The director of Moscow’s Bolshoi theatre has furiously denied rumours that the shock last-minute postponement of a ballet premiere was due to gay themes present in the production.
Nureyev, a ballet adaptation of the life of Rudolf Nureyev, the Soviet ballet superstar who defected to the west in 1961, was due to premiere on the Bolshoi’s stage on Tuesday, and was one of the most eagerly anticipated global premieres of the year.
On Monday, the Bolshoi’s general director, Vladimir Urin, held a briefing in an ornate hall at the theatre and insisted that the decision to postpone the premiere until May next year had been taken for artistic reasons only.
“There will be reputational damage from cancelling, but for us the most important thing is the quality of the production,” said Urin.
The ballet deals with Nureyev’s homosexuality and is said to feature naked portraits of the dancer. Urin said he had been aware from the start that the theme would prove controversial in Russia, but insisted this was not the reason for the sudden decision.
He did, however, appear to allude to the homosexual theme, saying Nureyev was a “complicated figure” and the ballet contained “themes that could provoke a certain distaste”.
Urin said he took the decision to postpone the show having seen a dress rehearsal on Friday and deciding that it would not be artistically ready in time. He said the ballet would be shown in May and no artistic changes would be made.
Many questioners appeared incredulous about the official explanation, leading Urin to snap angrily that people were free to disbelieve him should they wish.
The ballet’s outspoken director, Kirill Serebrennikov, has been questioned by security agencies in recent weeks over a potential embezzlement case that many believe is politically motivated.
Neither Serebrennikov nor choreographer Yuri Possokhov have commented on the theatre’s decision. Urin said they had been invited to speak at Monday’s briefing but declined to attend.