Oh, to be in the Kremlin on the Fourth of July! TODAY Joan is surprised by a ``Happy Birthday!'' from one of the plainclothes guards who won't let people into the hotel without proper credentials. He's hailing her as an American on her country's birthday. It's Independence Day! Fortunately, her credentials are in order.
Soon we're sightseeing inside the Kremlin, whose massive wall I filmed from the outside yesterday. Somehow I wasn't expecting the tranquil little park. Or the sudden sharp police whistle warning me or somebody to get back on the sidewalk. Or the tourist attractions of the world's biggest cannon (never fired) and the world's biggest bell (never rung). We're sorry to hear that the Tretyakov Gallery, a storehouse of Russian art, is closed for remodeling. An art dealer jots down the Russian name for what she calls the Museum of Modern Art. After a long, spicy, delicious lunch in a Georgian restaurant (three group meals a day are included in the tour price), we give her note to a taxi driver. He gets us to a huge modern building with banners flying and a long, long queue. Joan holds a place in line while I reconnoiter.
Friendly people walk me from entrance to entrance. The queue is for the collection of Armand Hammer from America. Joan gives up her place. A museum official appears, appropriately chic, and takes us where we want to go.
Here, with not another detectable foreigner in sight, is a bonanza of the 20th-century Russian art we have been looking for. Not much of the old avant-garde. Plenty of socialist realism, factory scenes, war scenes, women shot-putters, etc. But also a Chagall from 1918 that literally has a fiddler on the roof in it. And many vast, lovely landscapes. Room after room of artistic context for the land we are seeing.
And an enormous exhibition of contemporary book illustrations and graphics. They range from Little Red Riding Hood to Dostoevsky to Robert Frost. Much whimsy, surrealism, and other kinds of design not confined to socialist realism.
The same sort of thing might be said of the show we catch tonight at the Taganka. The title is something like ``Hope Is a Small Orchestra.'' A guitarist and clarinetist move in and out of the action, playing ``Ave Maria'' as a theme. The stage is filled with pillows hanging at various heights like clouds. Occasionally a tray of refreshments floats down on one. The main furniture is a large brass bed that at one point serves as a motorcycle. In a park bench scene a man and woman are accompanied by their dogs, which exit up the aisle with perfect discipline.
Roderick Nordell is the Monitor's feature editor. Tomorrow he finds the Moscow Art Theater in Leningrad.