Scandal and rivalry are nothing new for the Bolshoi Theatre. Crushed glass being placed in pointe shoes, needles being left in costumes, and even a dead cat being thrown onstage instead of flowers are just a few of the whispered rumors that have plagued the theatre for centuries.
But with the January acid attack on Bolshoi Ballet artistic director Sergei Filin, these backstage dramas were brought to the world stage. And the Russian government is not happy.
“The Bolshoi’s condition has hurt Russia’s image abroad,” said Alexei Pushkov, chief of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, in a tweet.
As a result of scandal and turmoil within the theatre, Russian officials announced Tuesday that Bolshoi Theatre director Anatoly Iksanov (who oversees both the opera and ballet companies) would be dismissed, and that Vladimir Urin would take over the prestigious position. Urin will be leaving his current role as head of Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre, another of Moscow’s ballet companies.
Russia’s culture minister Vladimir Medinsky said in a news conference that the firing of 61-year-old Iksanov, who has led the company since 2000, was due to a “difficult situation at the theatre.” Along with January’s attack, Iksanov let principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze go after his contract expired on July 1. Alexei Pushkov also tweeted that Tsiskaridze’s dismissal was the last straw leading to Iksanov’s firing.
Under Iksanov’s direction, the Bolshoi Ballet has seen four artistic directors, including Boris Akimov, Alexei Ratmansky, Yuri Burlaka and the current Sergei Filin. After January’s attack on Filin, Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova said he had been receiving threats after being appointed artistic director. She also said his predecessors in this highly competitive position had also received threats, though never on such a violent level.
Ratmansky, now artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre, posted on Facebook in January his thoughts on the theatre’s vengeful atmosphere. “This is all one snowball caused by the lack of any ethics at the theatre.”