Новые известия(en)
A death-defying act: what the artists of the Bolshoi Theater say after the death of Yevgeny Kulesh
2 November 2021, 14:50
A death-defying act: what the artists of the Bolshoi Theater say after the death of Yevgeny Kulesh
Photo: Сайт Большого театра
After the death of the actor during a performance on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater, the situation there remains tense. According to the artists, almost nothing has changed in safety, heavy decorations continue to threaten the lives of dozens of people on stage.

"Novye Izvestia" tried to lift the veil of secrecy over this tragedy in the main theater of the country.

Irina Mishina

Several artists of the Bolshoi Theater turned to the editorial office of "Novye Izvestia" with a request to make public the situation in the theater and to find out at what stage the investigation of the tragic death of the artist Yevgeny Kulesh during the opera "Sadko" on October 9 is at this stage. At the same time, none of the actors agreed to mention their last name. In their words, the disclosure of the theater's problems means an automatic dismissal. The order in the Bolshoi involuntarily reminded of a serf theater with serf actors.

“We were categorically forbidden to communicate with journalists. In parting with Yevgeny Kulesh, the deputy general director and the manager of the farm approached the artists and warned: "Keep quiet about everything." Journalists from some publications were ready to pay big money to get to Evgeny Kulesh's funeral, but the theater administration ordered not to let them in. The management of the theater leaves communication with the collective. We initiated, through the trade union, an appeal to the director with a request to revise the performances with complex decorations. Indeed, in “The Tale of Tsar Saltan”, if the scenery falls, the actors' mass grave will be on the stage”, - the Bolshoi Theater chorus girl told Novye Izvestia on the basis of anonymity.

Обращение труппы к администрации Большого театра на сегодня - без ответа.

Another artist of the Bolshoi said that with any complaints, representatives of the administration declare: "If something does not suit you, take the sheet and write a letter of resignation."

Immediately after the death of Yevgeny Kulesh, as you know, the artists of the Bolshoi Theater appealed to the management with a request to conduct a thorough public investigation. This document came to the disposal of "NI".

Комиссия по расследованию причин трагической гибели Евгений Кулеша о своей работе перед труппой так и не отчиталась.

We turned to the co-chairman of the trade union of the Bolshoi Theater artists, Kirill Filatov, with a request to explain what safety measures have been taken for the artists and what is the position of the theater management on this issue.

“The artists very much hope that the play “Sadko” will no longer be staged at the Bolshoi Theater - it will forever have a difficult emotional background. You can talk about the reasons as much as you like, but the fact that the actor was crushed to death suggests that the likelihood of death was not excluded. Within the collective, the tragedy caused a very violent reaction. The theater union has asked the management to oblige the production teams to respond to the artists' comments regarding their safety. The external effects of the production are not worth the life and health of the artists. There has been no official reaction yet. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Vladimir Urin was admitted to the hospital on the day this appeal was sent to him. In any case, the collective is still waiting for an answer. But steps have already been taken in the right direction. So, on the new stage of the Bolshoi in the play "Tosca" a huge swinging bell was removed from the stage", - said Kirill Filatov, co-chairman of the trade union organization of the Bolshoi Theater.

In a private conversation, the orchestra's musicians expressed sharper opinions: “The directors are playing too. In "Salome", for example, the whole floor moves, there are also dangerous moments in "Mazepa", "The Tale of Tsar Saltan". Recently, the theater was asked to set up a commission for accepting the scenery so that the artists were present. It would be logical if the employees had the right to vote when accepting the layouts of the performances. But the theatrical world today consists of strong-willed directors. Dmitry Chernyakov is one of them, and he will certainly insist on his own, ”says one of the musicians of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra.

The arrival of Vladimir Urin as general director of the Bolshoi Theater was marked by a tragic incident. On July 16, 2013, the violinist of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra Viktor Sedov fell into the orchestra pit. The accident happened on the New Stage of the theater. On July 17, the musician died as a result of his injuries. After that, many gloomily joked that this was a tragic sign for Vladimir Urin.

