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Bolshoi cancels Nureyev world premiere

Bolshoi cancels Nureyev world premiere
The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Image: Dmitriy Guryanov under a CC licence.

10 July 2017

In a move that has shocked the global ballet world, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow has announced the cancellation of Tuesday’s premiere of Nureyev, replacing it with Don Quixote at the last minute.

The biographical show based on the life of world renowned dancer Rudolf Nureyev was one of the most eagerly anticipated performances of the season, with Tatiana Kuznetsova, a ballet critic, describing it in Kommersant newspaper as “the main event of the ballet season in Russia, and possibly the world”.

The show’s director, Kirill Serebrennikov, was recently questioned over alleged embezzlement in relation to a different theatre company, though supporters of the director maintain the investigation was politically motivated. A vocal critic of government censorship of the arts, Serebrennikov is known for his “edgy stagings that run against the conservative line promoted by the Kremlin and culture ministry”.

Exact reasons for the ballet’s cancellation remain unclear, with Simon Morrison, a music historian at Princeton University, commenting to The Guardian: “The strangest thing here is how close Nureyev came to a premiere. Why wasn’t it postponed earlier?” Meanwhile, Vladimir Urin, the theatre’s general director, posted a video on Facebook telling the troupe that it was simply “not ready”, with the Bolshoi reportedly suggesting the premiere would be postponed to a later date once it was ready to run.

Nureyev is revered as one of the ballet world’s greatest ever dancers. Beginning his career at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, he defected to in 1961 and later died from an AIDS-related illness in 1993. The ballet tells the story of the dancer’s life, with sources inside the Bolshoi suggesting the production also deals with Nureyev’s homosexuality explicitly.

The Bolshoi theatre continues to be one of Moscow’s most iconic institutions, though its reputation as a place of fierce rivalry and scandal is increasing. This came to light in 2013, when one of the dancers was sentenced to six years in jail for ordering an acid attack on the ballet’s artistic director, Sergei Filin.

Source: The Guardian