Meet di­rec­tor of Run­dale Palace

The Baltic Times - - FRONT PAGE - Michael Mustillo

Built for the Duke of Cour­land, Run­dale Palace lo­cated one hour from Riga near the city of Bauska, is Latvia’s and the Baltic re­gion’s most il­lus­tri­ous 18th-cen­tury Ital­ian baroque-styled ar­chi­tec­tural gem.

If any in­di­vid­ual de­serves credit for re­turn­ing the palace to close prox­im­ity of its for­mer glory, the lau­rel goes to Dr. Imants Lanc­ma­nis, a gen­tle man­nered con­sum­mate gen­tle­man, an artist and art his­to­rian, who has ded­i­cated his life and en­ergy to its re­con­struc­tion and restora­tion. His tire­less ded­i­ca­tion to pre­serv­ing Francesco Bar­tolomeo Ras­trelli’s sump­tu­ous and ma­jes­tic mas­ter­work, an im­por­tant part of Europe’s cul­tural her­itage has been ac­knowl­edged through nu­mer­ous awards. For his mer­i­to­ri­ous ser­vice to Latvia, Lanc­ma­nis was awarded the Or­der of the Three Stars, France’s high­est or­der of civil mer­its- the Le­gion of Hon­our, Ger­many’s Or­der of Merit, Pro Europa prize from the Cul­tural Fund of Europe, and the EU Prize for Cul­tural Her­itage- Europa Nos­tra.

Ras­trelli de­signed 10 palaces dur­ing the course of his ca­reer as se­nior court ar­chi­tect at the Im­pe­rial Rus­sian Court, in­clud­ing the Jel­gava Palace (Latvia) the largest Baroque-styled palace in the Baltic States and the two palaces in Rus­sia famed for their ex­trav­a­gant lux­ury and op­u­lence of dec­o­ra­tion: the Win­ter Palace in Saint Petersburg and the Cather­ine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.

It is Ras­trelli’s Run­dale Palace which holds a spe­cial place for Lat­vians, which af­ter long years of ren­o­va­tions and re­con­struc­tion un­der dif­fi­cult con­di­tions, slowed down by limited avail­abil­ity of fi­nan­cial re­sources, re­opened in 2014.

Though re­tir­ing as Run­dale Palace’s di­rec­tor at the end of 2018 at the age of 77, Lanc­ma­nis as he notes in this The Baltic Times in­ter­view, will be fur­ther con­sumed by un­fin­ished work re­lat­ing to writ­ing, cat­a­logu­ing and pub­lish­ing works re­lated to the palace.

What is planned at Run­dale Palace in 2018 as part of Latvia’s cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tions?

The name of Run­dale de­rives from the Ger­man place-name Ruhen­thal, mean­ing Val­ley of Peace. It has wit­nessed var­i­ous tur­bu­lent pe­ri­ods of his­tory. Dur­ing the 1812 Franco-rus­sian War, it was de­mol­ished and plun­dered. Its splen­did mag­nif­i­cent mir­rors were smashed, lux­u­ri­ous silk wall­pa­pered lined walls stripped bare, and the li­brary, a gift from Em­press Cather­ine II, de­stroyed.

We will be fin­ish­ing the de­sign of the palace’s in­te­rior for the cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tions. Though ren­o­va­tions were com­pleted in 2014, we have been con­tin­u­ously dec­o­rat­ing the palace with his­toric fur­ni­ture, paint­ings and in­te­rior de­sign ob­jects.

For the past six years, we have been work­ing on a per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion of var­i­ous Euro­pean and Lat­vian dec­o­ra­tive art ob­jects. It is lo­cated in 15 rooms, it en­com­passes the pe­riod from Gothic to Art Nou­veau. In 2018, the two re­main­ing rooms will be fin­ished. This work has not been funded by the Lat­vian State, but solely by the Run­dale Palace.

