Bolshoi theatre tries to turn new leaf after year of scandal
Thursday, 20 June 2013 18:33

Bolshoi leadership announce plans for new season and refuse to discuss shocks including acid attack on ballet director

Five top officials from the Bolshoi theatre sat dutifully in a row on Thursday and sternly announced their plans for the upcoming season: a Mozart opera, an expanded children's programme, and foreign stars to grace their stage.

No one addressed the elephant in the room: that the Bolshoi has endured one of the most tumultuous years in its centuries-long history, dogged by corruption scandals and the fallout from an acid attack on its ballet director, Sergei Filin.

"We are not paying attention to what's happening around," Anatoly Iksanov, the theatre's longtime general director, told the Guardian. "We're in the active process of working in the theatre, of opening premieres – that says more about the health of the troupe. In fact, I would say that [the scandals] have brought us closer together."

Not all would agree. On Tuesday the opera star Anna Netrebko became the latest voice to criticise the theatre's degradation. "Everyone there needs to be fired and everything needs to be changed, from head to toe," she said.

Russia's cultural elite are still reeling from the attack on Filin, allegedly ordered by a former Bolshoi dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, who has been in custody since confessing in March. The alleged attacker and getaway driver are also in custody awaiting trial.

Filin, 42, remains in Germany where he has undergone 18 operations in an attempt to recover his sight after being splashed with sulphuric acid. Katarina Novikova, the Bolshoi's spokeswoman, said Filin's condition had worsened in recent months, and he was now blind in one eye and had 10% eyesight in the other.

Last week the three alleged conspirators appeared in court where Dmitrichenko attempted to walk back his confession, saying: "I am not guilty at all, I do not admit my guilt. There was no confession."

He tried to cast doubt on Filin's injuries and asked for a face-to-face meeting with his former director. Dmitrichenko was previously believed to have blamed Filin for failing to advance the career of his longtime girlfriend, Angelina Vorontsova.

Yury Zarutsky, an ex-convict who has admitted to carrying out the attack, told the court that he had not used acid on Filin. "I didn't intend to cause harm to his health," Zarutsky said, according to Interfax. "I wanted to humiliate him. It was not sulphuric acid, but battery fluid – and I added in urine."

The Bolshoi leadership refused to address the ongoing scandal on Thursday. They also refused to discuss the recent parting of ways with one of their loudest critics, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, a flamboyant dancer whom they accused of creating the poisonous atmosphere that allowed the attack on Filin to take place. The Bolshoi said this month that Tsiskaridze's contract, due to expire on 30 June, would not be renewed.

Tsiskaridze had criticised the Bolshoi's recent renovation, which ran years over schedule and millions of dollars over budget, likening the result to a "Turkish hotel". The interior ministry said this month that a company contracted by the Bolshoi had embezzled 90m roubles (£1.8m) while working on the renovation.

"The audit chamber found that the Bolshoi theatre had no relation to that," Iksanov said. Asked whether he was worried that the Bolshoi's reputation had been irreparably damaged, he said: "We are not scared of that. If someone wants to harm our reputation, they'll do it. Let that be on their conscience. Sometimes they do it even for money."

Miriam Elder © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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