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Nureyev premier postponed to 2018/2019

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47 minutes ago, Natalia said:

This sounds like a great ballet for Possokhov's home troupe, San Francisco Ballet! Hopefully it may transfer there, eventually.

 

He doesn't seem to have a program-length work of his own choreography in their repertory (he staged their Don Q, but that's a different kind of project). 

 

(the company is reworking the website, and their "repertory archive" seems mighty thin to me, so he may have made work in the past that they're not currently listing...)

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There's now a long piece on the topic by Ismene Brown here

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Posted (edited)

moved
Edited by maps

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2 hours ago, Natalia said:

This sounds like a great ballet for Possokhov's home troupe, San Francisco Ballet! Hopefully it may transfer there, eventually.

 

That may be what happens--who knows? But the ballet would be (or, I hope, will be) so much more meaningful (and, I infer) so much more daring in the Bolshoi/Moscow context for which it was created.

 

Re the Avedon photos-I remember them as something of an event. And I have always thought the idea of a dancer 'playing' Nureyev was close to absurd (like an actress playing Marilyn Monroe). Featuring Nureyev's image itself in the ballet--and such a notorious one--seems one way within the ballet to remind one of the gap between now and then, and to recall the larger than larger-than-life quality Nureyev had, which not even today's best Bolshoi dancers come close to...(Maybe former Bolshoi dancer Osipova here and there, but she doesn't occupy remotely the same place culturally. And is not as sexually explosive.)

 

Obviously, I don't believe the postponement was a purely artistic decision. But if after the Russian Presidential election the ballet can be 'risked,' then that's better than nothing. Though still a disturbing turn of events.

 

Edited to add: including Nureyev's staging of Bayadere in the ballet is a serious and beautiful idea, but no matter how many great ideas this ballet has, they need to be realized in great (or, at least, substantive) choreography. Hope we get to find out if that has happened...

Edited by Drew

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2 hours ago, sandik said:

 

He doesn't seem to have a program-length work of his own choreography in their repertory (he staged their Don Q, but that's a different kind of project). 

 

(the company is reworking the website, and their "repertory archive" seems mighty thin to me, so he may have made work in the past that they're not currently listing...)

 

I'm trying to remember...Was The Swimmer a full-length work for San Fco?

 

As someone with dual citizenship, and a conservative Orthodox Xtan, I can understand how the general Russian populace  - those living in rural areas especially...much like "middle America" here - would be upset with a ballet about Nureyev or anything that opens with "full frontal display"...especially in a state-funded opera house. THAT SAID, it's  just as bad for the Bolshoi to have allowed the creative process to continue this long to then have the plug pulled a couple of days before opening night. This sounds like Soviet-era shenanigans.

 

I feel bad for the creators and dancers, regardless of the work's topic. The uncensored ballet should see the light of day in a private theater in Moscow and/or at a friendly foreign theater, such as the above San Fco suggestion. The same creative team did an amazing job with Hero of Our Time, which also had a risqué edge but done in a tasteful & inoffensive manner.

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5 hours ago, Natalia said:

 

I'm trying to remember...Was The Swimmer a full-length work for San Fco?

 

As someone with dual citizenship, and a conservative Orthodox Xtan, I can understand how the general Russian populace  - those living in rural areas especially...much like "middle America" here - would be upset with a ballet about Nureyev or anything that opens with "full frontal display"...especially in a state-funded opera house. THAT SAID, it's  just as bad for the Bolshoi to have allowed the creative process to continue this long to then have the plug pulled a couple of days before opening night. This sounds like Soviet-era shenanigans.

 

I feel bad for the creators and dancers, regardless of the work's topic. The uncensored ballet should see the light of day in a private theater in Moscow and/or at a friendly foreign theater, such as the above San Fco suggestion. The same creative team did an amazing job with Hero of Our Time, which also had a risqué edge but done in a tasteful & inoffensive manner.

 

Swimmer was not a full length (evening long) ballet - it runs 40-minutes - and it was performed as part of a mixed repertory program. It was one of Possokhov's most successful ballet projects, imo. It feels a little strange to refer to Swimmer as a "ballet" though - more like dance theater I would say. And I'm pretty sure that Nureyev will be a kind of dance theater.

