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Ozawa begins dancing to Vienna

Boston's long goodbye to Seiji Ozawa got off to a star-spangled start July 4.

Mr. Ozawa, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, joined the Boston Pops and conductor Keith Lockhart for festivities at the open-air Hatch Shell before an estimated gathering of a half-million people and millions more watching on national TV.

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He conducted Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" with his usual animation and flair, then returned later in the program sporting a Boston Red Sox jersey with the No. 25 to playfully prance and whirl about the stage with Lockhart during a patriotic medley.

Ozawa announced recently that he will leave Boston in 2002 to take up the baton of the Vienna State Opera, considered to be one of the three or four greatest opera companies in the world. At 25 years and counting in Boston, he is the longest-serving music director at a major orchestra.

"Seiji's unique. He's a force of nature," says Mark Volpe, managing director of Boston Symphony, adding that Ozawa will be difficult to replace. With several other conducting posts open or opening soon among major orchestras, his departure adds to a big leadership shake-up. Observers are waiting to see if the changes amount to musical chairs among a few elite conductors, who'll only swap cities, or whether a new young talents may be tapped for a top post like Boston's.

The Jedi knights of the "Star Wars" saga are really samurai warriors. At least, that's how the movie series is perceived in Japan. "Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace" opens there tomorrow, and it's expected to be a box-office blockbuster.

The original "Star Wars" movie (1977) was based loosely on "The Hidden Fortress" (1958), a film about a warrior's journey by legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. But George Lucas wasn't the first American to borrow from him. Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai" (1954), about warriors hired to defend a village, was remade in the US as the classic Western "The Magnificent Seven" (1960), starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, who defend a Mexican town from bandits.

Warner Bros. won't sell its violent R-rated sci-fi picture "The Matrix" on videotape, apparently in an effort to keep it out of the hands of children, Variety reported this week. It will be available Oct. 5 only on DVD discs. The DVDs cost more than tapes and are more likely to be bought by adults than kids. Tapes will be available for rent. But most stories require an ID before renting an R-rated film. The move may cost Warner $50 million in tape sales, Variety says.

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