Mstislav Rostropovich will take his National Symphony Orchestra on tour of the Soviet Union for five or six days next February. It will be the first return to Russia of the conductor-cellist since he and his family went into exile in 1974.
Rostropovich has said privately that he and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, would return to their homeland only if their citizenship were restored and their reputations cleared. The process for their rehabilitation has been going on for some time in Russia.The family migrated to the United States after being made nonpersons, forbidden to perform in the West or in large Soviet cities from 1970 to 1974. Though outspoken on many subjects, notably the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, they were especially vocal in defense of author Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Their names began to disappear from the Soviet media, music histories and standard reference works.
Rostropovich has welcomed the glasnost policies of Mikail Gorbachev, along with softening stances of the Soviet government. The Washington Symphony, where he became conductor in 1977, has premiered several works by Soviet composers, and he has performed a series of benefit concerts recently for the Armenia earthquake victims.
-ORCHESTRAS IN SAN DIEGO and Oakland, Calif., and in Nashville, Tenn., filed for bankruptcy in recent years and have since resumed operations after restructuring. The Baltimore Symphony recently went back to work after settling a labor dispute.
The Detroit Symphony, with a $7 million debt, will move back to its historic Orchestra Hall next season, rather than continue in Ford Auditorium. The old hall, built in 1919, is hailed for its acoustics. It was scheduled for demolition in 1970, to be replaced by a fast-food restaurant, when enraged patrons mounted a campaign to save it.
-MEANWHILE, THE NEW ORLEANS SYMPHONY, silenced more than a year ago by a $4 million debt, resumed concerts in a sold-out house in early March. Conductor Maxim Shostakovich began his program with "Fanfare for a New Beginning," composed by orchestra member Richard Harrison.
Mismanagement has been blamed for NOS's difficulties, and musicians walked out in 1985 and 1987 when they weren't paid. A new management has taken over and donations of $225,000 paid off remaining debts to leave the books in the black. But the orchestra sold its home, the Orpheum Theater, to eliminate $2.4 million of the debt.
Public support runs high, with two-thirds of season tickets for the 12-week spring season having been sold, double what officials had considered a successful sale.
-THE JURY IS NOT YET IN on Pierre Berge, nor will it be before he has functioned for a number of years as director of the Theatres des Operas de Paris. Berge will continue to preside at the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house in addition to his new work. He ruffled feathers in international arts circles with his firing of Daniel Barenboim in January as director of the new Bastille Opera House, but Berge could be just what his times demand.
Among the three houses he will supervise is the old Paris Opera (the Salle Garnier), a bastion of elitism and privilege, which is currently running a deficit of $50 million, made up by state subsidies. For every $90 opera ticket, the state pays $180.
Jack Lang, French minister of culture, remains staunch in his support for Berge. "The state is not a milking cow," he announced on French television, despite France's long tradition of lavishing the arts with money and support.
Berge is a man who thinks in terms of balance sheets, and whose favorite color is black. He was not about to let the new opera at the Bastille become a bigger-than-life-sized replica of the old opera.
To keep the Bastille as self-supporting as possible, he plans to offer as many as 220 performances a year, of the broadest possible appeal. The prices of seats must be cheap - $6 to $60. These notions struck Barenboim and his supporters as completely incompatible with quality.
However, it remains to be seen if Paris can muster sufficient audience to keep all three stages at the Bastille Opera successfully occupied.
-MARTA CASALS ISTOMIN is being mentioned as a prospect to chair the National Endowment for the Arts. The former wife of cellist Pablo Casals, she is at present artistic director of Washington's Kennedy Center.
She was born in Puerto Rico, where she married Casals and helped establish the Casals Festival, the Puerto Rico Symphony and the Conservatory of Music. She is now married to international pianist Eugene Istomin.
-REMAINS OF LONDON'S ROSE THEATER, where plays of Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare were first performed, have been found in the course of excavation for construction. The site is near Shakespeare's Globe Theater, where a 30-year-old building was razed to make way for a new one. Theater buffs have been lobbying to postpone or prevent this construction.
Scholars have learned that the theater was not round as they had assumed, but likely had 16 sides, and was about 24 meters in diameter. A three-galleried timber structure open to the sky above, it was capable of accommodating about 2,000 people.
Presumably the Rose was built in 1587, followed by the Swan Theater in 1595 and the Globe in 1599. Reconstruction of the Globe is scheduled for completion in 1992.
-ARTS IN MASSACHUSETTS face stringent funding cuts during the coming year, as their share in combating a projected state shortfall of $600 million. Gov. Michael S. Dukakis had proposed $19 million for the Massachusetts Arts Council. Democratic House leaders first proposed zero funding, but then recommended tapping the state lottery commission's prize money to restore $9.5 million to the council.
More than 1,000 musicians, actors and other artists gathered to lobby the Massachusetts Legislature for the full $19 million, citing the tax profits reaped from the arts - $23 million in state taxes last year, they said.
The New England Foundation for the Arts has compiled statistics that show non-profit arts groups contributed $1.2 billion to the state's economy. Arts organizations employed 20,000 people and served 20 million ticket buyers, five times the number who attended professional sports events.
-THE NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & Heritage Festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary April 28-May 7 with a lineup including Santana, Miles Davis, Al Green and Wynton Marsalis.
Evening concerts at the new 3,000-seat River Tent on the Mississippi will present such performers as Fats Domino, Ricky Skaggs, Pete Fountain, Rita Coolidge, Pete Seeger, Bonnie Raitt and hundreds of others. The festival will include the traditional Heritage Fair of jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, Cajun, folk and other types of music, plus food and crafts.
-FRENCH CONDUCTOR Georges Sebastian, 85, died at his home outside Paris. Once considered the musical heir of Bruno Walter, Sebastian conducted at the Metropolitan Opera, the San Francisco Opera and other companies.