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I wonder whether San Francisco Ballet could afford the piece. Like A Hero of Our Time, Ilya Demutsky's score includes vocal soloists, but the score for Nureyev also includes an on-stage chorus. Theoretically, it could be a co-production with San Francisco Opera, though I doubt the opera company would be interested in investing in something like this.

 

How often does SFB perform to choral music?

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54 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

I wonder whether San Francisco Ballet could afford the piece. Like A Hero of Our Time, Ilya Demutsky's score includes vocal soloists, but the score for Nureyev also includes an on-stage chorus. Theoretically, it could be a co-production with San Francisco Opera, though I doubt the opera company would be interested in investing in something like this.

 

How often does SFB perform to choral music?

 

Not often.  ;)

That doesn't mean it wouldn't be interesting (or could be). Neither of those projects was done with SFB in mind, as far as I know. Yuri is always cooking up ideas - he's as ambitious as anyone else, and the Bolshoi is a plum gig for a choreographer. Even if Nureyev never actually appears on the Bolshoi stage, it's notoriety should carry Yuri some ways...

Edited by pherank

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Video of Urin's press conference. Sadly, You Tube's subtitle and translation features do a terrible job in this case, and not all of the questions posed are audible in any case.

 

The way Urin tells it, he--and Makhar Vaziev!--were shocked when they watched two dress rehearsals on Friday. Urin confronted Possokhov: "You do realize that it's bad." Supposedly Possokhov acknowledged that he understood, and when asked how much more time he needed, replied that he needed another month. So the dancers were informed on Saturday about the postponement, but they rallied at the subsequent dress rehearsal, the "audience" was an especially sympathetic one since it included the production team's relatives, and already the piece looked a lot better. But there still wasn't enough time to improve anything since Possokhov was scheduled to leave Moscow immediately after the premiere on July 11, and following the premiere run the stage was being turned over to a tour by the Eifman Ballet, while the Bolshoi, or part of it, anyway, would soon be leaving for New York.

 

Urin blamed scheduling issues, since part of the company had only returned from a tour of Japan on June 20. (Why was a 17-day tour scheduled so close the premiere of a brand new, evening-length ballet?) Stage rehearsals began on July 2. (Vaziev wasn't watching them?)

 

It was decided after the dress rehearsal on Saturday not to wait until the 2018-19 season. Possokhov was available in September-October 2017 and January 2018, but the Bolshoi couldn't spare the rehearsal time then. Instead it was decided that rehearsals would begin on April 1, 2018--Serebrennikov will not be available during this time, but his work is "done" anyway and supposedly will remain unchanged--and the premiere will take place at the beginning of May 2018.

 

Urin says the only call he received from the Minister of Culture came after the announcement of the postponement to inquire about what was happening. (Terrible management, by the looks of things.) Urin "answered" several questions from journalists with non-replies such as "You obviously don't know anything about ballet" or "You obviously don't understand how theaters work." Vaziev didn't say anything, other than prompting Urin on dates and sequences of events. As reported, Possokhov and Serebrennikov were invited to speak at the press conferences, but for reasons "unknown" to Urin, they elected not to attend.

 

I'm dubious about the project, am doubtful that a bio-ballet about Nureyev is feasible (I can't help but think of those terrible biopics about Elvis Presley), and frankly I'm puzzled by some of the casting. As far as I can tell, the first cast includes Vladislav Lantratov as Nureyev, Denis Savin as "Erik" [?], Maria Alexandrova as "Margot" [??], Ekaterina Shipulina (alternating with Zakharova and Stepanova) as the "Diva" (judging by the headscarf, this would be Makarova) [Much too tall, no?], Vyacheslav Lopatin as the "Pupil" [Legris?] and Anastasia Stashkevich as the "Ballerina." But then, who knows?

 

 

Edited by volcanohunter

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Bolshoi productions are held to a high standard. If the ballet truly looked 'messy', shall we say, and clearly needed more rehearsal time and perhaps fixes to the choreography, then I can understand management wanting to wait.

