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Matvienko fired at Kiev Opera Ballet

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Another article (in Russian)


Machine Translation:

"My presence in the theater under the current leadership is impossible" - Denis Matvienko

The former artistic director of the National Opera Ballet Company, 34, Denis Matvienko, who is among the ten best dancers of the world, the world's only winner of the 4 Grand Prix at the prestigious ballet competitions of the world, removed from office. Dennis claims that remain in the theater for the current general guidance he can not.

- How do I know that you have no control over the ballet company?

- And recently I found out by accident. November 12 Director General himself invited me to his office, so I wrote a letter to take office. My statement laid on the table, not signed. And the fact that I have not heard from the mouth of the head of the head of the personnel department Lyudmila Mavlenko, when once again demanded higher wages for actors. I said it was my duty. She replied: "Not yours, because you're a nobody. Then I found out."

10 days ago, when I was on tour in London, my name was removed from the site as the head of the National Opera Ballet Company. I would understand if the Director General invited me to his office and informed of his decision personally. During the tour, I wrote out the repertoire, and composition, and signed the statement. Turns out, I did many things without reason, for the job. I wanted to bring Ukrainian ballet to the world level. Because people have talent. It remains only to collect suitcases and quietly leave. So did 20 years large Ukrainian dancers, who are now dancing in the first stages of the world. In this situation - I do not. And secondly, I can not afford to turn around and go away quietly.

Many people believed in me, and I would be unfair to them if just disappeared from view. Secondly, I believe that my personality quite well-known in the ballet world. When I stand up for the position, both orally and in writing, painted the whole strategy of ballet Ukraine - how to bring our ballet at the world level. World premieres, professional development of artists. All over the year and a half has been done. Full house theater now for any project, regardless of the price of the tickets. Besides international stars come to our knowledge.

- What are you going to do in this situation?

- I want to draw attention to the people who run the theater for decades. In particular, this CEO Peter Y. Chuprina and personnel director Lyudmila Mavlenko, and the people whom he surrounded himself. These people do not contribute to the development of the art of ballet, they are, in my opinion, the poison it. I tolerated them. I was hoping for a half year, they will be able to understand me. More I can not stand it. I am a creative person. I did not come here to sit in the chair. I do not need.

- Slam the door you will not? Remain a soloist?

- Someone said, "If I go out of the Mariinsky Theatre, clap the door so that the windows povyletali." Would make sense - I would have slapped. I have been meaning to go on stage as a leader, it was important to set an example of the people. Your example I could consolidate their leadership. Now I do not see the point of his stay in the theater in any role, while the theater run by these people.

- Why were you fired? Jealous of your salary? You are, in their opinion, bad work?

- One and a half years, in terms of finance, it is for me a profound disadvantage. My wife Anastasia calls it a "hobby-land". I will not deny that what I paid for this month - I have enough to do at least one step to Russia, and I'll get the money. And here I was working 16 hours a day - as a tutor, the artist, the light set. I am a creative person. And quite ambitious. What is happening in the theater of the past 20 years - this is not the level of the first theater of the country.

Relative to the professional level, I think I so good to them that do not fit. If I failed, I would have probably arranged. I for one and a half years have seen too many undercurrents. I lived mythical illusions all the time, I thought that you can somehow get through and open the eyes of the general management. I failed, and my mythic illusions vanished.

When I saw that my name was taken off, I went to the reception to the CEO. In the study it was not, and within a week he did not show up. I have no one to talk to. I just went and deleted. Two channels write to the Human Resources Department at the office of Denis Matvienko. The official answer was - that never Denis Matvienko was artistic director. Labor - in the personnel department. We have to see that it is written. I have no purpose to take a seat and had never been. I want to draw attention to the situation in our theater. My presence in any role here, as these people run by the theater, it is impossible. I demand to be fired this guide.

- Artistic Director appointed Aniko Rekhviashvili. How to evaluate it as a professional?

