The tragic news made headlines around the globe, “Bolshoi director in acid attack”. It was horrifying; so shocking that it was hard to take in. It felt like the stuff of a Hollywood movie: the characters were too glamorous and important, the location too prestigious, the act itself too unbelievable. Isn't that what they do in movies to churn the stomach, like when Sam Neill chops off Holly Hunter's index finger in The Piano? Let's face it, if this had been done by an angry sales assistant to the store manager in Ipswich the story would have disappeared from the papers the day after. But this was the Bolshoi, Moscow, the ballet, with virile Russian dancers with long manes of hair as the story's protagonists. 5 months ago ex-principal dancer and Bolshoi ballet director Sergei Filin had acid thrown in his face, seemingly at the instigation of a fellow dancer who wanted his girlfriend to get more top roles.
A week ago, Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova gave the latest on Filin's condition:
He is now blind in his right eye. The problem is that it is acid and it continues to cause damage. He has had 18 operations and I understand that some of them were very difficult.
It is believed that he has 5% of his sight, which would mean returning to direct the company almost impossible.
Mikhail Baryshnikov commented recently,
I am not entitled to give my opinions because I don't know the details – from one side, it's real personal tragedy and from the other it's a damn soap opera, of course, which is like everything in Russia. It's a horrific reality and there is a non-stop ugly vaudeville.
At the press conference to announce the Bolshoi next season, Filin's absence could hardly be ignored, and was noted by the press, but there was no reference to him or the incident. Anatoly Iksanov, the General Manager of the Bolshoi Theatre, announced that he would be bringing back two of the theatre's most popular stars, Anna Netrebko and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, though in which operas he didn't say. RIA Novosti reported Netrebko, reacting to Nikolai Tsiskaridze's dismissal, as saying,
Everyone [at the Bolshoi] should to be fired, and everything reorganised from top to bottom: a fresh start. Maybe then things will change.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.