Possokhov has never been one to talk about politics, so it's unlikely we are going to hear him complain that his ballet has been shut down for political/cultural reasons. One thing I'm wondering - does the Bolshoi have an exclusive contract on this ballet? Or can another company put on a pared-down version (without the singers and full orchestra, etc.) of the ballet to give it a public showing? As Natalia mentioned, there are other private theaters that could be employed to premiere the ballet and allow for some feedback from the public and critics alike.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for summary. Urin is a charmer :dry:

 

I agree that it's a...peculiar...project. But the Bolshoi committed to it--and then, for whatever reasons, bollocksed it up. We will see what happens come May...

Edited by Drew

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The premiere of Etudes, broadcast to cinemas for all the world to see, definitely looked messy. Now Nureyev is a mess because of inadequate rehearsal. So is Makhar Vaziev simply a very bad manager of time?

 

I adore Denis Savin as a performer, but I would never have imagined him as Erik Bruhn. With all my respect for Alexandrova, she is about the least Fonteyn-like ballerina I can think of (although one of her alternates, Nina Kaptsova, is a different matter). Not to belabor the point, but Shipulina, Zakharova and Stepanova would be awfully tall impersonators of Natalia Makarova. Presumably Possokhov is not aiming for realism, but does he have enough in his ballet to evoke the real Nureyev?

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13 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

The premiere of Etudes, broadcast to cinemas for all the world to see, definitely looked messy. Now Nureyev is a mess because of inadequate rehearsal. So is Makhar Vaziev simply a very bad manager of time?

 

I adore Denis Savin as a performer, but I would never have imagined him as Erik Bruhn. With all my respect for Alexandrova, she is about the least Fonteyn-like ballerina I can think of (although one of her alternates, Nina Kaptsova, is a different matter). Not to belabor the point, but Shipulina, Zakharova and Stepanova would be awfully tall impersonators of Natalia Makarova. Presumably Possokhov is not aiming for realism, but does he have enough in his ballet to evoke the real Nureyev?

 

And how much say does he have over the particular dancers used? At SFB, choreographers can make their first cast choices from among any of the dancers - not just principals. But at the Bolshoi hierarchy is a big deal (and very political - there's that word again). Did Yuri take on too much? That's always possible as he seems to be doing things bigger and bigger each time, and sooner or later this is going to be a problem. A great learning experience for him, no doubt, but Bolshoi management isn't interested in his learning experience. They just want success and positive notoriety.

Edited by pherank

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Alexandrova has a very warm smile that radiates across the footlights--and that, at least, is something she has in common with Fonteyn. But perhaps there are some advantages to discouraging too direct a comparison to the dancers' real-life counterparts.

Edited by Drew

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Yes. And I should say that tall and narrow Lantratov doesn't exactly evoke Nureyev either, and especially not in the sex-appeal department.

 

I suspect Possokhov had a lot of choice where dancers were concerned, especially if he was free to cast Shipulina (generally regarded as the best Possokhov dancer in the company) ahead of Zakharova, which almost never happens. One of the dancers intially announced as Nureyev on Thursday was corps member David Motta Soares, although by Friday his name was gone from the list--and by Saturday the whole ballet was gone. No principals were cast as "Erik." (That is, Denis Rodkin's name was listed on Thursday, but was gone on Friday, and he isn't injured, since he's cast in Don Quixote this week, and will dance Giselle in Palermo right after that.) Some dancers may have declined to work on the ballet, perhaps because they didn't want to dance in front of a full-frontal photo of Nureyev, or perhaps take off their own pants on stage, but it appears that otherwise Possokhov had his pick of dancers.

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The one Bolshoi dancer who I would have expected to see cast as Nureyev is missing: Artyom Ovcharenko, who played him in the recent TV docudrama.

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Posted (edited)

Some bits and pieces from the hoopla surrounding the cancelled premiere of Nureyev at the Bolshoi, coming from people close to the situation in Moscow:

 

- The most "objectionable" bits in the ballet were:

i) a jumbo-sized photograph by Richard Avedon of Nureyev naked with genitalia on full display as a prominent feature of the stage decoration

ii) the performer of Nureyev's role being asked to show his naked bosom bent over with butt cheeks spread out in the scene depicting the photo shoot where the aforementioned photograph was made. Ovcharenko refused to perform naked, was allowed to wear a body-colored loincloth instead, but was also relegated to the second cast in favor of the less shy Lantratov

iii) a scene at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris showing a march of transvestites: men on high heels wearing colorful clothes

iv) earlier allegations of plastic dildos having been purchased for the production have not been confirmed by those who witnessed the dress rehearsals

