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Outrage at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow

Friday, 8 February 2013 , ora 9.38
 
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The Russian artistic circles have not yet recovered from the shocking tragedy of Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the Imperial Theatre in Moscow, who had sulphuric acid flung in his face by an unidentified person, which caused him severe burns and almost complete eyesight loss, and only recently his name and that of the greatest ballet theatre in the world were dragged into yet another scandal.

Prima ballerina Svetlana Lunkina, who has been in Canada over the past few months, recently stated that she would not return to Russia, where she feels threatened, especially because the theatre's artistic director, Sergei Filin, does not wish her to come back. The ballerina has already signed a contract with a ballet school in Toronto, where she will teach weekly classes. In September 2012, Svetlana Lunkina officially took leave for the entire season and left Russia, claiming she had been blackmailed and her family had been threatened by famous Russian comedian, Vladimir Vinokur, the director of the Theatre of Musical Parodies - who had been a business partner of the ballerina's husband, producer Vladislav Moskalev.

The conflict between the two men started with the project of a movie about famous 19th century Russian ballerina, Matilda Ksesinskaia, which has never been made. Because of the discord between Vinokur and Moskalev, the latter was removed from the project, and the Vladimir Vinokur Foundation, which was to finance the movie, asked him for $3.7 million, which Moskalev had allegedly stolen and then legalized in Canada, helped by his wife, the ballerina. The Foundation also launched a serious attack, filing formal complaints to the Russian Interior Minister and the attorney general, threatening to send copies of these to the most important theatres in the world. Last November the Police started an investigation.

In a recent interview for Izvestia newspaper, Svetlana Lunkina claimed that she would be persecuted if she returned to Moscow, that she might even be arrested, whereas the theatre's management refused to offer her protection. The theatre states there are not enough funds for such things, but the ballerina considers this is just a pretext, the real reason being that its artistic director, Sergei Filin, does not wish her to return to their stage. She says that Vladimir Vinokur appointed Sergei Filin the direction of the prestigious Kremlin Gala - stars of 21st century ballet, organised by his Foundation under the auspice of Kremlin. The ballerina stated that she would only return to Russia if Vinokur retracted his accusations publicly and if he apologized.

The Bolshoi Theatre has already suffered because of this new scandal. On 18th February, 2013, Svetlana Lunkina was supposed to lead the ballet The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, directed by famous British choreographer Wayne McGregor. Last week, though, the theatre announced that the performance had been postponed, using the absence of artistic director Sergei Filin as a pretext. However, according to Ruslan Pronin, the ballet group's manager, the British choreographer refused to come to Moscow, fearing for his safety. The image of the legendary theatre received thus another blow. The performance was to be the centre piece of the festival that celebrated a century since the premiere of Stravinsky's ballet, one of the most important music operas of the 20th century. Meanwhile, Sergei Filin, who has undergone several plastic surgeries in Moscow, carries on with his eye treatment in Germany, and he hopes for a full recovery, although not a very fast one. Before leaving, he declared for the BBC that he knew who had organized the attack, but that he would not say anything until the investigation is complete. According to him, the attack took place because he had to be removed from his position in the theatre and the company's reputation had to be damaged.

When commenting the unspeakable attack on Sergei Filin, both Russian and world media mention the oppressive atmosphere in the theatre and around it, as well as the countless scandals that have affected the theatre during the last 10 years. Among these have been public conflicts between certain top soloists and the direction, the black market for tickets - estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars every season, the resignations caused by publishing compromising articles on the Internet and the murky business of renovating the theatre - which was widely criticized by some of the company's most popular artists. The estimate cost of the renovation was exceeded 16 times and it eventually reached $1 billion eventually.




Aleksandr Beleavski - Radio Romania correspondent in Moscow
Translated by Irina Borțoi and Elena Daniela Radu
MTTLC, Bucharest University