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Cirque du Soleil to Open $57 Million Circus in Kremlin

Cirque du Soleil, the circus whose founder paid Russia $35 million for a trip into space, said it reached an agreement with the Kremlin to perform inside the country’s 500-year-old seat of power.

The entertainment company is spending $57 million to develop a new show called “Zarkana” that will debut at Radio City Music Hall, New York, in June before beginning an engagement at the Kremlin Palace from February to April next year, the company said in a statement distributed at a news conference in Moscow today. U.K. singer-songwriter Elton John will organize the music for “Zarkana,” Chief Executive Officer Daniel Lamarre told reporters.

Cirque du Soleil, based in Montreal, has invested more than $45 million in activities in Russia since 2008, when it first performed in the country under a partnership with George Cohon, who opened the first McDonald’s restaurant in Moscow in 1990, before the Soviet Union collapsed, Lamarre said. Cohon was correct when he insisted in 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis, that Russians would be ready to see Cirque du Soleil, Lamarre said.

“For me Cirque du Soleil in Kremlin says it all,” Cohon said today. A Kremlin Palace official confirmed the agreement by telephone, declining to be identified in line with state policy.

The circus brought two large-scale touring shows to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kazan and sold more than 510,000 tickets in the past two years in Russia. The circus will continue touring in the country with its signature arena show “Saltimbanco,” bringing it to four major Russian cities in fall 2011.

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte spent nine days as a tourist on the International Space Station in October 2009 under a commercial agreement with Russia’s Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos. Laliberte, a former fire-eater, said from space that the $35 million price tag was “worth every penny.”

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