Waelsung

Osipova and Vasiliev to leave The Bolshoi

105 posts in this topic

For those familiar with the current scandals in the British (though Australian owned) press, the inaccuracies in the report are mild by the usual standards.

I disagree. The recent scandal involved a tabloid and had nothing to do with mainstream media. It also had nothing to do with factual inaccuracies in news articles. I may be wrong, but my impression is that the Independent has always tried to position itself as a mainstream newspaper, not a tabloid (its actual printed tabloid format notwithstanding). This article---with its errors and bigotry---is worthy of a tabloid, and a pretty bad one at that.

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The bigger issue was that Osipova was against an archaic system which served the needs of a big company and its numerous dancers, not herself and Vasiliev, who are international stars. The crux of the matter resides at this main point. Therefore, no fault should reside on their side nor the Bolshoi's side in their defection to a more flexible company. On that front, isn't the Mikhailovsky also catering to Osipova's and Vasiliev's specific needs? Unless it is a company that doesn't require residency or one which bases its scheduling around principal dancers' own outside touring commitments. But good for them for finding one that's able to be so accommodating. I used Sarah Lane as an example of lack of artistic freedom, possibly on a more frustrating or grander scale than what was experience by Osipova. Of course Lane isn't as marketable as an artistic commodity as Osipova. Actually dancers should be more vocal about being financially well-compensated for their craft, not to mention strive for higher status in society. I don't think it's tacky to mix commerce with art and artists, it's a reality of the world we live in today. Dancers have short careers even if they aren't hampered by injuries, so why not profit from their talents while they're in their prime and get some much deserved upgrade in status and recognition? That's why I was happy for their move when I first read about it. The inference of upgrades in pay has already impugned Osipova and Vasiliev in many fans' minds, judging from some that I've talked to. But dancers shouldn't feel the need to justify leaving companies or other actions by citing artistic freedom only and not favorable arrangements, including financial ones. To do so would be feeding into the notion that dancers should be grateful to be suffering for their art, living in penury. Maybe I'm disappointed in the artistic freedom argument because I'm reading too much into Osipova's interviews and also other articles describing the situation. Overall still believe they are making the right move, I hope they got a lot of money out of Mr. Kekhman!

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By the way, that Mikhailovsky tour to London last year was the victim of poor planning. It coincided with the Bolshoi at Covent Garden and audiences were embarrassingly minute for most performances.

I have to say I'm not convinced by the pulling power of Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, their R&J performances with Schaufuss's troupe didn't sell out with first night numbers boosted by complimentary tickets for most of the audience. Before someone comments that they weren't dancing with a front ranking company I'll remind you that Fonteyn and Nureyev could have been dancing with the Outer Hebrides Amateur Dance Group and people would still have fought to see them.

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The number of factual errors in the Independent article referred to by Natalia is a little too much even for the British press. For example, here are the first two sentences:

For decades, Russia's ballet dancers have had one dream – to dance at the Bolshoi. With the exception of a few defections to the West during the Soviet era, the Bolshoi is the company that everyone wants to join and nobody wants to leave.

During CBC coverage of the Figure Skating World Championships in Moscow last spring, one of the intros showed commentator Scott Russell standing in front of the Bolshoi Ballet and speaking about the reconstruction and how Nureyev and Baryshnikov had graced its stage. The amount of general ignorance in the mainstream press is amazing.

]Here is another gem:

The Bolshoi Ballet has been beset by problems recently, with its artistic director resigning after pornographic photographs of him were posted online earlier this year

The only recent artistic director I can think of is Mr. Burlaka. It's absolutely stunning that garbage like this would be printed in a major newspaper.

Inexcusable.

Somehow completely missing both from the Russian press and from the Independent account are any attempts at evaluation of the Mikhailovsky Theater during Kekhman's directorship and immediately preceding it. Didn't the ballet company tour London last year? Didn't it get good reviews in several British newspapers, including the Independent? I wonder if the author of the article is aware of this.

I don't think the Russian press would care about reviews in London, but the "Independent" should.

The rest of the article rehashes all the trash from the Russian media that has been said about Mr. Kekhman, with its tinge of antisemitism ("greedy merchant", "banana oligarch", etc).

I have to say that I, too, was very disturbed by the veiled anti-Semitism in the Independent article.

