Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet Cancels Premiere of Nureyev Play by Film Director Questioned in Fraud Probe

Kirill Serebrennikov - H 2013
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Kirill Serebrennikov - H 2013

The award-winning Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov's production of 'Nureyev' was due to open Tuesday.

An award-winning Russian film and theater director questioned in May as part of a $3.5 million fraud has learned his new ballet production due to open Tuesday at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater has been canceled.

Kirill Serebrennikov was given no explanation for the decision to pull Nureyev, a ballet about the famous Soviet-era Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev who defected to the West in 1961, and a dress rehearsal scheduled for Monday has also been called off.

Management of the world-famous theater, situated close to Moscow's Red Square, posted news on the cancelation on the Boshoi's website over the weekend.

At a Moscow press conference Monday the theater's director Vladimir Urin said said that dancers were not ready to perform the play, which would now open in May 2018. Urin said the corps de ballet had been on tour in Japan and had not had sufficent time to prepare, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

There was no immediate reaction from Serebrennikov, who was taken in for questioning in late May by investigators after a raid on the theatrical company he runs at Moscow's Gogol Center. They alleged that the 200 million ($3.5 million) of state art funding granted the theater between 2011 and 2014 had been used fraudulently. Two members of the theater company were arrested and Serebrennikov, though not among them, was detained for questioning.

Earlier Serebrennikov had earlier declined to comment on the reason for the cancelation of Nuryev. He told Russian newspaper Vedomosti that it was a matter for the Bolshoi Theater.

Serebrennikov is an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and the Gogol Theater has come under fire from conservative commentators for staging controversial plays that push the limits of public taste in Russia.

In 2015 prosecutors requestioned a probe into seven of his productions for possible breaches of pornography laws, and Russia's culture minister Vladimir Medinsky denounced his adaptations of classics.

Serebrennikov's last feature, The Student, won the Francois Chalais award at the Cannes Film Festival last year, where it was screening in Un Certain Regard.

* This story was updated Monday to report the Bolshoi Theater's explanation for canceling Tuesday's planned premiere of Nureyev.