 

- A newspaper article alleges that as much as $400,000 out of the production's total budget of $2,500,000 has been paid to secure the rights to use Avedon's photograph for the ballet, a staggering sum by Russian standards and in light of the modest financial means of ballet companies and modest salaries of ballet dancers around the world

 

- Zakharova was asked to feature in one scene of the ballet entitled A Letter: Diva, but after visiting the first rehearsal decided to pull out. Diva supposedly stands for Natalia Makarova, with whom Nureyev exchanged letters, and who herself did not allow her name to be used in this ballet. This character features the trademark handkerchief, but is more of an abstract figure than someone meant to closely replicate Makarova. The online recording of Ekaterina Shipulina is most likely of her performing that scene

 

- It is true that the preparation and rehearsals process for the ballet has been fraught with chaos and uncertainty, and a week before the scheduled premiere many questioned whether it would be ready to show on time. However, there were several other factors that contributed to the chaos. Originally, the ballet was scheduled to premier in the 2017/18 season, giving Possokhov & Co. ample time. Instead, Bolshoi's big premiere for this year was the new Anna Karenina by John Neumeier, a co-production with the Hamburg and the Canada ballet companies. However, this Karenina faced delays of its own, and Bolshoi's head of planning Irina Chernomurova (director Vladimir Urin's wife), being a great friend of Neumeier, decided to accommodate him and moved Karenina's Bolshoi premiere into the next season, asking Possokhov to accelerate his work plan and get Nureyev ready for this summer. Along the way, to keep things even clearer for Neumeier, the Bolshoi decided to sacrifice the revival of La Phille du Pharaon, also originally considered for the 2017/18 season. So, poor planning by Bolshoi's leadership all around, which seems to be getting progressively worse

 

- The director of Nureyev, Kirill Serebrennikov, is a prominent Russian theater director known for his stance in radical opposition to the current political regime in Russia, and for a highly provocative style, with theater productions featuring profanity, nudity and difficult, uncomfortable themes. He has recently been implicated (though not charged) in a criminal investigation into allegation of state funds being misappropriated for a theater production that never took place, even though there is ample and clear evidence that this production was completed and staged, just not commercially successful

 

In a way, apart from the thinly veiled homophobia which seems to have been virtually elevated to official policy in Russia, there were multiple issues with the production of Nureyev, so, in a way, its cancellation/postponement was a result of multiple factors at once. In any case, this is a huge embarrassment for the Bolshoi's top administration and planning department, and a very poorly timed public relations disaster, given the company's upcoming New York appearances. Hope that Mr. Vaziev is busy prepping his dancers to be on top of their games for these performances, to redeem not only Bolshoi's venerable brand, but also Russia's standing in the eyes of the world.

 

Edited by Fleurdelis

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Thanks for the additional details. The Bolshoi has always had great dancers, but I don't think the greatest dancers in the world at the top of their game can make up for this particular mess (or change people's views of 'Russia's Standing in this World' -- which takes us into far more political territory).

 

Most ballet fans will always hugely admire the Bolshoi dancers and rush to see them when they can--though a few may object to Vaziev's apparent drift towards increasing the number of Petersburg trained ones--but this last minute postponement of a major premier will be a stain on the company one way or another. The May premier of the ballet will also be under a lot of pressure, but if it is uncensored and wins some artistic accolades, then that might make a positive difference to how the history of this episode is written--though it hardly makes the Bolshoi leadership look great.

 

I am curious what kind of statement Serebrennikov and Possokhov will make should they make one. But I certainly expect it to be careful. I wiil also be curious to see what happens with the Gogol Center prosecutions.