Edith Wharton wrote a many books about how the crude, monied interloper took over "genteel" New York society. (Those vulgar upstarts started the Metropolitan Opera when they weren't given the prestigious seats at the old money Academy of Music.) The nostalgia for the old in the face of commercialism is nothing new, regardless of how the not-always-pretty origins were established, Russian oligarchs have been painted with the same, broad brush, and surely not all of them are Jewish. I'd be interested to hear how the descriptions of Kekhman are different than the others, apart from making fun of anyone who earned their money in a non-sexy field like high tech or oil. (Just as I was about to graduate from NYU's business school, it was renamed for a major donor who was known as "Pasta Man".)

What I found most offensive after the allusion to Yanin were the way the writer puts his spin on things. For example, he quotes Bolshoi spokeswoman Novikova, and then concludes, that she "suggested that they had been "manipulated" as part of a plot against the theatre." What exactly did she say? He had the opportunity to quote her exactly. (From the "Esmeralda" HD, it's clear that she speaks English very well and on her feet, as well as French.) Of General Director Anatoly Iksanov, "He said that the theatre saw the pair as its children, and would always be willing to have them back, hinting that they had been lured to St Petersburg by the promise of pots of cash." What did exactly did Iksanov say to lead him to this conclusion? About Mr. Kekhman, "He suggested that a creative malaise at the Bolshoi was more of a factor behind the pair's decision than financial considerations." The author has just quoted Kekhman extensively: why not quote what led him to believe that Kekhman "suggested" this?

My favorite is "Mr Kekhman admitted that he offered "good conditions" to Ms Osipova and Mr Vasiliyev, and had thrown some city-centre property into the mix as well, but denied that he was offering any more that other top European ballet theatres would." Based on his quotes from Kekhman, "stated outright" sounds more like Mr. Kekhman's style., rather than be forced by the author's pointed questions to admit anything.

For those familiar with the current scandals in the British (though Australian owned) press, the inaccuracies in the report are mild by the usual standards. Wonderful pictures accompanying this piece in the actual paper though.

I agree, although this shows how low the standards have become.

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....What I found most offensive after the allusion to Yanin ...

Was Yanin mentioned or alluded to in the Independent article? That one totally flew by me. I need to read it again... smile.png

I didn't like the "my children" talk by the Bolshoi's general director either. That was nasty, even if he was thinking in general terms about "prodigal sons and daughters" returning to the fold. It's also a cultural thing especially with older Russians but, agreed, very wrong on Iksanov's part.

EDITED to add: OK, I see the allusion to the Yanin scandal:

"...artistic director resigning after pornographic photographs of him were posted online earlier this year..." but even this is a half-truth because the AD was Burlaka -- not Yanin, who was the Company Manager. They don't check their facts very well at the Independent.

However you cut it, not the most savory of times for all concerned.

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I didn't like the "my children" talk by the Bolshoi's general director either. That was nasty, even if he was thinking in general terms about "prodigal sons and daughters" returning to the fold. It's also a cultural thing especially with older Russians but, agreed, very wrong on Iksanov's part.

If this were China, each would have to reimburse the state for their training. Le Yin, who danced for PNB as a Principal Dancer after dancing for the Houston Ballet, described this in a Q&A.

It's not surprising that in a profession that calls adults "boys" and "girls", and in a theater where most of the dancers have trained in the school at state expense for many years and are coached privately by dancers who have a long lineage at the theater, that the theater considers itself a family, and the dancers are the children. In many families, children are investments, and that has not changed in the last 20 years.

Osipova studied at the Moscow Choreographic Academy from 1996-2004, according to her English website. Vasiliev was trained at the Belorussian Ballet School according to the old English website, but for the major theaters, the assumption is a one-way talent flow to them.

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Does anybody know how the Maly/Mikhailovsky took on the 'commercial' patina, over and above the normal receptions with donors that we see at the Mariinsky or Bolshoi during pre- and post-performance receptions (or Gergiev's infamous long intermissions)?

Or the prominent "Credit Suisse" logo on the Bolshoi website, and that's a foreign company sponsor. (The English version of the site has disappeared, hopefully temporarily, since it looks like a major site re-design.)

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Everything that's been written here about the true meaning, the prodigal son references, etc - I had the same thoughts yesterday and today as more articles come out. The arts media eats this stuff up! But at the end of the day, the contracts are in place, and everyone will move on. And some people will move up! O&V will get to dance a wider rep at the Mikh, with roles against 'type' (although it's difficult for me to fathom the size of O's calves preclude her from Swan Lake. But I don't have a Russian mindset of what Odette / Odille are 'supposed' to look like.

At Bolshoi, there will be funds available to promote a female and male soloist to principal, and then to promote a second soloist to first soloist, etc. I think there are some hopeful hearts among the lower ranks tonight.

