If you're much at all into ballet, you might know about the horrifying story of Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet who was the victim of hit-style attack of sulfuric acid thrown in his face last January that has caused him to have at least 23 operations on his eyes since then, per this article from The Guardian. This crime went to trial, and verdicts were handed down this past Tuesday against a Bolshoi dancer who wanted the attack to be done, Pavel Dmitrichenko, and the hitman who actually perpetrated the attack, Yuri Zarutsky.
This is a story with lots of losers involved, as at least one Western commentator has noted. Not least, the reputation of the Bolshoi ballet has obviously come under tremendous scrutiny and taken a massive takedown as a result of this trial. Back in the days of the bad old USSR, the Bolshoi was the by-word for Russian ballet, among Western audiences. Not so much now. In addition, I'm also wondering if the resulting mess caused a key member of another part of the Bolshoi theater, the opera side, to leave, although I have no proof of this, of course (typical loser, that 3CM). More below the flip.....
First, the Western commentator in question is the British journalist Ismene Brown, who has covered the trial and written a number of commentaries on the whole sorry story. Her most recent commentary on the UK culture blog The Arts Desk is here this past Wednesday, where she sums up the verdict:
"A dancer had commissioned a criminal with a murder conviction to seriously hurt his boss, the artistic director of the great Bolshoi Ballet, Russia’s most glamorous, skilled and commercially desirable cultural export, and the boss was now scarred and near-blind.Brown has obviously covered the story in exhaustive/ing detail, so you can simply read her commentary to get a summary of the story. In fact, you may have to read it several times, because of all the twists and turns in the story, not to mention the fact that her prose does get a little clotted at times. But if you want to get a grip on the story, assuming that you have the stomach for all the sleaziness and the pain, it's worth the effort. One of the roots of the soap opera was evidently Filin's refusal to favor Dmitrichenko's ballerina girlfriend with plum roles within the company. Pretty sick that such anger on Dmitrichenko's part led down such an awful path.
Yesterday that dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, was convicted of GBH [grievous bodily harm] and locked up for six years in a high-security jail, the sort of place where his obvious naivety and undisciplined temper will not serve him well. His calculating hitman, Yuri Zarutsky, who chose to use sulphuric acid for the attack, was sentenced to 10 years in a maximum-security hard-labour colony, due - as the judge said - to his ready recidivism to violent behaviour. Zarutsky’s driver, Andrei Lipatov, the little guy who got swept up into the big guys' scheme, was jailed for four years, also in high-security conditions, which seems unnecessarily harsh.
The one with the even longer sentence, with even harder labour ahead, is the victim, Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi Ballet artistic director, who by legal definition of GBH is now a long way below capable of doing his demanding job, and thereby, without surgical miracles, is doomed before long."
In many ways, per Brown, the icky aspects of this story show Russia at its worst, if that's still possible after the heinous anti-gay legislation of this past year. She elaborates as follows:
"[The trial] exposed a quite staggering capacity for cynicism in the general Russian public - a deep disinclination to believe that artists who entertain them are any different from gangsters, and an ingrained mistrust of police and justice.....Brown really lets loose on the Russian media:
How low could people sink? Dancers leapt to the trial to fire mud and slander at others. Lawyers fashioned tortuous lines of defence involving conspiracies between nations. Police apparently got away with whatever they liked, thanks to a judge's compliance."
"Worst, speaking as a journalist, I found the behaviour of most of the Russian press reprehensible. I may be accused of being naive to say so, in that country's context, but the press is the one profession that exists to tell things as they are, and therefore speak to the public about the systems they live within and help them maintain the power to judge and trust their authorities. But in Russia there would appear still to be no systemic understanding of the need for honest, objective factual law reporting. Papers and TV channels revealed themselves repeatedly as vessels for one or the other side, cherrypicking bits of the case, looking for the parts that fed their prejudice - not seeing the press's greater need to relate to the public how justice was being done."Brown had a commentary on The Arts Desk back in March, where she noted that Dmitrichenko's vendetta against Filin also took these forms:
".....the falsification of a Facebook page, the hacking of emails, silent phone calls to his home and slashing of car tyres..."
