While it certainly looks like Tsiskaridze has done some despicable things here, the explanations of some of the signers look quite bizarre. For example, in a previous interview (translated above) Lavrovsky said that Tsiskaridze brought the letter to him, and now he says that he didn't read it. Why?? The reaction of the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater press person is very strange. Zakharov's new explanation is also very strange.
On November 9, it came out that a letter existed that proposed to replace the current director of the Bolshoi Theater Anatoly Iksanov with Nikolay Tsiskaridze. The information about the existence of this letter, as well as about the fact that it was signed by a group of famous Russian arts personalities and addressed to the President of RF [Note: RF = Russian Federation], appeared in the blog of the President's International Cooperation Representative and the former Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoi. The entry said that among the signers there were managers of other theaters, i.e., people who do not have any formal relationship with the Bolshoi Theater. The author of the entry did not reveal the source of the information, he only remarked that "no one among the signers made any secret of the letter."
Mikhail Shvydkoi shared with the readers his bewilderment regarding this document, remarking that the situation was unprecedented, and expressed obvious reproach towards the participants of this endeavor, although he remarked that they were his idols. "It is unlikely that the signers do not understand what a tremendous job Iksanov has done, pulling the Bolshoi from the ruins---both literally and figuratively. It is unlikely that they do not understand that Nikolay Tsiskaridze is unable to manage such a complex team as the Bolshoi Theater," wrote Shvydkoi, supposing further that the signers were driven by some other motives.
An amusing nuance was the fact that this entry appeared in the evening of November 9, whereas in the morning of the same day the Minister of Culture Medinsky had announced the decision of the Ministry of Culture to renew the contract of the current director of the Bolshoi Theater Anatoly Iksanov.
The information related by Shvydkoi was confirmed when the situation was commented upon personally by some of the signers. Gennady Khazanov confirmed in an interview to "Izvestiya" that his signature was contained under the document in question. However, in Khazanov's opinion, there were no invectives against Anatoly Iksanov in the letter, and it was written only in order to support Nikolay Tsiskaridze's candidacy to the spot of the General Director of the Bolshoi Theater that was being vacated. Another famous signer, Oleg Tabakov, the Artistic Director of the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater, justified his support of Tsiskaridze's candidacy in an interview to "The New Izvestiya" by the fact that the latter spoke a lot about the blunders made during the recent reconstruction of the Bolshoi which was concluded in 2011. According to Tabakov, a person who speaks about shortcomings of the property management, can lay a claim to the position of the director.
However, the full list of those whose names are under the document, remained unknown for awhile---as well as the text of the letter. Journalist and TV anchor Tina Kandelaki testified in her blog that some even said that there was no such letter and that the information about it is false.
The situation was finally clarified on November 21, when Tina Kandelaki, who is famous for her concerned attitude towards the fate of the Bolshoi, published in her blog the scan of the letter with clearly visible text, the names of the signers, and their handwritten signatures. It came out that the letter was signed, besides Khazanov and Tabakov, by 10 more people: actor Vladimir Andreyev, coach Irina Viner, theater directors Galina Volchek and Mark Zakharov, a Bolshoi Theater teacher Yuri Vladimirov, a Bolshoi Theater ballet master-repetiteur Mikhail Lavrovsky, the director of the Moscow State Choreographic Academy and ballerina Marina Leonova, opera primadonna Yelena Obraztsova, actress Alisa Freindlich, and tenor Zurab Sotkilava. Kandelaki is not revealing the source of this exclusive story; however, there are no good reasons to doubt the authenticity of the document.
It turned out that the real content of the document does not quite match the recent statements of the signers. The text clearly says that "the theater needs changes, which must begin already at the end of December 2012 with the replacement of the General Director A.G. Iksanov who has been occupying this position since 2000." Taking this passage into account, it seems impossible to say that the letter is not directed against the current director. At the same time, the letter entirely lacks Oleg Tabakov's considerations regarding possible property management capabilities of Nikolay Tsiskaridze: as arguments supporting his candidacy, the letter cites only artistic merits, his high standing in Russian ballet, and the fact that he is emblematic of the Bolshoi Theater of the 1990s-2000s.
After the letter was published, some of the signers retracted their signatures, in fact admitting that they were not familiar with the text they signed, and were not aware of the situation with the management positions at the Bolshoi. Mark Zakharov and Yelena Obraztsova wrote apologetic letters to Anatoly Iksanov. Mark Zakharov said that he was not informed about the proposal to relieve Iksanov from managing the theater that was contained in the letter. Yelena Obraztsova also explained what happened as a misunderstanding: as it turned out, she did not know that Iksanov will keep working at the theater. "I was told that your contract had not been renewed," she wrote to Iksanov in the letter of apology. Soon, Zurab Sotkilava also joined the ranks of those retracting their signatures.
