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Troubles at the Russian jewel, the Bolshoi Theatre

April 2, 2011 |  6:00 am

BolsThe general director of the Bolshoi Theatre has confirmed that what’s seemed like a never-ending reconstruction of the Bolshoi’s historic building is finally coming to an end; he promised that a gala concert in October will cap a tough period in the life of this Russian symbol you can see on the crumpled face of a 100 ruble bill.

Anatoly Iksanov’s announcement last month, however, came  like a drink designed to take away the bitter aftertaste of the theater’s most recent scandal, in which several dozen pictures of explicit homosexual sex  were displayed on a short-lived website closely resembling the Bolshoi’s official one.

The impostor site contained the biography of the ballet company’s longtime manager and popular character dancer, Gennadi Yanin, who appeared in the pictures. The photographs and links to the website were sent to hundreds of people associated with ballet across the world. Before this, Yanin had reportedly been viewed as the likeliest person to lead the ballet company, perhaps as acting chief.

The Bolshoi’s previous artistic ballet chief, Yuri Burlaka, quit last month after his contract was not renewed.

Yanin has quit his post as manager but remains in the company as a dancer. “My spirits are not low, and I don’t need anybody’s sympathy,” Yanin said by phone. “I’d rather people would come and enjoy the Bolshoi’s productions.”

The troubles  exposed the uneasy atmosphere inside the theater, as if its reconstruction, which has taken away the main stage for a protracted period, a financial scandal associated with it and various managerial dust-ups have not been tumultuous enough. In 2009, the Russian Audit Chamber found the costs of the theater’s reconstruction — now estimated at more than $700 million — grossly exceeding the budget, and an investigation was launched. Earlier, the general architect in charge of the reconstruction quit, and half a dozen reconstruction chiefs have been fired.

For a Cultural Exhange column on the problems at the fabled company, click here.

-- Sergei L.  Loiko

Photo: Corps-de-ballet dancers take a rest in their dressing room during an intermission of the Flames of Paris production on the new stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Credit: Sergei L. Loiko/L.A. Times