“Then, in 2013, the investigation into the causes of death of the violinist lasted 2 months. It is hardly worth waiting for a shorter time frame for the investigation of Kulesh's death. Let management establish how they will report on the progress of the investigation. Artists demand to publish a report on the progress of the investigation, thoughts are expressed about the establishment of insurance. Especially in cases where the performance involves something extraordinary. It is necessary to agree that the massive, heavy scenery cannot move with the actors on stage. The controlling moment should appear at the end of the day”, - said the co-chairman of the Bolshoi Theater trade union.

But it's not just the scenery. It looks like something more has collapsed at the Bolshoi Theater.

“There was an incident that happened on stage before the pandemic. During the performance, the artist tore his ligaments and was carried away from the stage. He shouted like that, but in the theater, imagine, there was no medical service”, - says Nikolay Tsiskaridze, the premier of the Bolshoi Ballet in 1992-2013, People's Artist of Russia. - And I am sure that now everything is going on about the same. I have said more than once that nothing has been done at the Bolshoi Theater for the comfortable work of the artists, because it is led by people who are far from art. Hell is happening behind the scenes. If even one person from the audience had performed the first act of The Nutcracker behind the scenes, he would simply not have believed his eyes. Ballet dancers' legs are crippled due to the differences in the stage and stairs, ventilation and windows are missing ... Every time the curtain goes up, the lives of hundreds of people are at risk: workers, artists, orchestras. And if such a complex production is controlled carelessly, tragedies are inevitable!”, - Nikolai Tsiskaridze believes.

According to the artists of the Bolshoi Theater, they are only entitled to voluntary medical insurance, but the contract, which stipulates the cases of its use, is not given to the artists, and safety briefings are not provided. “Since Vladimir Urin came to the position of CEO at the Bolshoi Theater in 2013, there has been only one full-fledged safety briefing when he was hired. Basically, before the speeches, there were only advices like to be extremely careful”, - Yevgeny Kulesh's colleagues told “Novye Izvestia”.

Unfortunately, the problems of the main theater are already becoming obvious to the audience. Carelessness in productions, insufficient number of rehearsals, poor quality direction - all this results in incidents.

“There was a case when in “Ivan the Terrible” by Prokofiev one dancer hit another in the face with his foot, and he fell, as a spectator I saw it. In the same ballet, a dancer dropped a ballerina. You sit at the play and see how people leave the stalls, where tickets are very expensive, from 10 thousand. And the management of the theater does not draw any conclusions”, - writer and music critic Yelena Ronina shared with "Novye Izvestia".

"Мы не собираемся замалчивать недостатки в работе театра", - обещает редакции "НИ" директор театра В.Г.Урин.

Список Попечительского совета Большого театра - это на самом деле перечень богатейших людей России.

We asked how all this is perceived by the artists themselves, the participants in the creative process.

“In“ The Tale of Tsar Saltan, ”the decorations are pompous and cost a lot of money. But the audience booed the performance nonetheless. For us, artists, it was terrible: you try, give your best, and such a result ... But the director is scandalous, he likes it. Scenography by and large interests no one, the directors have high patrons from the Board of Trustees of the Bolshoi, and there - all the country's oligarchs. It is doubtful that they know about art. But a lot of money is invested in the Bolshoi Theater, which turns into a corruption of the viewer's consciousness. Nobody pays attention to the artists. It so happens that on the day of your arrival on tour right from the plane to the stage", - one of the Bolshoi Theater chorus girls told Novye Izvesta.

Генеральные спонсоры Большого театра: Газпром, ГУМ, , банк Credit Suisse.

We turned to the director of the Bolshoi Theater, Vladimir Urin, with a request to clarify what organizational conclusions were drawn from what happened and what adjustments will be made to theatrical performances. "NI" received from Vladimir Georgievich a long, lengthy answer, in which he expressed the idea that there were no negative responses to the performances of the Bolshoi, except for the isolated opinions of "actors who parted with the theater in conflict." At the same time, Vladimir Urin delicately bypasses the fact of the ban on communication with journalists for employees and artists of the Bolshoi Theater. The director of the Bolshoi Theater also did not find "not a single review, not a single analytical material about the performances of the Bolshoi Theater" in NI, from which he concluded that the authors of NI were not familiar with the performances of the Bolshoi.

