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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Old Favorites Back at the Bolshoi

The Bolshoi Theater, buzzing with rumors of imminent upheaval, opened its doors this week to a new season with a familiar repertory -- and even with some of the best stars still away on tour, the old classics are still selling out.

There are no new productions in the first week's repertory which began on Thursday with Tchaikovsky's opera "The Queen of Spades," followed by the ballet "Giselle" on Friday starring top soloist Nadezhda Gracheva and Andrei Uvarov. The operas "The Tsar's Pride" and "Il Trovatore" are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

Two new ballet productions are promised for later in the season: "Don Quixote" choreographed by Yury Grigorovich and "Les Sylphides," a production originally created by Oleg Vinogradov of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, formerly the Kirov ballet.

But for the first week back it was the same old productions and same old faces. The Bolshoi has been awash with rumors of a major shake-up after a presidential decree last week laid down new rules for the company.

All Bolshoi employees are to work on a contract basis and will have to go through competitive selection. But by opening night the artists had yet to see a contract, let alone new appointments.

Alexander Kolesnikov, chief spokesman at the theater said Friday, "We are working on the contracts now, but they will not be introduced before next season."

Moreover, no changes in the positions of Vladimir Kokonin, the general director of the theater, chief choreographer Grigorovich and Alexander Lazarev, the orchestra director, were foreseen, Kolesnikov said.

"Kokonin, Grigorovich and Lazarev are all working and will continue working here," he said, referring to the three who in particular have been rumored for replacement.

Valery Zarubin, director of the Bolshoi Theater Museum said, "Kokonin said he will offer contracts to everyone who wants to work under the new system, and he included Grigorovich and Lazarev in that."

Twenty ballet dancers wrote an open letter last week to members of the State Duma and the Culture Ministry, expressing their support for Grigorovich and requesting he continue in his post. A typical ploy in Soviet times to confirm bosses in their power, this version appeared halfhearted.

The 20 signatories represent just one ballet troupe in a huge company. "There are 240 dancers at the Bolshoi but only 20 signed the letter," said Zarubin.

Much of the blame for falling standards, tired productions and low morale has been placed on Grigorovich. At the helm of the Bolshoi ballet for 30 years, he has been criticized for his rigid control and the lack of new productions.