- This person is not incompetent. The point is not her and not me. I can not wish her good luck, and I know that it will face a choice. If you do this, like I did, it would not be in this theater. If it will be the choice, as he likes guide - make the middle setting, not a bomb - it will remain and will prosper. It aimed interesting ballets in our theater, "Viennese Waltz" is in its formulation. She teaches modern dance at Poplavsky. But I'm not sure that it has the opportunity to withdraw Ukrainian ballet to the world level, as I have, if we compare. When the 13 years since I left here, I danced in the first stages of the world. And I got the experience. I have the opportunity to invite to call anyone on the scene.

- Maybe you overlapped someone dishonest financial schemes?

- I had a problem purely creative. The only thing that linked the money and me - it is pay the artists. So I have often been the scandals with the head of the personnel department and foreign relations. Often artists simply lied, did not pay earned. All saved. 10 euros for the artist - is money. When underpaid 10 artists, this is a sum. I defended artists. Moreover, I believe that in our theater a lot of extra people who just get paid and do nothing. I have often suggested that the Director General to release these bets, and they invite teachers from abroad, which would have raised our level. To the amount of wages that are unnecessary choreographers for the year, we could do one good ballet.

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The social media person for the opera house is decidedly not onside with the decision. For the past three days the Facebook page and Twitter feed of the National Opera of Ukraine has been updated with pro-Matvienko press material and quotes from angry dancers. Its Facebook poll asking whether users agree with the decision shows 97% opposed. Mind you, as of about two hours ago the Facebook page is now described as "unofficial" but up to this point it has been posting casting updates, conducting contests for free tickets, and the like.

Nikolai Tsiskaridze was in Kiev yesterday performing, and now he's speaking out in Matvienko's favor.

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This makes the announcement a few days ago that he is filling three of the Hallberg/TBA slots all the more interesting (the Don Q with Murphy + 2 Corsaires).

He does not lack for work. On April 13 he will perform in Swan Lake with Nina Ananiashvili in Tbilisi, and on April 27 he will dance Spartacus as the Bolshoi.

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In this case, I suspect the theater's general director is being fundamentally dishonest. He complains that a double bill of Edward Clug ballets is performed to recorded music, and that this is incompatible with an "academic" theater, while failing to mention that a couple of months ago Matvienko also brought in Makarova's La Bayadère, which, obviously, is accompanied by a full orchestra. The Minister of Culture, who is new to his post, "has been informed" that Matvienko has failed to stage a single new production, when in addition to the Klug double bill and Bayadère the company has acquired a new full-evening ballet by former director Viktor Lytvynov, a new full-evening program by Radu Poklitaru (performed by his own company, the Kiev Modern Ballet, mind you) and revivals of several other ballets, including the somewhat hoary Class Concert. But apparently the problem is that Matvienko himself did not do the staging, which allows the general director to tell the poorly informed minister that Matvienko hasn't done anything.

This is phenomenally hypocritical, because at the beginning of the last season, the National Opera announced that the forthcoming season would see new productions of Don Carlo, Otello, Samson et Dalila, Die Zauberflöte and Król Roger. A new Don Carlo appeared only in late spring, an opera already in the repertoire was given a revival, there was a single concert performance of Król Roger and the other operas never materialized. As far as I can see, the opera company has not mounted a single new production this season, but Matvienko is accused of doing nothing because he did not act as choreographer or producer of any of the ballet company's five new productions during his "unofficial" tenure.