Regarding Mr Kekhman, consider that he may be a modern version of Lincoln Kirstein. Mr. Kirstein was a Bostonian, jewish (therefore not a societal brahmin), socially awkward in NY and Boston, and deeply passionate about the arts. He brought a choreographer from a completely different culture, with new ideas of movement, and set up a company rivalry with American Ballet Theater's classical rep. Dancers came to this company, sometimes leaving better pay and acclaim in more traditional ballet companies and cities. Mr. Kirstein was never fully accepted by the company or NY society, and he tried to dominate the company despite his complete lack of professional ballet experience.

I think Mr Kekhman is a bold thinker and while the Mikh theater may look garish, the real proof is in the dancing.

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By the way, that Mikhailovsky tour to London last year was the victim of poor planning. It coincided with the Bolshoi at Covent Garden and audiences were embarrassingly minute for most performances.

I have to say I'm not convinced by the pulling power of Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, their R&J performances with Schaufuss's troupe didn't sell out with first night numbers boosted by complimentary tickets for most of the audience. Before someone comments that they weren't dancing with a front ranking company I'll remind you that Fonteyn and Nureyev could have been dancing with the Outer Hebrides Amateur Dance Group and people would still have fought to see them.

That may have also had something to do with the ticket prices for most of the decent seats! I've always adored the Ashton Romeo and was going to book for this until I saw the cost! Add the cost of travelling to London, it became prohibitive! Off topic, but the Schauffuss company did a couple of performances outside London without the stellar guests and the top price at, for example, Llandudno was £20 compared to a top price of £120 for premium seats or £85 for ordinary at the Coliseum

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Thanks, Leonid. Alas, here is how the critical 2007 changes are described:

In 2001, the Mikhailovsky Theatre got its original name back. Year 2007 witnessed the revival of the Mikhailovsky Theatre; its magnificence came back to Arts Square.

So what happened from 2001 to 2007 to necessitate the changes? A little something is missing in this 'history.'

I was there in 2006, just before Mr. Kekhman took over, and the theater was glorious -- great company & beautiful Tsarist-style building with muted, elegant lighting and colours. The full-length Esmeralda -- no longer in the rep --that I saw on that night was extraordinary, with the theater packed to the rafters. I'm still puzzled how the pre-2007 Mikahilovsky Ballet company was deemed to be sub-par and 'saved' by the Kekhman. That's where I'm coming from. Not to bash the new per se...but to lament the glory of the pre-2007 years and 'style.' How did one arrive from Point A to Point B? Why was a radical change deemed necessary? I'm genuinely hoping to find out.

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Related the above, this 2010 interview in the St. Petersburg Times sheds more light on the 2007 changes than does the theater's website's 'history':

http://www.sptimes.r...&story_id=31897

For starters, I've just learned through this, that the Maly/Mikhailovsky Theater of Opera and Ballet is owned by the City of St. Petersburg; it is not a national theater at all. (I guess that it was a 'national' theater when the Tsar owned it. smile.png ) However, at one point, the article states that Kekhman is the "principal owner, doubles as director." So perhaps it is jointly owned by the City of St-P and Kekhman, through some special arrangement? Interestingly, the theater's website doesn't mention that it is under the City of St-P's Ministry of Culture. A small oversight, no doubt.

Kekhman himself states that he had never set foot in the theater before his appointment (!) by City Hall.

“I liked the address — No. 1, Arts Square,” he said .... adding that he hadn’t been inside until he received the appointment.

This is a little bit different from the Lincoln Kirstein analogy, as Kirstein was a highly-educated and passionate arts goer well before he contributed to Balanchine's various ventures.

If Osipova & Vasiliev make more $$$ for their nest-egg thanks to Kekhman's generosity, then more power to them! I hope that Sarafanov, too, has benefited...and the Matvienkos and Farouk Ruzimatov, before that.

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Not to bash the new per se...but to lament the glory of the pre-2007 years and 'style.' How did one arrive from Point A to Point B? Why was a radical change deemed necessary? I'm genuinely hoping to find out.

This wouldn't be the first time that a company changed direction or looked to create a different niche for itself. Ironically, it was Maya Plisetskaya who was ousted from the Spanish National Dance Company by the Spanish government's arts forces and was replaced by Nacho Duato, who since has been replaced by Jose Carlos Martinez. (The company now has a rep that resembles the non-classical Paris Opera Ballet rep.) However, given that many prominent dancers in Russia have said repeatedly that they want more non-classical rep, it seems like Mr. Kekhman is delivering. It's not what I would like to see the dancers in, but I don't get a vote.

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Good point, Helene! Oh, so now it's Jose Carlos Martinez?! 'Jose Martinez' didn't sound Spanish enough?