This will be our gift to Latvia when it is fin­ished next year, a mu­seum of dec­o­ra­tive arts. Cur­rently Latvia has the Mu­seum of Dec­o­ra­tive Arts in Riga, which ex­hibits a col­lec­tion of Lat­vian dec­o­ra­tive art ob­jects, but does not have works rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Euro­pean dec­o­ra­tive art style. We have cre­ated an­other mu­seum of Euro­pean dec­o­ra­tive art for Latvia’s 100.

There will also be a rich pro­gram of cul­tural events dur­ing 2018. I would like to men­tion the gala con­cert of in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned Lat­vian con­duc­tor Mariss Jan­sons and one of opera's bright­est stars, the Lat­vian mezzo-so­prano Elina Garanca. This is be­ing ar­ranged by the Lat­vian opera stage di­rec­tor and artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Baltic Mu­si­cal Sea­sons, An­drejs Za­gars. This event for 2,000 guests will take place around Au­gust 2018. We still have to con­firm the date. It will be staged in the palace’s court­yard, which will be fully cov­ered.

An­other per­sonal land­mark event in 2018, is that I will be re­tir­ing. I have had a full-time po­si­tion with the palace since my grad­u­a­tion in 1966. I am not sad­dened to be re­tir­ing, as I will not be com­pletely re­tir­ing, but will be work­ing on pre­par­ing var­i­ous books, which to­gether with my late wife, we wished to com­plete.

You have had a long as­so­ci­a­tion with Run­dale Palace! You stud­ied to be a painter. How was it tran­si­tion­ing from be­ing a painter to man­ag­ing an im­por­tant Lat­vian and Euro­pean mu­seum in­sti­tu­tion?

I ar­rived here for the first time in 1964 as a stu­dent of the Lat­vian Academy of Arts. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 1966, I came here per­ma­nently, which al­lowed me to de­vote all my time to im­prov­ing the palace’s con­di­tion. In 1972, the restora­tion work com­menced. Half of the palace was used as a pri­mary school dur­ing the Soviet pe­riod. It wasn’t des­ig­nated a mu­seum, and it ur­gently needed re­con­struct­ing and ren­o­vat­ing.

I came into this po­si­tion through serendip­ity, de­vel­op­ing into it as a man­ager step by step.

It was my en­counter with the di­rec­tor of Bauska lo­cal his­tory mu­seum, Lai­mo­nis Liepa, that saw me join­ing the team of the newly es­tab­lished Run­dale Palace Mu­seum.

In 1972, I was ap­pointed deputy di­rec­tor, then in 1976, I was ap­pointed di­rec­tor. I have been re­spon­si­ble for all re­con­struc­tion and restora­tion works in the palace from the 1970’s un­til 2014.

The most im­por­tant thing for me was that I had a vi­sion for this won­der­ful and en­chant­ing palace, which I have been able to fully im­ple­ment by be­ing its di­rec­tor. A great team also helped me re­alise many am­bi­tious goals. The idea which I had to fully ren­o­vate the Count’s Res­i­dence, was seen as a nov­elty and un­heard of.

In what state will you be leav­ing the Run­dale Palace? Is it in good fi­nan­cial shape?

This is a dif­fi­cult ques­tion. Dur­ing the Soviet pe­riod, the sit­u­a­tion of the palace was dif­fer­ent. There was a dif­fer­ent eco­nomic sys­tem in the coun­try, so it was largely state fi­nanced, as large re­sources were al­lo­cated to cul­ture.

Run­dale Palace was used as a facade by the Soviet regime. Huge fi­nan­cial in­vest­ments were made in or­der for the palace to look its best and main­tain its ap­pear­ance. Since 1992, Lat­vian State fi­nanc­ing halted com­pletely. Dur­ing the 1990’s, the palace was self-fi­nanced. The Lat­vian Min­istry of Cul­ture pro­vided only 50 per cent of the bud­get, which was in­tended for salary pay­roll.

