Marianna Ensemble Unification Article

January 11th, 2012 by anna received Comments Off

Review of Okunev Sisters in “I, Spry”

February 28th, 2011 by Maria received Comments Off

Sometimes one stumbles on real talent by accident and there is nothing to do but embrace it.

I had put a bulletin out for extras for my dramatised documentary I, Spry. Of the 70 people who applied Maria Okunev mentioned in passing that she could sing. From that simple email, Maria and her violinist sister, Anna, became unexpected stars of the film. With 1950’s hairdos and stunning costumes, these gorgeous sisters transported audiences back to the Sydney’s Russian Social Club with cabaret renditions of Dark Eyes and Moscow Nights.

Throughout the production, I became so enamoured with their astonishing talent, I needed to see them live. In a late night performance in Surrey Hills, Maria and Anna’s quartet, the Marianna Ensemble, gave an engrossing and authentic glimpse into Russia through music and song. With Blake Keep on guitar and Richard Savery on clarinets and saxophone, their repertoire was centred on masterpieces of Russian folklore with a rich diversity of styles from gentle folk, to cabaret and elaborate semi-operatic suites. Piece de resistance – the tender, hypnotic and lingering songs composed by Maria, herself.

What versatility, style and passion they bring as they transport us to a parallel universe from behind a cultural Iron Curtain, revealing a humanity and lust for life in musical form that we in the West were denied for far too long.

Peter Butt

25 Feb 2011


October 30th, 2010 by anna received Comments Off

“WHEN it comes to assumptions, inferences, speculation and supposition, no one in the documentary world has more insight than award-winning filmmaker Peter Butt …few directors are so astutely able to dramatise crucial moments of change in our social narrative with such cinematic verve….

…….Most of the acting roles are played by a large cast of Russian expatriates, including the delicious singer Maria Okunev and her violinist sister Anna. Their musical performance in the re-created Russian Club at Sydney’s Petersham Town Hall is a highlight.”

Graeme Blundell

The Weekend Australian 30.10.10

Marianna in new ABC Film, next Thursday night, 9:3...

October 29th, 2010 by anna received 1 Comment »

Dear friends and supporters,

Please watch

“I, Spry – The Rise and Fall of A Master Spy” Next Thursday on ABC 1, 9:30 pm

Anna and I are both featured in this great dramatisation.

watch the trailer here:

More about the film:

Produced by the makers of the documentaries The Prime Minister is Missing and Who Killed Dr Bogle & Mrs Chandler?, I, Spry is the story of Charles Spry, ASIO’s first master spy.

With a nuclear arms race set to escalate the Cold War, Prime Minister Menzies appoints Colonel Charles Spry to take charge of the fledgling Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, ASIO. The staunchly anti-Communist, fifth-generation soldier recruits new officers to fight a covert war against a cunning enemy. Their primary task is to investigate Australians spying for the Soviets and infiltrate Communist Party branches with undercover agents.

The sensational 1954 defections of Soviet Embassy officials, Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov, deliver Spry a great intelligence victory. But when a former ASIO officer appears in surveillance photographs and major counter-espionage cases begin to fail, Spry soon finds himself in a place spies call the ‘wilderness of mirrors’. Security threats appear to be everywhere – from the highest office in the land to within ASIO itself.

with best wishes!

Marianna Ensemble

Maria Okunev – Silent Film Festival

September 12th, 2010 by Maria received Comments Off

0419 267 318

Press Release

Australia?s Silent Film Festival in Sydney: September 11, 16, 18, 23 and 25
The Festival again brings the best of restored silent films with live music. There are classic Australian and international silent films with highly acclaimed stars and directors: Vidor, Ozu, Clair, Wiene. Boris Barnet, John Gilbert, Chaplin, Keaton and many more.

Art house cinema and all genres are represented with a number of Australian premieres among the treats. There are special features: a rarely seen magic lantern show and some items from the iconic Darnell Collection in the Fashion and the 1920s session.

The Festival is blessed once more with the sublime talents of the internationally celebrated musicians who accompany these films: Riley Lee playing the Japanese shakuhachi, Sharolyn Kimmorley, Mauro Colombis, Colin Offord, Robert Constable and Maria Okunev.

September 11 at Pitt Street Uniting Church 264 Pitt Street 6pm

For the Term of His Natural Life 1927 (AUSTRALIA) Accompanied by Colin Offord

Based on Marcus Clarke?s epic novel, an English aristocrat is wrongfully sent to a convict settlement in Australia in the 1830s.  A satisfying story of love lost and found again, and justice finally being served.

September 16 at Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street 7pm

Passing Fancy ? Dekigokoro 1933 (JAPAN) Accompanied by Riley Lee on shakuhachi

Japanese tea ceremony precedes the film

Delightful story about a single father and his young son, by legendary Japanese director, Yasujiro Ozu.

