Russian doctors say the Bolshoi ballet’s artistic director may lose his eyesight following an acid attack outside his Moscow home.
Sergei Filin was challenged by a masked assailant late on Thursday night and suffered third-degree burns.
The head of the Bolshoi Ballet said the 42-year-old had previously reported his car tyres being slashed and his email account hacked.
He was being transported to a hospital in Belgium for specialist eye treatment.
“We know that something absolutely beyond comprehension has happened, something horrible,” said Anastasia Meskova, a Bolshoi theatre soloist.
“It’s hard to believe that such thing could happen in the art world. We’re sort of going back to 90s.”
Commentators said the attack might be linked to power struggles within the ballet company.
Bolshoi spokeswoman Yekaterina Novikova said: “The reputation of our country is at risk, so we hope the authorities will investigate the case and it will be solved, because it’s a question of the global reputation of our country.”
A former ballet start himself, Filin joined the troupe in 1988 and was named its artistic leader in March 2011 after a fierce competition.
He is said to be “uncompromising” in his management style and the theatre’s director initially claimed his casting decisions may have led to the attack before backtracking from that comment.