I have to re­call with con­tin­u­ing grat­i­tude Run­dale Palace’s pri­vate pa­tron, the Lat­vian phi­lan­thropist Boris Teterev, for his sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to up­hold­ing the cul­ture her­itage of Latvia. He saved Run­dale Palace. In 1997, Boris came per­son­ally to see me, and our dis­cus­sion ended in agree­ment to fund the ren­o­va­tion of var­i­ous rooms. With­out this valu­able fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, we would not have been able to com­plete the re­con­struc­tion and ren­o­va­tion, as it would still have been on­go­ing. The Run­dale Palace project has been Boris and Inara Teterev’s long­est run­ning char­ity project. The palace’s main in­come is gen­er­ated by ticket sales.

Could you tell The Baltic Times about Run­dale Palace’s in­volve­ment and use as the back­drop for the BBC’S six-part adap­ta­tion of Tol­stoy’s War and Peace?

It was a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. The film­ing took place day and night, over 20 days. The open­ing scene of – Anna Pavlovna Scherer's soiree – was filmed in the palace’s Golden Room. The Mar­ble Hall, The White Hall and The Duke's Bed­room, where the film’s se­duc­tion scene took place. The film had around 600 ex­tras.

They also filmed the Ros­tov’s home and some of the Bezukhov’s home as well, and made ex­ten­sive use of the palace’s beau­ti­ful grounds.

The pro­duc­tion didn’t in­ter­fere with our work. Every­thing was pro­fes­sion­ally done. The film­ing also at­tracted ad­di­tional tourists to the palace. Film­ing took place in the win­ter sea­son, which is not a high sea­son, and this helped our bud­get.

Did the as­so­ci­a­tion with the BBC se­ries ac­tu­ally help the mar­ket­ing of Run­dale Palace? One can­not help notic­ing the large groups of tourists, es­pe­cially for­eign tourists. Has there been an in­crease in num­ber of tourists vis­it­ing?

It def­i­nitely did help with its mar­ket­ing. There was much ex­po­sure over the In­ter­net and on so­cial me­dia. A spe­cial route for fans of the se­ries and tourists was cre­ated out­lin­ing where film­ing for War and Peace took place.

The num­ber of for­eign tourists has re­mained rel­a­tively sta­ble. It cur­rently ac­counts for a lit­tle more than half of all vis­i­tors per an­num that visit.

In 2016, Run­dale Palace was vis­ited by 242,998 vis­i­tors. We saw an in­crease of 3 per cent in com­par­i­son to 2015. If we break down the vis­i­tors by coun­tries, we see that most vis­i­tors came from Ger­many, fol­lowed by Spain and then France. But in gen­eral, vis­i­tor at­ten­dance has re­mained sta­ble over the past years. We are notic­ing an in­crease of Asian tourists, and the palace is also in­cluded in the travel itin­er­ary of tourists com­ing from all over the world. July is the pe­riod when most vis­i­tors visit, on av­er­age around 65,500.

We have 114 peo­ple who work full-time to en­sure that we main­tain the high­est stan­dards of op­er­a­tions and cus­tomer ser­vice. We also em­ploy sea­sonal work­ers who take care of vis­i­tors to en­sure that they are of­fered the high­est cus­tomer care, as well as main­tain the park and gar­dens in its im­pec­ca­ble con­di­tion. The palace’s rose gar­den, which is lo­cated on both sides of the or­na­men­tal parterre, fill­ing up the ar­eas de­signed by the ar­chi­tect of Run­dale, Bar­tolomeo Ras­trelli, has ap­prox­i­mately 2,400 va­ri­eties of roses, and is def­i­nitely worth a stroll through it.

How is co­op­er­a­tion with other cas­tles in the re­gion, and what is your favourite cas­tle or palace?

