Russia's Bolshoi cancels premiere of Nureyev ballet

People stand outside the Bolshoi Theatre next to a plaque announcing the Nureyev ballet premiere in Moscow on July 9, 2017.
People stand outside the Bolshoi Theatre next to a plaque announcing the Nureyev ballet premiere in Moscow on July 9, 2017. PHOTO: AFP
The Bolshoi Theatre building is reflected in a plaque announcing the Nureyev ballet premiere in Moscow on July 9, 2017.
The Bolshoi Theatre building is reflected in a plaque announcing the Nureyev ballet premiere in Moscow on July 9, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) - Russia's Bolshoi theatre announced over the weekend the cancellation of tomorrow's world premiere of a ballet about Russian dance legend Rudolf Nureyev, to be staged by a top director who has been questioned in a high-profile criminal probe.

Nureyev was set to premiere at the Bolshoi in one of the most hotly anticipated stagings of the season. But in a shock move, the theatre said the show has been indefinitely postponed.

The ballet was set to be staged by Kirill Serebrennikov, a theatre and film director who recently was questioned and had his home searched in an investigation into alleged embezzlement of state funding for the arts.

One of Russia's most innovative and successful directors, he had previously staged a ballet based on Mikhail Lermontov's Hero Of Our Time at the Bolshoi.

The Bolshoi said the dress rehearsal scheduled for Nureyev today had been cancelled. The premiere tomorrow had been "postponed to a later date" which was not specified.

Serebrennikov was not answering his telephone over the weekend. The theatre's management is scheduled to give a press conference today on the reasons for the postponement.

The show is based on the life story of Nureyev, the superstar dancer who defected from the Soviet Union and found new fame in the West before dying from an Aids-related illness in 1993 at age 53.

In May, Serebrennikov's flat and the state-funded Gogol Centre theatre he heads in Moscow were raided by investigators probing alleged fraud over state funding for the arts. He was questioned as a witness while the accountant and a former director of a company he founded were arrested. His supporters called the raid a politically motivated attack on the independence of the arts.

Serebrennikov has fallen out of favour with Russia's cultural authorities in recent years and has denounced increasing censorship of the arts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2017, with the headline 'Bolshoi postpones ballet show'. Print Edition | Subscribe