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Bolshoi fires rebellious star Tsiskaridze

Ballerina Pavlenko speaks up on corps poverty

' The whole world knows the truth. For the last six months I have been the victim of a grotesque  spectacle and of lies'

11 JUN 13  

The French paper Le Figaro has copped an exclusive interview today with sacked Bolshoi star Nikolai Tsiskaridze in which he adamantly insists that the Filin attack was a “theatrical spectacle”, that Filin is not injured, and that the Bolshoi directorship should be fired.

He also hints that from now on he will speak to the press about “the infamies” of the Bolshoi directors, rather than “solely” about artistic matters.

The interview was either translated from Russian into French or not conducted in Tsiskaridze’s native tongue, so a certain latitude may be needed on some of the word-choices. I include the French words for the more contentious phrases.

He claims in the interview that his pupil, Angelina Vorontsova, the girlfriend of the dancer accused of attacking Filin, has decided to resign from the Bolshoi after this season. A story in Izvestia today quotes this news as being released by the accused dancer’s lawyer, Violetta Volkova.

However, the ballerina herself has contradicted Tsiskaridze’s reported assertion, saying she had not in fact resigned.

Here is a translation of Tsiskaridze’s Figaro interview, which gives a different picture from that in yesterday’s extensive but anonymously sourced Moskovsky Komsomolets feature.

At the end, I append summaries in translation of a positive view of Tsiskaridze given by Bolshoi soloist Elena Andrienko after news of the termination of his contract, and comments from Bolshoi Ballet senior coaches.

Tsiskaridze: 'The Bolshoi - it’s me'

Le Figaro, 11 June 2013, 11.35, by Marguerite Tiounine and Ariane Bavelier

An exclusive interview with the star dancer who has just received his dismissal from the Bolshoi in which he explains the motives which, according to him, caused the theatre to dispense with his services three months after the acid attack on Sergei Filin.

LE FIGARO: What are the reasons for your dismissal from the bolshoi?

TSISKARIDZE The whole world knows the truth. For the last six months I have been the victim of a grotesque theatrical spectacle [une mise-en-scène grotesque] and of lies. There can be no reason to justify how I have been discarded without consideration. For 10 years I have been not only a star dancer but also a teacher. I have been specially invited to the Paris Opera to teach there from time to time. The theatre directors think they can afford not to renew my contract, but in fact they have set out no evidence to put my competence in doubt. All this chaff [cafouillage] starts flying just as a new production of Prince Igor, which opened on 8 June, is being met with a a resounding failure. It's a real scandal in the Russian press. And someone thought it was possible to mask it by turning on me.

On what legal base in this decision by the administration founded?

There isn't a single legal basis for my dismissal. Besides, the document I got from them states none. And for good reason: not only am I a Bolshoi employee [fonctionnaire] but more than that I have only had two of the three reprimands which are supposed to precede the dismissal of a company member. And again, those two censures were quite unfounded, which is why I took them to court for libel. In what way are their accusations against me any less libellous than my remarks in the press?  It’s a serious attack on freedom of expression.

In November 2012, at the time of Sergei Filin's contract renewal, you sent a petition to Vladimir Putin seeking the job of artistic director…

I sent nothing. Some people with influence did it on my behalf, probably thinking that I merited the responsibility, considering my seniority and my reputation.

‘Dmitrichenko is no more guilty than I am’

What is happening to Pavel Dmitrichenko who’s in jail for having ordered the attack on Filin?

I have no more information about him. I know Pavel only slightly. He and I have never been in contact outside a professional context. I knew nothing of his relationship with my pupil, Angelina Vorontsova, before this affair exploded. Nevertheless, I know he is no more guilty than I am.

Does your departure signal the end of Vorontsova's career too?

Angelina is leaving the Bolshoi on her own account. She has also suffered badly from the tyranny inflected on her by the fake victim [le “pseudo-blessé”] [Sergei Filin].

You deny then that Filin has lost his sight, as his lawyer affirmed on Monday?

Absolutely. This whole thing is one giant piece of theatre. Besides, Filin hasn't been examined by Russian doctors. And the law here doesn't take account of diagnoses made abroad. He should come back to Moscow to be examined. Right through January on TV there were images of Sergei doing sport. He himself said in an interview, "I am in good shape [je suis très en forme], I've asked them to bring me dumb-bells." Anyone knows that after an eye operation all physical exercise is completely forbidden.

How do you see your career going?

I am not in the least concerned about that. I will find work very quickly. After all, the Bolshoi - that’s me. I hope sincerely that reason will eventually triumph, because this whole story is a disgrace [honte], as much for the institution as for my country. I find it intolerable that a handful of officials can be currently abusing [malmener] one of the most reputable establishments in the world.

Up till now, I have only been in contact with journalists to talk about my art, and not about this sort of infamy [infâmies]. It's imperative to replace the directorship. This is for the government, for the Culture Ministry, to put right.

‘Bolshoi can’t afford to lose pros like Kolya’

Soloist Elena Andrienko has spoken out in defence of Tsiskaridze, praising him as “the complete professional” and arguing that the Bolshoi Theatre cannot afford to lose senior stars like him who have much to pass on to younger performers.

Andrienko says she was with Tsiskaridze when the notice of his termination was brought to him. She adds that she has suffered for her support of Tsiskaridze, and rarely gets a call to rehearse roles.

She told Izvestia: “Kolya [diminutive of Nikolai] works for the educational rate of 6,000 rubles [£118], for which he spends all the time he has free from rehearsal with his students. Even on his own performance days, instead of resting he spends his time rehearsing his students. He sacrifices everything for the profession.”

She expects the Bolshoi dancers’ union to become involved in fighting his dismissal, she says.

The original article in Russian:

Vorontsova ‘has weight problem’

Meanwhile, senior members of the artistic ballet council set up to run the Bolshoi Ballet in Filin’s absence, have said that both Tsiskaridze’s main pupils, Angelina Vorontsova and Denis Rodkin, would be able to choose other coaches and would suffer no penalty.

Council chairman Boris Akimov (himself a former director of the Bolshoi Ballet) said dancers could always work with others without being disloyal to their main coach, and Rodkin had successfully rehearsed two leading Grigorovich roles in Ivan the Terrible and Spartacus with other teachers. “Coaches leave but life goes on,” he commented.

Marina Kondratieva, the senior ballerina coach, said that while Rodkin was doing well and being cast in major roles, Vorontsova had an ongoing problem with her weight that needed tackling, though she had recently slimmed down, and a female coach would be better for her.

The original article in Russian:

Nikolai Tsiskaridze [photo Izvestia/ Pavel Baranov]

Tsiskaridze: 'My dismissal is a disgrace'