Bolshoi ballet chief returns to theatre after horrific acid attack

MOSCOW (AFP) - The artistic director of the famed Bolshoi ballet on Tuesday returned to the company's historic home in Moscow for the first time after undergoing multiple operations in Germany following a horrific acid attack in January.

Mr Sergei Filin greeted members of the ballet company in person as they attended the traditional gathering inside the Bolshoi Theatre building in central Moscow to mark the beginning of the new season. His skin showed no obvious effects of the brutal acid attack outside his home in Moscow after his months of treatment in Germany, with his boyish good looks that made him such a popular dancer a decade ago easily recognisable again. But he wore a thick pair of wrap-around sunglasses, a sign that he is still battling for his sight and will likely need more operations abroad before returning to his post full-time.

"I feel good, the treatment is continuing," he said.

"I am glad to see you," he told the artists, saying that their spectacular end to the 2012/2013 season, including a successful new production of the ballet Onegin and a sold-out London tour, had been the "biggest help and support".

A leading dancer at the theatre, Pavel Dmitrichenko, has been arrested in Moscow on suspicion of organising the attack, which left Mr Filin with severe facial burns and an almost complete loss of eyesight.

The attack exposed bitter infighting at the theatre and marked the start of a tumultuous year that reached its climax with the ousting of Mr Anatoly Iksanov as general director and his replacement by Mr Vladimir Urin of the rival Moscow Stanislavsky Theatre.

"There is no need to hide that this was not an easy season, maybe one of the most difficult in the history of the theatre," said Mr Urin.

The Bolshoi ballet company opens its new season on Sept 27 with a performance of Swan Lake starring its prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova and David Hallberg, the first American to join the company who is returning from injury.