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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ex-Director: Bolshoi in Shambles

The world-renowned Bolshoi Theater is falling apart due to a lack of funding, blatant mismanagement and officials' obsession with entertainment at the cost of serious music, its former artistic director said.

In a letter published Tuesday in the Izvestia daily, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, a leading conductor who quit as the Bolshoi's artistic director last week, said he could not run the theater when performers skipped rehearsals and ignored orders. Rozhdestvensky also blamed his departure after just one season on the Bolshoi's notorious financial and technical problems, as well as unfair attacks by the press.

Rehearsals for the world premiere of Rozhdestvensky's only new production, Sergei Prokofiev's opera "The Gambler," "revealed a catastrophic inability of the Bolshoi to meet such challenges," he wrote.

"The rehearsal plan … was ruined in all of its components. Sometimes it produced the impression of open sabotage," he said.

He told the paper that Culture Ministry officials were also trying to dump serious music for lighter entertainment programs.

"It is alarming, that drive to entertain at any cost, to stupefy, to conceal real music," he said.

On Wednesday, Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi responded to Rozhdestvensky's letter in Izvestia, saying the conductor himself was partially at fault for failing to effect the planned overhaul of the theater, especially in light of the broad powers he'd been given.

"You were invited to the Bolshoi Theater as Artistic Dictator — with all the necessary rights that would have allowed you to get involved in the process of healing this unique and yet desperately impaired organization," Shvydkoi wrote.

Shvydkoi said Rozhdestvensky chose not to take full responsibility and turned out to be a "guest who only by a twist of circumstance got the rights of the landlord."

The minister also wrote that he could not put all the blame for the abortive attempt to resurrect the Bolshoi on Rozhdestvensky, since the "mistake" of choosing Rozhdestvensky as artistic director was his own.

"I hoped the grandiose work of reforming the theater would make you involved and would overrun the natural egoism of a lonely genius. But I was wrong," Shvydkoi wrote.

He also mocked and dismissed as groundless Rozhdestvensky's claims that his work suffered from organized press attacks.

"I can imagine you appealing to the U.S. State Department or to the New York City Council of the Arts demanding an administrative push in response to a bad review in The New York Times or Village Voice," Shvydkoi wrote.

Shvydkoi, however, wrote in the letter that the theater would survive this latest round of turmoil and eventually reclaim its glory. He compared the Bolshoi to the country as a whole, saying that the economic problems Russia has been facing over the past 10 years have been mirrored by its main theater.

There were no indications in Shvydkoi's letter on who might become the next artistic director. But ministry officials have said that they would not rush to appoint Rozhdestvensky's replacement.

Rozhdestvensky came to the Bolshoi last August, in a move by the Culture Ministry to give the legendary but crumbling opera and ballet theater a major revamp aimed at restoring its worldwide prestige. (Reuters, MT)