There was an ex­hi­bi­tion of 17th, 18th and 19th cen­tury por­traits, which was a joint ef­fort of all mu­se­ums in Latvia. With Stamer­ney Cas­tle, we opened a new ex­hi­bi­tion which fea­tures the palace’s fur­ni­ture, ded­i­cated to the 120th an­niver­sary of the artist Levs Svempa. We also co­op­er­ated with the Riga Porce­lain Mu­seum for the ex­hi­bi­tion "From Baroque to the Present Day’’. Both are still on ex­hibit. It is the pol­icy of Run­dale Palace that we only par­tic­i­pate in the­matic ex­hi­bi­tions.

Run­dale Palace also co­op­er­ates with Pots­dam Cas­tle near Ber­lin in Ger­many and

the Vil­nius Cas­tle. There is an as­so­ci­a­tion of Baltic cas­tles around the Baltic re­gion which we also work closely with.

It’s a dif­fi­cult ques­tion to an­swer what my favourite cas­tle or palace is. I’ve seen many cas­tles through­out Europe, and each one has its unique charm. It’s a diplo­matic an­swer, but it’s dif­fi­cult to say.

What are the most mem­o­rable events you will re­call dur­ing your time at Run­dale Palace that you will carry with you when you con­clude your du­ties as the di­rec­tor in 2018?

The most mem­o­rable mo­ment per­son­ally was April 21, 1964, when I ar­rived to the palace the first time. I saw the cas­tle in 1958 as a child for the first time, and I felt that this grand palace would be con­nected to my destiny. But inside me, I op­posed this feel­ing. At the be­gin­ning, I didn’t wish to fol­low this in­tu­ition I had.

In 1974, the ceil­ing was ren­o­vated and fres­coed, and the pre­vi­ous di­rec­tor Lai­mo­nis Liepa passed away. He was the one who started all the ren­o­va­tion and projects. I was Deputy Di­rec­tor at that time for sci­en­tific work. I was then ap­pointed Di­rec­tor. It was at that time that I re­alised that Lai­mo­nis Liepa started all the work and projects ba­si­cally from scratch. His great con­tri­bu­tion mer­its not­ing. He sac­ri­ficed him­self com­pletely in the work of restor­ing Run­dale Palace. I am greatly in­debted to him. Lai­mo­nis Liepa in­vested much time and ef­fort into the im­prove­ment of the palace. We ac­knowl­edged his con­tri­bu­tion with a memo­rial plaque inside the palace.

I also re­call the feel­ing of ela­tion that over­came me on May 18, 1981, when the first ren­o­vated room was opened, the White Hall in the eastern wing of the palace.

In 2004, my wife passed away. We had worked to­gether closely, so it was a turn­ing point in my life, to fin­ish the work which we started. I am work­ing on two ad­di­tional vol­umes of books on Run­dale Palace. The first vol­ume was pub­lished in 2015. The se­cond vol­ume is ded­i­cated to the restora­tion of Run­dale Palace and the fi­nal third vol­ume will record the items that Run­dale Palace has in its col­lec­tion.

On May 24, 2014, all the restora­tion work had been com­pleted. For this oc­ca­sion we staged in the palace’s court­yard the re­con­struc­tion of a his­toric opera “Cyrus and Cas­san­dane,” with the Col­legium Mu­sicum Riga Baroque Orches­tra, and con­duc­tor Maris Kupcs, who mirac­u­lously found the lost opera score in Ger­many. It was com­posed by Franz Adam Ve­icht­ner, con­cert­mas­ter at the Court of Duke Peter of Cour­land. The opera was per­formed for the first time in Liepaja on Fe­bru­ary 15, 1784.

I wish to end my role as di­rec­tor en­sur­ing every­thing con­tin­ues to run smoothly. We still have work to com­plete. The most im­por­tant work is cur­rently the pur­chase of new ob­jects for the palace. In fact, I only re­cently found out that we weren’t able to pur­chase one vase at an auc­tion that we needed. A large Art Nou­veau vase, which was dis­played in Paris at the Ex­po­si­tion Uni­verselle of 1900, where Art Nou­veau as the univer­sal style was prop­a­gated. There was an es­ti­mated price of 4,000 Eu­ros on the vase. We of­fered 5,000 Eu­ros, but it sold for 12,000 Eu­ros.

