PARIS — The Red Army Choir was expected to draw a full house at


PARIS — The Red Army Choir was expected to draw a full house at
PARIS — The Red Army Choir was expected to draw a full house at the 3,500-seat
Palais des Sports in Paris on Friday night, during a week when both French and
Russian fighter jets continued airstrikes in Syria.
The French tour of the Russian all-male choir, which was founded in 1939 to lift the
morale of the Soviet Army, is the first time the group has visited the West in more
than two years. The choir had planned to perform in the United States and Britain this
year, but the plans were canceled after Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, said
Thierry Wolf, the promoter of this tour. “My British and American counterparts voiced
concerns about how this might be badly perceived by their respective authorities,” he
The tours in the United States and Britain have not been rescheduled, but Mr. Wolf
said the current tour, which runs through Nov. 8 and will include Brussels and
Geneva, “has been a great success so far.” Most of the 25 concerts are sold out, he
Gen. Victor Eliseev, the director of the choir, which is officially part of the Interior
Ministry, said in an interview that the goal of the tour was to “tell people who we are,
to show our soul and how we live.”
He added: “Such cultural exchanges must go on, especially in times of political
Frédéric Ramel, a professor of international relations at Sciences Po in Paris, said
Russia uses the Red Army Choir to engage in cultural diplomacy and to make
foreigners appreciate its culture and its sense of nationalism.
Christian Lequesne, a professor of contemporary diplomacy at the same institution,
agreed. “The French government took a hard line after Crimea,” he said. “But there
has always been a part of the political class and intellectuals who have been
explicitly pro-Russian, very often in connection with their anti-Americanism. Russia
knows it, and does everything possible to get the support from these French friends.”
The choir is state-owned, made up of personnel from the Russian armed forces and
performs in military dress, though the singers also wear costumes for some songs. It
is one of only two choirs permitted to use the title Red Army Choir; the other is the
Alexandrov Ensemble.
Red Army Choir singers are accompanied by an orchestra, dancers and soloists. In
recent years, the ensemble has sought to refresh its image, adding covers of
Western pop songs like “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk to
its traditional repertoire of folk songs like “Kalinka” and “Katiusha.”
Some of the choir’s members were supposed to dress up as robots for the
performance of “Get Lucky” in Paris, Mr. Wolf said, but his car was stolen this week
with the robot suits in the trunk. The police found his car later that same day, without
the robot suits.
“It’s a real pity. I had them custom made in the U.S.,” he said.
After this tour, the choir’s organizers said, they hope to visit “some countries in the
Middle East” before the end of 2015. General Eliseev said negotiations were
underway, but he declined to specify which countries had been approached.

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