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I think in Spain he's been referred to as Jose Carlos Martinez for sometime. It was in France he was called Jose Martinez.

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Accentuating the positive, here's what I'd love to see Osipova/Vasiliev perform on the NYC tour by the Mikhailovsky next summer:

The Mikhailovsky is one of only two 'well known' companies on earth that perform the complete Laurencia (the other being Nina Ananiashvili's State Ballet of Georgia). It's a new production -- just one year old, shown on the 2010 London tour. Perhaps Ardani will reconsider its tour programing, in light of latest developments? They now have THE ideal Laurencia & Frondoso on their roster, for cryin' out loud! With all due respect to Nacho Duato...it is Laurencia that would capture the American balletomanes' imaginations the most, IMO. Perhaps the Giselle or the mixed bill of Duatos could be replaced with Laurencia?

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For starters, I've just learned through this, that the Maly/Mikhailovsky Theater of Opera and Ballet is owned by the City of St. Petersburg; it is not a national theater at all. (I guess that it was a 'national' theater when the Tsar owned it. smile.png ) However, at one point, the article states that Kekhman is the "principal owner, doubles as director."

That wasn't the easiest paragraph to parse, but Mr. Kekhman is the principal owner of Joint Fruit Company (JFC), but the director and major benefactor of the Mikhailovsky Theater. The last sentence of the paragraph, "which once had to survive on meager City Hall funding" goes a long way to explain why he was chosen. Without his funding -- he took over in 2007, and the "Laurencia" production was created during his tenure -- it isn't clear how well the theater would have survived.

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http://www.sptimes.r...&story_id=31897

For starters, I've just learned through this, that the Maly/Mikhailovsky Theater of Opera and Ballet is owned by the City of St. Petersburg; it is not a national theater at all. (I guess that it was a 'national' theater when the Tsar owned it.) However, at one point, the article states that Kekhman is the "principal owner, doubles as director."

The actual article says nothing of the sort, and everybody on this board can read it for themselves, as it is in English, http://www.sptimes.r...&story_id=31897

Here is the full quote from the article:

The Joint Fruit Company, or JFC, imports every third banana that comes into Russia, and its principal owner, Vladimir Kekhman, doubles as director — and major benefactor — of St. Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Theater, which once had to survive on meager City Hall funding.

The article very clearly says that Mr. Kekhman is the owner of JFC and benefactor of Mikhailovsky Theater. Nowhere does the article state or imply that Mr. Kekhman owns or co-owns or derives any profit from Mikhailovsky Theater. On the contrary, the article reports that Mr. Kekhman has donated a lot of money to the theater.

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For starters, I've just learned through this, that the Maly/Mikhailovsky Theater of Opera and Ballet is owned by the City of St. Petersburg; it is not a national theater at all. (I guess that it was a 'national' theater when the Tsar owned it. smile.png )

The theater didn't have its own company when the Tsars owned it, it was just a building that hosted various guest companies. The current company was created in 1918 and had the title "State Academic Theater" from 1919 until 1964. "State" was dropped from the title in 1964. I suppose this may mean that the city has been supporting it since then. I have not seen any press reports or history books that provide a definitive answer as to who has "owned" it since 1964. For now, this question is purely academic anyway because the company is far from profitable and will remain so for years to come. (E.g., a major renovation is planned for 2013. Clearly, if this is to happen, the funds will have to come from Mr. Kekhman and other private donors.)

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[.... The current company was created in 1918 and had the title "State Academic Theater" from 1919 until 1964. "State" was dropped from the title in 1964. I suppose this may mean that the city has been supporting it since then. I have not seen any press reports or history books that provide a definitive answer as to who has "owned" it since 1964. ...

Thanks for this, Ilya. I KNEW that there was some sort of 'State' ownership at some time...that I wasn't losing my mind yet. When I lived in StP in the '90s, I purchased a bunch of soft-covered 'yearbooks' about the Maly from the 50s/early 60s -- the years when Ludmilla Morkovina, now esteemed professor in DC's Kirov Academy, was one of its stars -- and it was definitely termed a 'State' theater of opera & ballet then.

I thought that the Maly/Mikhailovsky had been renovated around 2008, after Kekhman came on the scene. It certainly looked different -- white-washed and bright inside, with the painted ceiling covered by white boards -- when I last went inside the theater in March 2009 for the Corsaire premiere. So will the theater be re-restored to the beautiful pre-2007 look? Will the elegant atmosphere & look come back, I wonder?

