination as art director for Wes Anderson film The Royal Tenenbaums and as concept illustrator for the Oscar winning Twelve Years a Slave. He worked with Martin Scorsese on The Age of Innocence, and David Fincher on The Social Network and his sets for photographer Gregory Crewdson were featured in The New York Times. He has worked with dance companies including Broadway’s Jerome Robbins, American Repertory Ballet, Center City Ballet and Ballet Metropolis. In addition to designing for Moscow Ballet, he is developing a feature film adaptation of Edith Wharton’s 1917 novel Summer.
Arthur Oliver, an internationally recognized designer, has been designing Moscow Ballet costumes for many years. His designs for theatre, film, dance, and opera productions has been seen via internationally broadcast television on four major continents. Oliver studied under Alan Armstrong of UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, at Stratford Shakespearean Festival, and had his professional debut at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. His freelance career features work for Tony award winner Jerry Mitchell, Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis, Karen Allen, John Douglas Thompson, Debra Jo Rupp, multiple Grammy winner James Taylor, Tony nominee Alison Fraser, and others. He has also designed for the American Repertory Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Stratford Shakespearean Festival, Shakespeare & Company, Berkshire Theatre Group, At Last Theatre of San Francisco, 59E59 Theatres, The New Victory Theatre, and more. His production of Giselle is currently in repertory for the National Opera and Ballet of Lviv, Ukraine.
Proficient in design for the performing arts, Oliver has designed for Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, opera, ballet, short film, television and academe. His work has been praised by critics Ben Brantley of The New York Times; Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal, as well as by The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald. Awards and Special Honors includeBest of 2010, The Wall Street Journal; Featured Designer, In Stitches, The Berkshire Fringe Festival; 2006 Best of the Berkshires Honorable Mention The Merry Wives of Windsor, 2004 Best of the Berkshires Honorable Mention The Comedy of Errors.
Mary Giannone Talmi
Mary Giannone Talmi holds a BFA in Dance from The Juilliard School and is co-founder and co-producer of Talmi Entertainment. She received two Choreography Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, an Achievement Award in Choreography from Massachusetts Council on the Arts and was selected for the American Ballet Theatre's Choreography Workshop under Mikhail Baryshnikov.
She founded Connecticut Dance Theatre, a modern dance repertory company which specialized in the reconstruction of the works of Doris Humphrey, has choreographed for Albany Berkshire Ballet (ABB)since 1972, and was a significant force in the Regional Dance America movement of the late twentieth century. Two of the works she created for Albany Berkshire Ballet, Celebrationand Concerto, are included in the National Choreography Plan. In SummerDance ‘95 her fast-paced Temple Cavesreceived critical acclaim, and she has staged shows for country music's The Forester Sisters.She also choreographs for Dayton Ballet, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, American Ballet Theatre and Boston Ballet II, and the Jacob's Pillow Dancers. Talmi has taught at Boston Ballet, Wright State, Ohio State, Vassar College, and Walnut Hill School.
Mary and Akiva Talmi have created and presented several significant education programs in addition to producing annual North American ballet tours. Their commitment to delivering hands-on programming for American children began in 1972 when as directors of Connecticut Dance Theatre, they invited co-artistic director of Dance Theater of Harlem (DTH) Karel Shook, to work with their North End Dance Troupe in Hartford, CT. Shook invited several Hartford students to study at DTH on scholarship, among them was Charmaine Hunter, an extremely gifted young dancer, who went on to became DTH’s 2nd Prima Ballerina and star of Arthur Mitchell’s Fire Bird.
The Talmi’s received federal grants for their programs and, in 1986, toured American Ballet Theatre’s Prima Ballerina Cynthia Gregory in the “Celebration Tour” which championed “Just Say No” campaign for children with First Lady Nancy Reagan as Honorary Chair. Other programs include: TV programs produced and aired for children on PBS stations; General Motors sponsored “New Horizons” interactive program presented over a semester in 13 public elementary schools in San Antonio; “Russian Cultural Ballet” program which was produced nationally in nine museums and art institutions; and “Cinderella Around the World” dance and literacy program, to name some of Moscow Ballet’s educational outreach.
On a collegiate level, the Talmi’s presented the “First International Glasnost Festival Tours” from 1987-92 which starred artists from the Bolshoi, Kirov, Hungarian, and more world class ballet companies. The tours included symposiums, film screenings, poetry readings, Master Classes and speakers, including Kirov’s Emeritus Artistic Director Oleg Vinogradov, for students in universities including Dartmouth, Yale, Middlebury, and Vanderbilt and for the public. Currently Moscow Ballet presents New Horizons – A Children’s Program for Life, a three-pronged approach to developing children’s good health: addressing movement, diet, and creative expression through interactive experiences with Moscow Ballet dancers and live performances to thousands of American children.