Delayed Bolshoi 'Nureyev' to premiere with director under arrest

Moscow (AFP) –


A Bolshoi Theatre ballet based on the life of Russian dance legend Rudolf Nureyev that was abruptly pulled in the summer will premiere Saturday, despite its director remaining under house arrest.

In a move unprecedented in the theatre's modern history, the Bolshoi cancelled in July the world premiere of "Nureyev" just three days before opening night, after director Kirill Serebrennikov was questioned in a high-profile criminal inquiry.

Management cited an under-rehearsed cast, but many suspected it had been pulled because of its frank treatment of Nureyev's homosexuality, among other issues.

Serebrennikov was placed under house arrest in August in a fraud case that has shocked the Moscow arts community.

In September, the Bolshoi said a premier was scheduled for the end of the year.

"Sadly our request to the investigative committee that Kirill Serebrennikov be allowed to take part in rehearsals was not answered," the Bolshoi's general director Vladimir Urin said at a news conference ahead of a final run-through on Friday.

"Everything (choreographer Yuri) Possokhov did was with the agreement of Kirill Serebrennikov and it's important to understand the situation in that way," he said of rehearsals that began in mid-November.

Urin and members of the cast insisted there had been no major changes to the production in the new rehearsals.

"All of us -- artists, creators and everyone involved in this show -- found it very difficult what happened (in July). We dreamed that this show would be performed and it will be," said principal dancer Vladislav Lantratov.

"I know Kirill has overseen the course of rehearsals and as far as I know he is still making comments, so he hasn't left the process," the dancer said.

Serebrennikov, who heads Moscow's innovative Gogol Centre theatre and whose work has previously been shown at the Bolshoi, has been accused of defrauding the state of over $1 million in arts funding.

He has denounced the charges as "absurd" and his supporters have said the case is part of a politically motivated crackdown on Russia's arts community ahead of presidential elections next year.

Dozens of prominent figures in Russia and international stars including Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellen have called for Serebrennikov's release without charge.

The ballet charts the life of the superstar dancer who defected from the Soviet Union and found new fame in the West before dying from an AIDS-related illness in 1993.

Although homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, prejudice is common and human rights activists allege widespread harassment and abuse.

In 2013, Russia passed a law banning "gay propaganda" that has been denounced by the European Court of Human Rights.