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As an aside, [erhaps as Tatiana Kuznetsova was http://www.nytimes.c...olshoi.html?hpw in "The New York Times", “Premier dancers of such rank have never left the Bolshoi,” wrote Tatiana Kuznetsova, the ballet critic of the daily Kommersant. “Yes, they could run abroad. But that happened in Soviet times. In modern Russia, the artists only come to the Bolshoi.”", but great dancers like Maria Kochetkova made their way West from the Bolshoi since the fall of the Soviet Union and were given their due and opportunities here.

I think Ms. Koznetsova's attitude sums up the shock that the world of ballet has changed. I see that in Seattle, where Carla Korbes and Seth Orza left NYCB for a regional company like PNB. They most likely would have not had Peter Boal not taken over the company, but Boal and they could have been considered "Out of sight-out of mind" the moment they went west of Westchester county.

The criticism of Mr. Kekhman sounds a bit like the criticism of Peter Gelb, who runs the Metropolitan Opera, who has been criticized for taking a marketing approach to a prominent arts institution.

Perhaps Mr. Kehkman will enable a "Live from the Mikhailovsky" HD broadcast with Osipova and Vasiliev. Such a venture would put his company on the map globally.

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I think Ms. Koznetsova's attitude sums up the shock that the world of ballet has changed. I see that in Seattle, where Carla Korbes and Seth Orza left NYCB for a regional company like PNB. They most likely would have not had Peter Boal not taken over the company, but Boal and they could have been considered "Out of sight-out of mind" the moment they went west of Westchester county.

A good comparison. I remember a number of NYCB fans was wondering when Peter Martins was going to take Korbes out of the corp and make her a soloist. It took him forever despite the fact she was dancing soloists, and in some cases, prinicpal roles for a long time to great success. When he finally made her soloist it was too late. She was out the door following Peter Boal to PNB, and even though it's been some years now, I still think losing Korbes was a serious lost to City Ballet. But I bet if you ask Korbes she would regard it as the best decision she made in terms of her career. Perhaps an even better comparison is Miranda Weese. Soon after Korbes left City Ballet for PNB, Weese - who was a principal with City Ballet - did the same and joined PNB as well. From what I understood one of the main reasons why she left City Ballet was because it was so overcrowded with prinicpal dancers she rarely got the chance to perform despite being one of the company's then strongest ballerinas. Isn't that one of the reasons why Osipova and Vasiliev left the Bolshoi? To be able to dance more as well as perform in a more variety of roles? Yes this is a shocking departure but for O&V this maybe the best choice for them. After all when everything is said and done they have to think what's best for themselves and not for others.

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Weese said in at least one Q&A that one of the reasons she wanted to dance at PNB was that the schedule was much more humane, and that at that point in her career, she was taking her physical condition into consideration. (In addition to "Nutcracker", PNB performs six programs a year over two weekends of a total of seven performances, sometimes eight for best sellers, which was eight, possibly nine, when they came, which is about every other month.) She did spend some time out here with injury, too.

There are some excellent sections of Stephen Manes' book, "Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear" that address the former NYCB dancers' decision-making and concerns. (The interviews took place in the 2007-8 seasons.)

About Seth Orza, who was offered a promotion after he had decided to join PNB, but before he announced his resignation:

Still, Orza misses somethings about New York, like the ability to live without a car and the chance to be in front of an audience almost every night. At times he has second-guessed himself about the decision to move, and the conventional wisdom among his New York friends hasn't helped. "The thing I get a lot is 'What are you doing?' You were there. You were at the top...People say, 'You're not going to get reviewed like that anymore. It's not going to happen.'" But at City Ballet, "I was so angry. That was the thing that I hated about myself...that I was angry and I was dancing angry".

About Carla Korbes, to whom Manes devotes a chapter, and who had more of a roller-coaster ride at NYCB that lasted her whole time in the company. In the book, she describes how Martins wanted her thin, and she'd diet, be cast in a lot of ballets, get injured because she was working so hard and "I wasn't eating". Even so,

"She asked Boal if she could go with him to Seattle if he got the job there. His respons: "What do you mean? You're doing so well"...

Boal got the job. Korbes approached him again. He told her okay, she could come, but to think about it -- after all, she was still at New York City Ballet.

Even Boal tried to be sure that she was willing to leave the pinnacle.

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All sounds like they've got a wonderful opportunity then in joining the other company, if it is offering more chances to dance before they are 30, original repertory, and touring freedom... maybe they'd be nuts not to go?

As always Amy news like this encourages discussion about what "we" want. A dancers career is short compared to many others. Some feel the need to take more chances than others. O/V certainly dont't need my permission to make career decisions. ;-)

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