Then there is the matter of Matvienko's appointed successor Aniko Rekhviashvili, whose experience with classical ballet seems to be a little tenuous. Her bio states that she studied at the studio of the Virsky National Folk Dance Ensemble of Ukraine. No shame in that. Irina Dvorovenko's parents were Virsky dancers, and Leonid Sarafanov is descended from two generations of Virsky dancers. The bio gives no information about what sort of performing experience Rekhviashvili had subsequently. Then she apparently graduated from the Kiev Institute of Culture, and that sets off alarm bells for me. In the old days, it had a reputation as the place where the untalented children of illustrious artists went to study because no connections or bribes could get them into "real" schools like the Conservatory, the ballet or folk dance divisions of the Choreographic School, the theater or film faculties of the Theatrical Institute, the Institute of Visual Art or the Institute of Decorative and Applied Arts. The Institute of Culture primarily produced teachers who would work in extracurricular settings leading choirs, dance ensembles and drama groups. More recently the Institute has been grandiosely renamed the National University of Culture and the Arts, though National University of Show Business would be more appropriate. In addition to its previous functions, it's now also known as the place where pop stars go to get a degree (in pop music, of course), and has been augmented with departments of fashion, design and advertising, film and television technology, IT, and even hotel, tourism and restaurant business. The dance department includes departments of classical choreography, folk choreography, ballroom dance choreography and contemporary choreography (whose faculty includes Poklitaru). But the tone for the whole place is set by its director Mykhailo Poplavsky, a.k.a. the Singing Rector, not because he had previous experience as a musician, but rather because after spending so much time in the presence of real and budding pop stars, he decided to become one himself. Frankly, he is a figure so absurd that a Ukrainian television program recently gave him the "screaming goat" treatment.

Fairly or not, Rekhviashvili is going to carry the Poplavsky taint because she worked at his university for many years. She has staged a couple of full-lengths ballets for the National Opera, and they seem to be classical in nature, stultifyingly so.

But it's like Tsiskaridze said, if he'd never heard of her, neither has anyone else, and such an appointment seems unlikely to do much for the reputation of a troupe of 150 dancers.

Finally, Ardani Artists has gotten in on the act, stating that if Matvienko leaves the opera house, the Kings of the Dance will stop coming to Kiev. Make of that what you will.


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It would be nice of Beloserkovsky could be persuaded to take the job, though I've heard him say that he feels like a thorough New Yorker and wouldn't be inclined to live anywhere else. Another possibility would be Ivan Putrov. His parents still live in Kiev, he returns from time to time to perform at the opera house where they were once dancers, he's underemployed at present, and he could potentially expand the company's repertoire in a Royal Ballet direction.

If I had been in Matvienko's position, I would have directed my attentions somewhere other than Class Concert. There probably is some basis for believing that he was too much of an absentee director. In a television interview on Monday he couldn't remember the name of his successor, only that she had a Georgian surname starting with an R. This despite the fact that his company had performed her ballets seven times since November. I couldn't help wonder whether he'd seen them.

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This is a complex area, and I have no clue about Russian law. However, under US law, the fact that one party never actually signed the written agreement makes no difference if there is other evidence that the contract was agreed to by the non-signatory. In fact, in many instances an oral agreement can be binding. The only exception is that certain types of agreements - like contracts for the sale of land, or contracts to answer for the debt of another person, for example - are subject to the Statute of Frauds and must always be in writing and signed by all parties to the agreement. Wonder if Matvienko has consulted a lawyer..

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If Matvienko hadn't thought of it himself, I'm sure Tsiskaridze advised him to consult a lawyer. But it appears that Matvienko isn't interested in working under the same roof with the theater's general director and its personnel manager. I don't know whether he'd be willing to take a legal battle far enough to try to unseat the current management. Tsiskaridze has been trying for years, and he still hasn't succeeded.

In these circumstances administrators have all sorts of levers of influence, but ultimately they lose the war. Rudolf Bing may have won his battle with Maria Callas, but can anyone honestly say that the Metropolitan Opera was better off for having the most iconic diva of the 20th century give only 20 performances on its stage? Obviously, Matvienko isn't Callas, but my point is that in battles between artists and administrators, the audiences is usually the ultimate loser.

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That's a shame, the firing has no merit, it's purely politics. Is his successor, Aniko Rekhviashvili, meant to be permanent or interim? Did Mikhailovsky announce Duato's replacement? Matvienko seems to be a very eligible candidate.

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Rudolf Bing may have won his battle with Maria Callas, but can anyone honestly say that the Metropolitan Opera was better off for having the most iconic diva of the 20th century give only 20 performances on its stage?

I remember from Bing's book his recalling that the loosing of Callas was indeed a hard move to take on, but one that became necessary at one point.

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