How is it with the pur­chase of his­toric art ob­jects? Is there a foun­da­tion, or does the Min­istry of Cul­ture as­sist in mak­ing ac­qui­si­tions for the Run­dale Palace, and how can the pub­lic as­sist?

We con­stantly screen the avail­abil­ity of his­toric ob­jects which are avail­able for pur­chase. Our de­ci­sion to try to pur­chase the Art Nou­veau vase I men­tioned was based on the fact it was the best. We look only for the best ob­jects.

Phi­lan­thropy is still un­der­de­vel­oped in Latvia, and in­suf­fi­cient. It needs to be de­vel­oped. In­di­vid­u­als like Boris and Inara Teterev have dis­cov­ered that they can do good with their money for the de­vel­op­ment of Lat­vian so­ci­ety and con­trib­ute to the well­be­ing of its peo­ple, and those who visit Run­dale Palace.

This is un­like other wealthy in­di­vid­u­als in Latvia, who use their money only for per­sonal self-en­rich­ment and pur­chase more for them­selves and not for the ben­e­fit of so­ci­ety over­all. The op­po­site sit­u­a­tion is ev­i­dent in the US, where chil­dren, who have in­her­ited money, make sub­stan­tial do­na­tions to mu­se­ums, such as the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum in New York. They have the op­po­site sit­u­a­tion, where they re­ceive so many items that they have no place to store them.

The Run­dale Palace Foun­da­tion re­ceived ear­lier this year do­na­tions from Lat­vian entrepreneurs. Part of the funds were ap­por­tioned to restora­tion of the palace, and for ac­qui­si­tion of art ob­jects.

We ac­quired at the auc­tion Fine Euro­pean Ce­ram­ics an ex­quis­ite ob­jet d’art – a Meis­sen pot­pourri vase circa 1760. It is dis­played in the Duchess’ salon of the palace on a con­sole-ta­ble be­tween two dec­o­ra­tive vases. Mu­seum staff mem­bers have named the pot­pourri vase – Lidija Vase – in hon­our of the wife of the donor Mr. Vi­tal­ijs Gavrilovs.

For those who wish to make a fi­nan­cial do­na­tion. This can be made through the Run­dale Palace Foun­da­tion (Foun­da­tion Run­dales pils at­bal­sta fonds). Reg­is­tra­tion num­ber: 40008143259. Ad­dress: Rund les pils, Pil­srun­dale, Run­dales pa­gasts, Run­dales no­vads, LV-3921 Ac­count num­ber: LV69HABA0551026025136. Bank code: HABALV22; AS Swed­bank

Run­dale Palace ex­presses its grat­i­tude for each do­na­tion and fi­nan­cial sup­port re­ceived in ren­o­va­tion of Run­dale Palace and re­plen­ish­ment of our ex­hi­bi­tions.

For­eign Heads of States, when in Latvia, are taken to the Mu­seum of Oc­cu­pa­tion. Are they taken here to Run­dales?

In 1992, we had a visit from the King of Den­mark. The King of Swe­den, as well as the Pres­i­dent of Fin­land have also vis­ited dur­ing state vis­its. The pro­to­col depart­ment of the Lat­vian Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs has ceased bring­ing dig­ni­taries vis­it­ing Latvia to Run­dale Palace, mainly due to the fact that this re­quires a day trip. So, it doesn’t hap­pen of­ten.

I cor­dially in­vite all vis­i­tors to come and visit. Some of our up­com­ing events will be con­certs on Au­gust 12 and Septem­ber 9 of the Liepaja Sym­phony Orches­tra at 6 PM in the White Hall. Tick­ets can be pur­chased at Bilesu Paradize ticket out­lets through­out Latvia, and at the Palace on the day of the con­cert. Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion: www.lso. lv.

Dr. Imants Lanc­ma­nis

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