The press office of the Bolshoi Theater, which the "Vzglyad" newspaper contacted for comments on these events, reacted quite unequivocally. "Of course, in this situation we cannot comment on the actions of the people who signed the letter," explained the head of the press office Yekaterina Novikova to the correspondent of the "Vzglyad" newspaper. "Now Sotkilava is also saying that he was deceived. It is obvious that the letter itself, as well as the new wave of resentment against the leadership of the Bolshoi, raised by the texts of Tina Kandelaki---all of it is the consequence of the fight of the artist whose career is ending, for the position of the General Director."
The head of the Department of Creative Planning of the Bolshoi Theater Mikhail Fikhtengoltz is not inclined to give this story much significance. "The problem is absolutely contrived, and the whole situation is, honestly speaking, absurd from the beginning," he noted in a conversation with a "Vzglyad" correspondent. "The theater itself and its leadership has nothing to do with any of this." In his opinion, the correct thing to do is not to comment and to be above the incomprehensible fight for power which played out during the last few days.
Very different comments arrive from the people who signed the letter.
From the words of a Ballet Master-Repetiteur of the Bolshoi Thatear Mikhail Lavrovsky it follows that the process of collecting the signatures was a personal initiative of Nikolay Tsiskaridze. "We are very pleased with Iksanov," explained Lavrovsky to "Vzglyad". "However, we heard rumours that the leadership of the theater will be changed, that after the New Year everybody will leave. And in fact we often see how people who have no relation to the arts whatsoever are appointed to leadership positions in theaters. Therefore, when Kolya told us that he would like to put forward his candidacy to compete for the position and asked if we would support him, we agreed. Why not? He is a remarkable artist. If he is able to be a manager at the same level, great. The idea came from him. I signed the letter because I respect Kolya. I did not read the text of the letter because I trust Kolya. I only asked him: this is not against the management? He said no. So I said, if this is simply to help you, then sure. And now it appears that this was a frame-up."
However, Lavrovsky partially agrees with Nikolay Tsiskaridze's critical comments regarding the results of the reconstruction of the Bolshoi Theater. According to the ballet master, for him the Bolshoi after the reconstruction is a completely different theater, not the one that he was used to and in which he worked for many years.
"There was no intention to remove Iksanov, God forbid. This was all invented by Shvydkoi, most likely" -- this is how the actions of Oleg Tabakov were commented on by Alla Shpolyanskaya, an official at the press office of the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater headed by Tabakov. "He was offered and he signed, just like Zakharov, Obraztsova, and Sotkilava. Tsiskaridze is a young and energetic man, however, he will soon be 40, so why not head up the theater? Oleg Pavlovich says that he is not retracting anything and is not hiding. He repeated several times that he had already said everything and is not going to say anything new on this topic."
One of the signers who apologized to Anatoly Iksanov, the Artistic Director of the Lenkom Theater Mark Zakharov, admitted in a conversation with "Vzglyad" that during the collection of signatures he acted spontaneously and not in a completely balanced way.
"I think it is not necessary to appeal for help to the President every time. This is an unnecessary demonstration of our powerlessness and inability to navigate the laws of our country", said Zakharov to "Vzglyad". "In my case there was some emotional pressure related to the names. They started to list the names of quite respected and intelligent people, such as Tabakov… And I agreed, because I was not proposing anything bad, only good things. It was about the possibility of considering such-and-such person for such-and-such position. As to the part regarding Iksanov, I was not warned about it. Generally speaking, meddling in such things over the phone is not a very good thing. I am sorry that it turned out this way."
However, to be fair, it must be noted that not everyone was in the same situation as Mikhail Lavrovsky and Mark Zakharov.
Honored Coach of Russia Irina Viner, who also signed the document, told "Vzglyad" that she had read the text. "How could I sign it without having seen the text? I am not insane," she responded to a question from the correspondent of "Vzglyad". She also confirmed that she actually deems Nikolay Tsiskaridze to be an appropriate candidate for the post of the director of the theater.
As to Nikolay Tsiskaridze, he refused to comment.
As we noted above, previously Tsiskaridze criticized the reconstruction of the Bolshoi which occurred from 2005 until 2011. He found significant shortcomings both in the redesign of the backstage and rehearsal spaces, declaring that they made the artists' work more difficult, and in the aesthetics of the new interior design, pointing out, in particular, that there were no bronze candelabra left in the theater. A quote from Tsiskaridze's interview to "Interfaks" resonated across the media space: "Everything that they have done with the Bolshoi Theater is vandalism." Soon after, a conflict began between the opponent of vandalism and the leadership of the Boshoi (which went on approximately from the end of October of 2011 until mid-January of 2012.) The contract of the artist with the theater was under the threat of being prematurely terminated; however, in the end the management made the decision to retain Tsiskaridze at the Bolshoi as a teacher.