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12 OCTOBER 16
The third of the Bolshoi's golden trio of male stars, Andrei Uvarov, has been appointed to head the Stanislavsky Ballet, in the footsteps of the ex-Kirov star Igor Zelensky - who has failed in his ambitious attempt to run three ballet companies at once, in Novosibirsk, Moscow and Munich.
According to Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Zelensky's five-year reign at the Stanislavsky, Moscow's second-ranking ballet company, was ended by the incoming new theatre chief, who demanded a fulltime ballet chief rather than one splitting his time between Moscow, the Novosibirsk Ballet in Siberia, where the tall blond Georgian recently moved from artistic director to artistic advisor, and Bavarian State Ballet in Germany, where he has just been appointed artistic director.
Zelensky's highlights at the Stanislavsky have included his headline-making mentoring of the Royal Ballet runaway Sergei Polunin and his acquisition of some MacMillan drama ballets, Manon and Mayerling, deploying his contacts and dramatic instincts well known to London audiences from his time as Darcey Bussell's impressive partner at Covent Garden in the 1990s.
Uvarov is described here as having lost out in the "domino effect" seen in the top jobs in Russian ballet in recent years, in which both his more ambitious Bolshoi peers Sergei Filin and Nikolai Tsiskaridze gained ultimate prizes (if, in Filin's case, paying an appalling price for it).
It appears the princely, well-mannered Uvarov may not, yet, be secure in his position, which is qualified with the adjective "acting". Rumours have it that two other names very familiar to London audiences may yet be in the running for a more permanent standing as the Stanislavsky's artistic director: former Royal Ballet principal Ivan Putrov, and former Royal Ballet coach (now Mikhailovsky Ballet balletmaster) Misha Messerer.
Here's my translation.
From stage to armchair
A change of ballet leadership in Moscow’s second opera house has been awaited for some time. The domino effect started in 2011 when Sergei Filin quit the post of artistic director of the ballet company at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre (or Moscow Academic Musical Theatre/MAMT), returning to the Bolshoi Theatre, and serving there for no great time. Igor Zelensky took his place, a charismatic leader with a tricky reputation.
A People’s Artist of Russia and an outstanding dancer with Nordic looks and a sultry Tbilisi accent (he graduated from the Tbilisi Choreographic School), Zelensky was refined at the celebrated Vaganova school in Leningrad and at the Mariinsky Ballet from 1988 on. He also danced on his own account from La Scala to San Francisco, was a guest at the Bolshoi Ballet, Berlin Opera and Covent Garden Royal Ballet, and a principal with the New York City Ballet. His haughty bearing and administrative skills brought him an invitation from the Novosibirsk Theatre’s then director Boris Mezdrich.
Soon after Zelensky became chief of the ballet at MAMT (Stanislavsky), then a year later it came out that from September 2016 he would be directing the Bavarian State Opera Ballet. Hence jokes about Igor’s balletic empire, stretching from Novosibirsk to Munich, with a staging post in Moscow.
Since its founding, the Stanislavsky has carefully guarded its status as a theatre of dancing actors. For five years under Zelensky, some things went well: superstar Sergei Polunin came to the company, a ballet by the English classicist Kenneth MacMillan that fitted the theatre’s ethic was brought in. There were also bad things: some promising artists left the company for various reasons, around 3 dozen people.
For all his obvious magnetism and dramatic past, allowing artists to see him as one of their own, Zelensky the director is not in the habit of finding half-tones in discussions with his employees - though I am not able to say what his style is in Bavaria. When the time came for him to combine his positions in the Stanislavsky and Bavarian State Opera, there were new circumstances in Moscow: this summer the Stanislavsky acquired a new director, the former deputy director of the Bolshoi Theatre Anton Getman.
An experience theatre manager, Getman began asking uncomfortable questions about the ballet leadership - relating to actual presence in the workplace. In sum, an accommodation was found: Igor Zelensky leaves his post, but will remain for the time being an advisor to the director on ballet company issues.
That key phrase, “for the time being”, accompanies his successor in the position of artistic director of the Stanislavsky ballet, Andrei Uvarov. You remember the “domino effect” - Uvarov left the Bolshoi for the Stanislavsky Theatre in 2011. Officially, as a fully paid-up ballet pensioner he moved from being a principal dancer to the position of teacher-coach.
Unofficially, the ballet world was whispering that something was amiss, that artists of his level usually stay at their home theatre. Uvarov is, by age and gifts, part of the troika with Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Sergei Filin, though Andrei Uvarov was rather in the shadow of his brighter colleagues. But to those who understand such things, Uvarov was more than simply an exemplary graduate of the Moscow school, the assiduous student of Boris Akimov, Galina Ulanova and Nikolai Fadeechev, golden laureate of ballet competitions and winner of the Benois de la Danse prize. He was the finest prince of his generation, indeed, of princely gifts, outstanding technical skill and a rare sense of tact. All the most capricious prima ballerinas of the Bolshoi felt secure with Uvarov as their partner - he never dropped them, and never obtruded his own talents to the detriment of the partnership. Uvarov is not Sturm und drang, but style and quality.
In the role of teacher-coach at the Stanislavsky, Uvarov was the hero of the hour on this past summer tour in Taiwan. Normal working incidents such as forced casting changes can become catastrophic when away from home base, and the supervision of performance quality is the objective of years of memories and theatre stories. Uvarov handled it all brilliantly, in his own style, without fanfare. As a result, his appointment to the newly vacated chair seems well deserved and logical.
It is another question that he has been appointed with the qualification “acting”, and there are various possibilities here. For one, the new boss of the Bolshoi Ballet Makhar Vaziev was for 13 years the “acting” artistic director of the Mariinsky Ballet, and despite this took the company to the forefront of the world.
But in the theatre corridors discussions go on about other possible candidates. Ivan Putrov, Kiev-born international artist with an enviable repertoire, who spent most of his career at the Covent Garden Royal Ballet. Or Mikhail Messerer, scion of the most famous of Russian ballet families, the Messerer-Plisetskys, a highly experienced balletmaster and noted coach with international experience.
Thus it is that the situation in the “theatre of dancing actors” has changed, but still may change again, in any direction.
'Uvarov, by age and gifts, is part of the troika with Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Sergei Filin, though he was in the shadow of his brighter colleagues'