Per Brown, it's clear how mean-spirited Dmitrichenko is from her summary of his appearance in court:
"He had nothing to apologise for, he said, even though it's emerging that at the very least Filin, a 42-year-old father of three, will never see normally again and his future employment must be in doubt.Sound like a dumb ex-Governor of Alaska a few years back, running ads that literally targeted Gabrielle Giffords? And we know how that sadly all turned out. Plus, everyone here knows what she got away with more recently, running free as a bird. No such luck for Dmitrichenko, where, even if the judicial system and the police are jokes when it comes to fairness and justice, setencing Dmitrichenko and Zarutsky to prison was definitely the right thing to do here.
Dmitrichenko insisted it wasn't his fault. He didn't mean for acid to be chucked at Filin - that was a step more than he'd paid ￡1,000 for. He just wanted him beaten up. Things can get out of hand when you pay a Moscow hood, obviously."
At the end of her more recent commentary, Brown tries to end on a glimmer of hope, regarding the new chief executive at the Bolshoi:
"The new Bolshoi Theatre chief executive, [Alexander] Iksanov’s successor Vladimir Urin, has spent the past three months consulting on a groundbreaking union agreement, which could be in operation by the New Year. Under it, perhaps, the taint of favouritism and exploitation will be banished from an unfair working environment. Under it, perhaps, dancers will mete out respect to their leaders, and leaders will win their trust. Under it, perhaps, good artistic decisions can be calmly taken. Under it, perhaps, morale and morality will go hand in hand, creating an environment in which the Bolshoi Ballet acid trial would never have happened."However, in a separate matter which still involves the Bolshoi, at least one person at another wing of the Bolshoi theater chose not to stay on with the company as of this week. That person is the conductor Vassily Sinaisky, who began as chief conductor of the Bolshoi in 2010, but quit this week, effective immediately. One Russian-language report is here, for those who want to test their Cyrillic skills. Trying out Google Translator, this interview has a claim from Sinaisky that he found working with Vladimir Urin, the new executive, "boring and unbearable" (неинтересно и невыносимо). There's a slightly different version of Sinaisky's reason for leaving in this Voice of Russia article, which notes:
'According to the conductor, he started his work in Bolshoi with another general director of the theatre, Anatoly Iksanov: "We did our job hand in hand, and I was absolutely happy."From one passage in the Russian-language article, however, Sinaisky doesn't lack for guest-conducting engagements. Again, reworking a passage from the article through Google Translator:
"Now, the new general manager - Mr. Urin - is a completely different person. And of course, his four months have shown me that we have very different opinions about many musical things. He could organize the process, I hope so."
"But he wasn’t understandable for me in his actions concerning music, our future, repertoire and so on. I felt a gap between us more and more and I didn’t want there to be a real conflict. So, I decided to leave the theatre," Mr. Sinaisky explained.'
'"But my creative life only quickened. I'm finally free," he said. Talking about future plans, Sinaisky said that he regularly receives concert offers, has contracts, and he is already trying to limit his contracts to the best orchestras that he is interested in."
So his concert diary (not to mention bank balance) won't be hurting. I've seen him as a guest conductor here, and he's good, if with a quirky walk on stage, if nothing else. Plus, his relationships with other orchestras include 15 years as principal guest conductor of the BBC Philharmonic. I believe that he lives in Holland, when not on the road as a guest conductor, and the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague is currently lacking a chief conductor. Not sure if Sinaisky has ever conducted them, but......
No, not a happy story here about the Bolshoi. It makes the Tea Party seem sane, which tells you how bad it is (and the Tea Party is awful). Makes for a good reason not to work in ballet in Russia. With that, time for the usual SNLC protocol, namely your loser stories of the week, which hopefully are not as extreme as this story.....