‘World-scale event’: Delayed Nureyev ballet premières in Moscow

A new ballet depicting the life of the Soviet-era dance genius Rudolf Nureyev has opened in Moscow, attracting dozens of VIPs and celebrities, and failing to cause any major scandals, despite controversies surrounding Nureyev and the ballet’s director, Kirill Serebrennikov, who was not at the première.

The opening show of the ballet filled the renowned Bolshoi Theater and, according to media reports, scalpers had jacked the ticket price from the official 10,000 rubles (about $170) to 60,000 or even 85,000 rubles ($1,016-1,400), despite attempts to fight the touts, through the introduction of personalized tickets and passport control on admission.

The ballet, featuring some monologues, is based on the life of Rudolf Nureyev, the famous Soviet ballet dancer, who was granted political asylum in France in 1961, after he refused to return to Russia from a tour. Nureyev made a brilliant career in Western theaters and became popular in artistic circles. He died in Paris in 1992, of complications related to AIDS.

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Big names at the première included well-known Russian cultural personalities, as well as politicians and officials. Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, attended along with his wife, Olympic champion ice dancer Tatyana Navka, and described the ballet as a major international cultural event.

There are some controversial points in it, but as a whole, from the perspective of a creative search and some sort of a creative enchantment, this is a world-class event,” Peskov told the TASS news agency, adding that he personally did not see any of the show’s scenes as provocative.

Russian mass media had been speculating about possible provocative, or even indecent content in the Nureyev ballet, after the date of the première was postponed, from July to December. Some suggested that the Russian Culture Ministry, in particular its head Vladimir Medinskiy, had opposed the show because of its treatment of Nureyev’s homosexuality. Both the Culture Ministry and Bolshoi director Vladimir Urin dismissed these reports.

Another possible reason behind the delay was that the chief director of the ballet, Kirill Serebrennikov, had been charged with organizing a scheme to defraud the state of 68 million rubles (about $1.15 million) and remains under house arrest, pending trial.

However, investigators allowed the accused to regularly meet with the Bolshoi’s director and he and the members of the troupe emphasized at the opening that Serebrennikov played a decisive role in the ballet production.

Some of them also used the occasion to express solidarity with Serebrennikov and demand that all charges against him be lifted. Several troupe members came out for the curtain call wearing t-shirts with the director’s portrait on them.

According to the Bolshoi Theater director the Nureyev ballet will be staged again in May.

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