Skip to main content

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.

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."

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.

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.....

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."

Brown really lets loose on the Russian media:
"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.

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."

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.

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."

"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.'

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:
'"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.....

Originally posted to chingchongchinaman on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 07:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Theatricals and Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  yup, yet another absentee posting (17+ / 0-)

    Back in a few to follow up with & mojo comments, if any.

    So, from here:  replied 1 week past the deadline for a holiday party for a group that I volunteer for, saying also "see you then next week".  Fortunately, the group was chill enough to say NP about the late, but with a nudge to remind 3CM that the party was actually the next day, not 1 week later.

    "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

    by chingchongchinaman on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 04:15:33 PM PST

  •  That sucks. (6+ / 0-)

    The prison sentences don't seem long enough, but things like that vary from country to country, I guess.  I remember being shocked at the end of Crime and Punishment that Raskolnikov got off so lightly.

  •  Hi, all! (6+ / 0-)

    I'd read about the acid attack in the NYT's arts section, but hadn't seen the verdict yet -- thanks for the update, 3CM.

    Did you see the NYT piece about the new Falstaff?

    Ambrogio Maestri, an Italian baritone whose imposing voice, height and heft have made him one of the leading Falstaffs of the day, is set to give his 200th performance as Sir John Falstaff — and his first in New York — when the curtain rises Friday night on the Metropolitan Opera’s first new production of Verdi’s “Falstaff” in nearly 50 years.
    “I have grown into Falstaff,” Mr. Maestri said during a recent interview over a hearty lunch near the opera house, referring not just to his girth but also to his growing appreciation of Falstaff’s melancholy, as he has grown older, adding depth to his portrayal of the old knight.

    The opera, which usually features singing in a tavern, is something of a natural for Mr. Maestri, who got his start singing at his family’s restaurant in Pavia, where he worked as a cook and a waiter when he was not singing. Encouraged by the praise of regulars who were also “loggionisti,” the opinionated opera buffs of La Scala in nearby Milan, Mr. Maestri began to pursue a professional singing career.

    He also cooks:

    Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

    by Youffraita on Sat Dec 07, 2013 at 09:59:25 PM PST

  •  horrible (6+ / 0-)

    i hadn't heard of the verdict but have somewhat disappeared online because of an emerging deadline. i am always late, it seems.

    regarding the bolshoi, you may have seen this latimes pieceabout a young american dancer whose career essentially disappeared after being at the bolshoi and perhaps sheds a little light on the bolshoi culture.

    But those dreams were dashed in a difficult and emotional year with the Bolshoi, during which Womack said she struggled to make herself visible. The ballerina said she eventually quit after she was advised that she would have to pay bribes to obtain leading roles with the elite company.

    "It was like breaking up with your first love," she said.

    Speaking in a mix of English and Russian, Womack claimed that a teacher suggested she get "a sponsor who could make gifts and presents on your behalf."

    "One person told me bluntly: 'Joy, the starting fee, even for an appearance in small variations, is $10,000 just to show that you are serious,'" she said.

    "I was told that one ballerina gave [someone in the company] a Mercedes-Benz only to get a part," she recalled.

    blech. however, i am finding that in the arts, so much is subjective that a lot depends on who you know, what you can offer, and having influential friends,  all of which helps immensely in getting ahead.  i guess this is true in life in general but the bolshoi attacks definitely cross the line.
    •  there's definitely a networking aspect, to put.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, Youffraita one way, with regard to making it in the USA.  But I can't imagine the worst pecadilloes in the USA being anywhere near as bad as this situation in Russia.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun Dec 08, 2013 at 10:47:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  NO, I agree with you, 3CM (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shari, chingchongchinaman

        Networking is fine, it's expected to a certain extent.

        But our artists don't pay bribes to their directors/maestri to secure roles. The level of corruption at that point is nauseating.

        (OTOH, exactly how DID Carrie Underwood get cast as Maria? The NYT reported that the ratings were through the roof, but the Arts section reviewed her performance as...well...she can sing but as an actor she might as well be a tree stump. Note to NBC: Next time you want to do one of these things, get a real Broadway star who also has name recognition from a TV stint. Leave the Reality Show winners out of it.)

        Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

        by Youffraita on Mon Dec 09, 2013 at 12:54:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  not a clue about Carrie U..... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          It's one of those things I heard about, but didn't watch.  Maybe she really, really, really wanted to do it.

          Going back to your point about artists, bribes and such, there's actually a lively (to put it one way) discussion on the blog of the worst "journalist" in classical music, namely Norman Lebrecht, about Christoph Eschenbach, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, digging up all sorts of innuendo about his past and artists he's worked with and brought to DC, or some might say 'inflicted' on DC.

          "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

          by chingchongchinaman on Mon Dec 09, 2013 at 10:59:04 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  A really tragic story! (4+ / 0-)

    Not much to say here except I have a bad cold and sore throat which is typical in MI when the weather changes back and forth.  I went to bed early again.

    It is 16 degrees this morning.  There is ice on the lake, but it is still thin.  

    I did get my Christmas cards ready to mail, but the loser part is my copier is broken so I had to tell them that the yearly grandbaby pictures would come next year.  I only send out about 40 to close friends and relatives.  

    My daughter-in-law will find me a new copier eventually.  

    Hubby is painting the new addition.  The kitchen part will be light green, the bathroom and laundry area will be blue, and the basement yellow.  My daughter has found a bunk bed with the bottom folding into a couch for the basement so two grandbabies can sleep down there.  

    Hubby will paint and then start putting the tile down in the bathroom this week and then everything can be hooked up in there.  He is making his own cupboards so that will take time, but progress is being made.

    Of course, the dog is upset that he can't be out in the room with hubby messing with the paint.  He looks at him out there in the new room and howls from time to time.  :)  

    Best wishes!!

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Sun Dec 08, 2013 at 06:48:39 AM PST

    •  yup, mega-cold here too (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, RiveroftheWest, Youffraita

      Winter has definitely arrived early.  Worked from home on Friday as a result.  Am almost tempted to do the same tomorrow, but we'll see.  I haven't started my Xmas cards yet, which I definitely need to do.  Good to know that house renovations are going OK>

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun Dec 08, 2013 at 10:48:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  We got our first snow today. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dotdash2u, chingchongchinaman

      Only about two inches, I think...then it stopped.

      Then it turned into freezing rain.

      One of my coworkers whose shift was ending as mine began made her fiance come back at midnight to give me a ride home.

      I will be eternally grateful for that, b/c the sidewalks were horrible: if it was snow, you could walk, but where it had been shoveled, we're talking ice sheets.

      I would have made it home all right, but am SO grateful for that ride. (The roads suck too, even the ones that were salted etc., but the sidewalks are truly treacherous.)

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Mon Dec 09, 2013 at 01:02:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I ended up today (well, yesterday by now).... (0+ / 0-)

        .....working from home again, after doing so on Friday.  I have to admit that 2 days in a row, it's losing its charm.  I need to be back in the office tomorrow anyway, so maybe it's just as well.

        "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

        by chingchongchinaman on Mon Dec 09, 2013 at 10:43:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good day with loser overlay. (3+ / 0-)

    I'd been wondering where my period was (idly; I've had my tubes tied). It showed up with much nasty chewing on my innards just before I was to go over to Mom's for euchre and birthday cake and presents.

    I went anyway, but it's hard to really enjoy yourself when your innards are committing cannibalistic acts as you eat your birthday cake. (Angel food, with strawberry coulis.)

    Hurting too bad to talk to boyfriend when I got home. Hurting too bad to do anything useful. Not so bad that I feel sleepy before time. Very frustrating.

    But it will all be better tomorrow, and no house elves are going to show up to do the laundry or deal with the remaining pots in the sink. It will all be there waiting for me.

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Sun Dec 08, 2013 at 07:21:18 PM PST

  •  Russian artistic politics are deeply complicated, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and I say this as someone who was, in part, educated at the Moscow State Tschaikovsky Conservatory. But this is really nasty. Thanks for bringing it to light here.

    •  I vaguely remember Tom Stoppard saying once.... (0+ / 0-)

      .....about a Russian poet (not sure which one), something to the effect of:

      "Isn't it wonderful?  We live in the only country in the world that shoots poets!"
      Of course, that refers to the status that art and artists can command in a repressive regime like Russia, Communist-era, Putin-era, or otherwise.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Mon Dec 09, 2013 at 10:42:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site