Russia's Bolshoi Theater appoints new ballet director after acid attack scandal


Russia’s Bolshoi Theater presented a new director for its world-famous ballet troupe on Monday, a position it said it was creating after its outgoing artistic director was nearly blinded in an acid attack.

Vladimir Urin, the theater’s director general, said Makhar Vaziev, currently director of ballet at Milan’s La Scala opera house, would become the Bolshoi’s new ballet director, part of a restructuring the renowned institution’s fans hope will restore its scandal-tainted reputation.

The appointment follows a 2013 acid attack on Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi’s artistic director, which lifted the lid on poisonous rivalries over roles, money and power at one of Russia’s most prominent cultural institutions.

“Makhar Vaziev needs no introduction,” said Urin, in a statement on the Bolshoi’s web site after a news conference at which he presented Vaziev. “The theater world knows his name not only in Russia but also abroad.”

Urin said Vaziev, 54, was a brilliant dancer in his time, before going on to lead the ballet troupe at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg for 13 years. Vaziev had been in charge of ballet at La Scala for the last seven years, he said, during which he had taken the troupe there “to a new level.”

He will start his new role in March next year when Filin, who had acid splashed in his face as he returned to his Moscow apartment in January 2013, will step down.

A court in December that year convicted Pavel Dmitrichenko, a Bolshoi soloist, of organizing the attack; he is currently serving a five-and-a-half year jail term.

Yuri Zarutsky, who admitted being the masked attacker who threw acid in Filin’s face, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, a term subsequently reduced to nine years.

Dmitrichenko, who made his name playing villains such as the murderous tsar in the ballet “Ivan the Terrible”, acknowledged that he had wanted Filin roughed up, but said he had not expected acid to be used.

Prominent former dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze told the court at the time that Filin had denied roles to both Dmitrichenko and his girlfriend, a ballerina, stoking resentment.

The case was one of the worst crises at the Bolshoi Theater since its foundation in 1776, and the Russian government dismissed the theater’s director in an effort to turn the page.

Filin eventually returned to work after months of treatment in Germany, but his sight remains impaired. His contract expires in March when the position of artistic director will cease to exist. He has previously said he has no hard feelings about the Bolshoi’s decision not to renew his contract.

(Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Newly appointed Director of the Bolshoi Ballet Makhar Vaziev attends a news conference at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia, October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Newly appointed Director of the Bolshoi Ballet Makhar Vaziev attends a news conference at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia, October 26, 2015.

Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

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