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Bolshoi scraps performances by directors critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Renowned theater cancels ballet and opera after directors rap Moscow’s military campaign; gives no reason for cancellations

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Brazilian President Michel Temer, right, attend a concert of winners of the XIII International Ballet Competition in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Russia, June 20, 2017. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Brazilian President Michel Temer, right, attend a concert of winners of the XIII International Ballet Competition in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Russia, June 20, 2017. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW — Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre has announced it is canceling the performances directed by Kirill Serebrennikov and Timofey Kulyabin who have spoken out against Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.

Late Sunday, Russia’s top theater announced that instead of the three performances of “Nureev,” a ballet directed by Serebrennikov, the audiences this week will see a production of Aram Khachaturian’s ballet “Spartacus.”

The prestigious theater also said that instead of “Don Pasquale,” a comic opera by Gaetano Donizetti directed by Timofey Kulyabin, audiences this week will see a production of Gioachino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”

The Bolshoi did not give any reason for the cancellations and spokeswoman Katerina Novikova told AFP on Monday that she had no “official” comment.

The Bolshoi performed “Spartacus” in early April, saying that proceeds would be used to help the families of Russian troops who died in Ukraine.

Serebrennikov, 52, was allowed in March to leave Russia, where he had been found guilty in 2020 of embezzling funds at Moscow’s Gogol Centre theatre.

In this April 12, 2019 file photo, Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov walks to attend a court hearing in Moscow, Russia (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file)

His supporters say the conviction was revenge for his criticism of authoritarianism and homophobia under President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking to AFP in Berlin last month, Serebrennikov said he felt “just horror, sadness, shame, pain” about Russia’s military campaign in pro-Western Ukraine.

“Nureev” is based on the life of Russian dance legend Rudolf Nureyev, and its use of onstage nudity and profane language outraged Russian conservatives.

Kulyabin, 37, who is also believed to be now based in Europe, has spoken out against Putin’s decision to send troops to Ukraine.

Several dancers have in recent weeks quit the Bolshoi including prima ballerina Olga Smirnova.

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