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© Ismene Brown 1992-2019


Acid trio guilty, says judge

     Urin puts home talent first at Bolshoi

Shvydkoi says Iksanov’s fault was being too kind

1 JAN 14    Two hopeful bits of news have ended the Bolshoi Theatre’s most ghastly year, the promised spending of a £3.3million windfall and the start of formal discussions on a labour contract to resolve some of the bitter disputes within the theatre.

General director Vladimir Urin has told Izvestia that during 2014 he will be spending the £3.3m trustee reserves left by his predecessor Anatoly Iksanov. It has been agreed by the theatre’s new board of trustees - which now includes two government ministers - to clean out all the unspent trustee contributions that have built up over the past 10 years on schemes including orchestral instruments, the Bolshoi youth opera and a monument to the ballerina Marina Semyonova, who died aged 101 in 2010.

While the sum is little more than a 20th of the Bolshoi budget, it may be seen as symbolically significant as the Board of trustees has just been joined by the same two government ministers who fired Iksanov last July.

End of February

Of more long-term value should be the promised labour contract that Bolshoi theatre employees have elected a 20-member committee to work on.

The notoriously divisive issue of how to allocate £7m-worth of annual "presidential grants" to dancers and singers will be high up the agenda. Many claimed that obscurities around this fuelled the ghastly enmities within the theatre, and were relevant to the acid attack on the ballet director Sergei Filin. Union activists, who backed Filin’s convicted attacker Pavel Dmitrichenko, argue that performers themselves should take part in allocating the grants, not only the management.

It has been agreed that the working committee will have 10 administrative members and five each from the performing and technical staff. The new contract is said to be likely to incorporate both former Bolshoi practices and those that Urin installed in his previous theatre, the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre, and is expected to be signed by the end of February.

Izvestia’s report below on the trust fund windfall states that the 10 businessmen on the Bolshoi board of trustees pay around £200,000 each for the privilege. Last year Roman Abramovich, the immensely rich Chelsea FC owner, joined the Bolshoi board.

For information, the Bolshoi Theatre’s total budget of some £52million (3billion rubles in 2013) is well under half the £112m annual spend of the Royal Opera House [2012 figure], and under a third of the €200m [£166m] budget of the Paris Opera. The convoluted and hugely corrupted renovation of the historic building is believed by some to have cost up to twice as much as the officially released figure of 21billion rubles [£390million], though due to related criminal suits and legal disputes the final sum may never been known.

£3.3m trustees reserves to be spent

Izvestia, December 26, 2013, 14:19 by Yaroslav Timofeev

In the coming year, the Bolshoi Theatre’s board of trustees will be spending an unprecedented sum on the support of their beloved theatre - 282.6 million rubles [£5.2million]. Izvestia has been told that the majority of these funds have been lying in the Bolshoi Theatre Foundation accounts; during Anatoly Iksanov’s period as general director a portion of the contributions regularly made by trustees had not been spent.

“A large reserve remains of the funds raised since the time the board of trustees was established,” Vladimir Urin, general director, told Izvestia. “I have proposed a programme for the year on which we will spend practically all this money. Both the Board of Trustees and its executive supported me on this.”

Urin’s programme includes the costs of purchasing instruments for the orchestra, a development of the youth opera programme, the creation of a memorial to the ballerina Marina Semyonova and other projects. In the official announcement it also mentions “social programmes to support employees”, though the Bolshoi press office has denied that trust fund money will be spent on financial enhancements for company staff.

“The only way that the council supports theatre employees is the funds that the trustees award annually as prizes at the company assembly (12 bonuses of 200,000 rubles [£3,600]),” said press secretary Katerina Novikova. Last September, at Urin’s suggestion, an additional 200,000-rubles prize was awarded to his predecessor Anatoly Iksanov with the wording. "For many years of fruitful work as general director of the Bolshoi Theatre."

Trustee piggy-bank

Given that the trustees’ total contributions in 2013 amounted to slightly over 100million rubles [£1.8million], while the next year's trustee spending budget will be 282.6million [£5.2million], that means the “Iksanov” reserves must add up to around 180million [£3.3million].

Katerina Novikova told Izvestia that “all monies are lodged in the bank in accordance with the law."

The management has not yet decided how it will support the extra financing of special projects after 2014, when the theatre’s piggy-bank runs out.

“Either we will continue to increase the members of the trustee council - and we’re working on that - or the level of contributions will be increased. If there is no increase, it will mean we will be constrained by the money that we have,” Vladimir Urin forecast.

The Bolshoi Theatre board of trustees was established in 2001 with the participation of the then general director Anatoly Iksanov, the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture and the Moscow civic government. Up until February 2006 it was chaired on an equal basis by [Moscow mayor] Yuri Luzhkov and [then Culture Minister] Mikhail Shvydkoi. After a conflict arose between them and the exit of Mr Luzhkov, the council leadership passed to [deputy prime minister] Aleksandr Zhukov, wth Mr Shvydkoi as his deputy.

The council presently consists of 17 people - representatives of major corporations, individuals, federal officials, as well as the general director of the Bolshoi Theatre. In the 2012-13 season the top table of Bolshoi wellwishers was joined by the businessmen [Chelsea FC owner] Roman Abramovich and [hotel developer] Alexander Klyachin, and this season by two state officials [deputy prime minister for social affairs] Olga Golodets and [Culture Minister] Vladimir Medinsky.

€250,000 entry fee

The annual contribution to the non-profit Bolshoi Theatre Foundation is €250,000 [£207,000]. This requirement does not apply to the six federal officials and general director Urin, but the 10 business members have to pay in €2.5 million [£2million].

The former general director Iksanov announced at the start of the year that the consolidated yearly budget for the Bolshoi Theatre amounts to more than 3billion rubles [£55million], including funds from the federal budget, ticket income and other sources.

Hopeful end to Bolshoi’s horror year

"The Bolshoi Theatre’s budget of some £52m is well under half the £112m annual spend of the Royal Opera House and under a third of the Paris Opera's £166m"

Convicted dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko (© Rushan Umyarov/Izvestia)