Edited by Drew

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27 minutes ago, Fleurdelis said:

- The most "objectionable" bits in the ballet were:

i) a jumbo-sized photograph by Richard Avedon of Nureyev naked with genitalia on full display as a prominent feature of the stage decoration

ii) the performer of Nureyev's role being asked to show his naked bosom bent over with butt cheeks spread out in the scene depicting the photo shoot where the aforementioned photograph was made. Ovcharenko refused to perform naked, was allowed to wear a body-colored loincloth instead, but was also relegated to the second cast in favor of the less shy Lantratov

iii) a scene at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris showing a march of transvestites: men on high heels wearing colorful clothes

iv) earlier allegations of plastic dildos having been purchased for the production have not been confirmed by those who witnessed the dress rehearsals

 

 

An excellent synopsis, Fleurdelis - thank you. It seems fairly obvious that the stagings are going to make many audience members uncomfortable - and for varying reasons. Even if the premiere was in San Francisco, not Moscow, there would be audience members who would have issues with an enormous photograph of a naked person (man or woman) with genitalia exposed as a centerpiece of the ballet. And your second item would invite the same criticism - how is this strengthening the ballet, or advancing its themes in a useful way? Why should we care? Does this give us a better sense of Nureyev the man? Is there something positive to take away from this?

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1 hour ago, pherank said:

 

An excellent synopsis, Fleurdelis - thank you. It seems fairly obvious that the stagings are going to make many audience members uncomfortable - and for varying reasons. Even if the premiere was in San Francisco, not Moscow, there would be audience members who would have issues with an enormous photograph of a naked person (man or woman) with genitalia exposed as a centerpiece of the ballet. And your second item would invite the same criticism - how is this strengthening the ballet, or advancing its themes in a useful way? Why should we care? Does this give us a better sense of Nureyev the man? Is there something positive to take away from this?

 

The Avedon photos were a sensation at the time, and Nureyev's rule breaking disdain for norms and unbelievable sexual charisma were a big part of his persona; you bet he made people uncomfortable. 

 

But actually--scene after scene from the dress rehearsal posted on instagram does not seem to feature this full frontal photo. Maybe it does play a key role in much or all of the ballet, we don't know really.....but that is also not the point. For that matter, maybe the ballet is a piece of crap. Also not the point.

 

The point? If 400,000 dollars was really spent on rights to the Avedon photo, am I supposed to believe that only a few days before the premier was the first time anyone in the Bolshoi administration noticed it or undersood its importance to the ballet? That beggars belief. 

 

They brought Serebrennikov and they okayed Nureyev as subject. They scheduled the ballet knowing it was a rush and then let it develop to within DAYS of the premier. Then they postpone it (after a long conversation with the minister of culture no less) -- it's either unfortunate politics or unfortunate incompetence or a mix of both. 

 

I would probably feel differently if the creative team had quickly stepped forward and said 'Thank you Bolshoi for this courageous decision. We really did need more time. People will see in May.' (Although with Serebrennikov's potential legal problems and those of the Gogol center I might always have been a little suspicious. And now anything the creators say will come after a long delay.)

 

New ballets by serious artists are sometimes risky and often don't work. I can believe that a potentially scandalous ballet had the Bolshoi worried. But they made their bed and then refused to lie in it. The anguish of the dancers who have posted in social media suggests no clear consensus concerning the work's unreadiness anyway. 

 

If the Bolshoi prefers not to take risks, well, it won't take them. It is a conservative institution--fair enough. They will still have great dancers and great productions. Probably some bad productions too, because no new work is risk free unless it is very dull indeed. But to have taken this rather daring (for the Bolshoi) risk and then, one way or another, interfered with the premier...raises very serious questions. As I said above, a reasonably successful, uncensored premier in May will go some way to making things right. 

 

Had the ballet premiered, I would happy to entertain all criticisms of it. If I saw the premier for myself, then I might have harsh criticisms too. Maybe I would hate the use of the Avedon photo. Indeed the whole idea of a Nureyev ballet has always seemed dubious to me. (Though certainly a tame ballet about such an untamable figure would be pointless.) In this circumstance, however, I feel nothing but sympathy for the artists who--whatever version of the story one believes--have not been treated well. And I am not going to question their work until I see it and see it as they want it to be seen.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Drew