September 18 at Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street

The Last Great Magic Lantern Show (AUSTRALIA) 10.15 am

Presented by: Ian Edwards, Margery Edwards and Antony Catrice ? entertainment, Victorian-era style!

Comedies for Kids and the Young at Heart (USA) Accompanied by Mauro Colombis 12.15 pm

A selection of the Kings of Comedy at their funniest! Australian?s Billy Bevan in Lizzies of the Field driving his snoozenburg; classic Charlie Chaplin in The Adventurer; Buster Keaton at his best in Cops; Laurel and Hardy in trouble again in Wrong Again; and stunning cartoon animation by Winsor McKay in The Pet

The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari? 1919 (GERMANY) Accompanied by Mauro Colombis 2.30pm

Great German Expressionist classic, blending art with motion picture, with international stars, Conrad Veidt and Lil Dagover.

Miss Mend, Part One ? 1926 (RUSSIA) Accompanied by Maria Okunev 4.30pm

Russian version of American adventure serials, with great action, drama, humour and surprises!

September 23 at Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street

The Italian Straw Hat? 1927 (FRANCE) Accompanied by Sharolyn Kimmorley 7pm

Renowned French director, Ren? Clair, won praises for this artistic and charming farce comedy set in 1895, with beautiful, detailed sets and costumes to transport the viewer back in time.

September 25 at Wesley Conference Centre 220 Pitt Street

Buster Keaton shorts and Snub Pollard! (USA) Accompanied by Robert Constable 10.15 am
Neighbours ? A young couple?s romance over a fence results in a neighbour?s feud!The Playhouse ? showcases Buster?s talents as he appears in many varied disguises! My Wife?s Relations - accidentally married in Polish to an ungainly woman, Buster tries to get along with his new in-laws! It?s a Gift - features the talents of the incomparable Australian-born Snub Pollard.
Bardelys the Magnificent ? 1926 (USA) Accompanied by Robert Constable 12.15 pm

Exhilarating action, drama and romance in this swashbuckling adventure starring John Gilbert, one of Hollywood?s greatest screen idols of the 1920s whose popularity with the female audiences rivaled Rudolph Valentino?s.  Directed by King Vidor.

FASHION and the 1920s 3-4 pm

Special feature presenting the fashion of the 1920s: Charlotte Smith with items from the wondrous Darnell Collection.

Chicago ? 1927 (USA) Accompanied by Mauro Colombis 4.30 pm

A sophisticated Cecil B DeMille production based on the famous stage play, remade twice in modern times, this stylish silent version starring Phyllis Haver tells the story of Roxie Hart who got away with murder by flaunting her sexuality and good looks.


Ticket prices film sessions $20 /$15 per con/children; for Fashion and 1920s session $10/$5 Special discounts: Gold Festival Pass to all sessions; groups of 5 or more; Combo, Chicago and the Fashion and 1920s sessions on Saturday 25 September: $25/$15 outstanding value. Tickets at door but avoid disappointment.  Book online or by phone through MCA TIX

T 1300 306 776

Maria Okunev interviewed in Russian Newspaper R...

May 29th, 2010 by Maria received Comments Off

Read the interview (in Russian) by visiting:

June Concert Series

May 29th, 2010 by Maria received Comments Off

Dear Friends

Announcing Marianna Ensemble’s June concert series, would be great to see you there!

Anna Okunev – violin
Blake Keep – guitar
Maria Okunev – voice/piano/guitar
Richard Savery – bari saxophone/bass clarinet/clarinet in Bb

For details on the concert series visit the Gigs page.

Give Away: tell us in 100 words or less why you like “Marianna” and get a chance to win a free double-pass to 505 concert and a free Marianna CD! send your entries to by Thursday 10th June 2010.

Marianna Live on ABC radio!

February 20th, 2010 by Maria received Comments Off

Marianna Ensemble will be making its debut on the national radio. We will be playing live for a whole hour on the prestigious “Sunday Live” show – ABC classic fm. We hope that you can join us in person or tune in on 92.9 fm.

WHEN: Sunday 14th of March 2:50 pm (doors close at 3pm to commence the broadcast)
WHERE: Sutherland Joan Performing Arts Centre
597 High St, Penrith NSW 2750 (02) 4723 7611
At your home tunned to ABC Radio 92.9FM
ENTRY: free!

Maria Okunev – vocals/piano/guitar
Anna Okunev – violin,
Blake Keep – guitar,
Richard Savery – saxophone/clarinet

Welcome to our Web Site!

February 20th, 2010 by Maria received Comments Off

Dear friends, colleagues, students and family!

Check out our new website created by charming Tania Tobin, who has ever so patiently put up with Anna and I while trying to get information, photos and other things that websites are generally made of! You can sign up to our newsletter on the Contact Us page and never miss another performance! We look forward to welcoming you in virtual and real world!

With much love:
Anna, Maria and the “Marianna Ensemble”