Although tickets for the performances of the Bolshoi Theater are not cheap, their cost in some cases is from 10 thousand rubles, we still attend these performances at our own expense. And we even write reviews. The opinion of the authors of "NI" about the performances of "Bolshoi" can be read, for example, in the publications "Brothel on the Stage, or How Modern Opera Performances End", as well as in the article "Death on the Stage: What Happened at the Bolshoi Theater on the Artist Yevgeny Kulesh"... It is strange that the director of the Bolshoi Theater did not find an article that collected more than 60 thousand views and entered the Yandex TOP. Such a number of views, by the way, suggests that the poor quality of the performances of the country's main theater is not indifferent to readers and viewers. But if the opinions of the authors of "Novye Izvestia" about the latest productions of the Bolshoi Theater are not enough for its leadership, for objectivity we are ready to take a look at the problem of the theatrical critic, writer Yelena Ronina, who, by the nature of her work, does not miss a single premiere at the Bolshoi.

“I was unpleasantly struck at the Bolshoi by Eugene Onegin staged by Eugene Arie. Some kind of cheap masquerade. In the first act, a green lawn made of artificial grass, dummies of geese and chickens. And all this prevented the actors from singing: this lawn was tilted, and the actors were very uncomfortable going down and up. There was no polonaise, no big waltz either. There was not everything that makes up the attribute of this work. But all right attributes, for me the main thing is that the music is heard, so that the composer's intention is not violated. Instead, modern directors sometimes offer some kind of circus performances. But opera is a complex mechanism, it must observe the unity of scenography and music, voices.

In the Bolshoi, unfortunately, they sometimes forget that the theater is a holiday. Many productions leave a feeling of incompleteness, some kind of ridiculous creativity. Sometimes there is a feeling that the director is far from music at all. In "Tosca", for example, everything seems to be gorgeous. But you sit and figure out what the bulky decorations mean instead of listening to magical music. And in "Boris Godunov" the crowd of people with checkered bags listens to a character symbolizing for some reason Boris Yeltsin. I heard about the chorus of laborers in robes in "Sadko" and about the hipster prince in "Mermaid", and did not go so as not to get upset. In general, in Berlin, for example, there is a "Komi Show", where performances are staged, reminiscent of some of the performances of the current Bolshoi", - concluded theater critic Yelena Ronina.

Was a witness of applause at the Bolshoi. For example, after The Queen of Spades staged by Rimas Tuminas, where Yusef Eyvazov sang Herman. I remember the full house for Giselle directed by Grigorovich, the fantastic Salome. But I remember how the audience of "Sadko" left the stalls, when he rushed around the stage in jeans and a sweater like a cheap mass entertainer. I remember how during the second act of "Mermaid", where the action was transferred to a fashionable get-together, our neighbors on the benoir bed, the musicians, got up from their good places and left right during the action. Time certainly moves forward, but we must not forget that the Bolshoi Theater bears the name of the Academic Theater. This means that he must meet the criteria of impeccable taste in everything, and not sacrifice music for dubious creativity.

The high demands on the Bolshoi are quite reasonable and logical, given that the theater's friends include the richest people in Russia - Chairman of the Board of Trustees, VTB President Andrei Kostin, members of the Board of Trustees Roman Abramovich, Viktor Vekselberg, Alexey Mordashov, Igor Shuvalov... Sponsors include Credit Suisse, Gazprom Media, GUM...

“There was a case when in“ Ivan the Terrible ”by Prokofiev one dancer hit another in the face with his foot, and he fell, as a spectator I saw it. In the same ballet, a dancer dropped a ballerina. You sit at the play and see how people leave the stalls, where tickets are very expensive, from 10 thousand. And the management of the theater does not draw any conclusions, ”writer and music critic Elena Ronina shared with“ NI ”.