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Perhaps my greatest reason for doubting the official versions is the documented behavior of Makhar Vaziev. A few months ago, an extended feature about him aired on Russian television, and it seemed to portray a micro-manager. He was shown visiting various rehearsals. It showed the infamous TV screen in his office, which was indeed displaying a live feed from a rehearsal, and he confirmed that when he felt it necessary, he would pick up the phone and call in corrections. Most astonishing to me were his inspections of morning classes, where he would sit himself down at the front and shout out a seemingly endless stream of corrections during classes being taught by other people. (I'd never seen such a thing.) He claimed to watch every performance. He was seen upbraiding dancers immediately after performances. The program showed Bolshoi dancers under constant surveillance and scrutiny. And yet, as the Bolshoi was preparing the first major choreographic commission of Vaziev's directorship, he seems to have been unaware that the production was floundering until he watched dress rehearsals four days before the scheduled premiere and was then shocked! shocked!!! to find that the ballet was in poor shape.

 

I can believe that Urin may not have seen the ballet up to that point because he had been relying on reports from his subordinates, such as his wife and Vaziev, from production department heads and from Possokhov, Serebrennikov et al. But I find it extremely difficult to believe that Big Brother Vaziev was unaware of what was going on and/or suddenly dismayed by what he saw on stage. That is, until he saw that his boss and Lord knows who else were dismayed.

 

And yeah, the Bolshoi commissioned a ballet about Rudolf Nureyev. The choreographer, librettist, composer and the rest of the production team were known entities. What exactly was the company expecting to get?

 

P.S. Given the slow ticket sales for The Taming of the Shrew in New York, Nureyev may not be the last of Vaziev's headaches or debacles.

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1 hour ago, Drew said:

 

The point? If 400,000 dollars was really spent on rights to the Avedon photo, am I supposed to believe that only a few days before the premier was the first time anyone in the Bolshoi administration noticed it or undersood its importance to the ballet? That beggars belief.

 

 

 

The Avedon estate is doing rather well, me thinks. Sounds like extortion to me - find another way people!

 

4 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

Perhaps my greatest reason for doubting the official versions is the documented behavior of Makhar Vaziev. A few months ago, an extended feature about him aired on Russian television, and it seemed to portray a micro-manager. He was shown visiting various rehearsals. It showed the infamous TV screen in his office, which was indeed displaying a live feed from a rehearsal, and he confirmed that when he felt it necessary, he would pick up the phone and call in corrections. Most astonishing to me were his inspections of morning classes, where he would sit himself down at the front and shout out a seemingly endless stream of corrections during classes being taught by other people. (I'd never seen such a thing.) He claimed to watch every performance. He was seen upbraiding dancers immediately after performances. The program showed Bolshoi dancers under constant surveillance and scrutiny. And yet, as the Bolshoi was preparing the first major choreographic commission of Vaziev's directorship, he seems to have been unaware that the production was floundering until he watched dress rehearsals four days before the scheduled premiere and was then shocked! shocked!!! to find that the ballet was in poor shape.

 

I can believe that Urin may not have seen the ballet up to that point because he had been relying on reports from his subordinates, such as his wife and Vaziev, from production department heads and from Possokhov, Serebrennikov et al. But I find it extremely difficult to believe that Big Brother Vaziev was unaware of what was going on and/or suddenly dismayed by what he saw on stage. That is, until he saw that his boss and Lord knows who else were dismayed.

 

 

I suddenly flashed on that great line from Casablanca -

Captain Renault: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

 

The level of micromanagement that you are describing, Volcanohunter, is creepy, indeed. It's difficult to believe that anything worthwhile actually comes out of that sort of 'artistic environment'. I pity the artists but also wonder why there aren't more defections, shall we say, to regional companies where things are less intense. More interest and investment in regional companies is a good thing, imo.

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Incidentally, that TV program was filmed in early spring, and it included footage of Possokhov choreographing Nureyev. Possokhov said something about how it pleased him to see dancers of his generation running companies because they shared the "same goals" and had the same "worldview." The program host, meanwhile, pointed out to Vaziev that staging a ballet about Nureyev that included references to his love life was a provocation in Russia, and Vaziev replied that "of course it's a provocation, but a creative provocation."

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Serebrennikov seems like the only one who isn't talking out of both sides of his mouth or hiding under a rock.

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11 minutes ago, Helene said:

Serebrennikov seems like the only one who isn't talking out of both sides of his mouth or hiding under a rock.

Some pictures and comments on his facebook page

 

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