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Arrest of Russian theatre director hampers ‘Nureyev’ premiere

Kirill Serebrennikov has a history of criticising Russian authorities and the Orthodox Church, and his supporters say he was framed in a fraud case as part of a government crackdown on artistic freedoms.

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Arrest of Russian theatre director hampers ‘Nureyev’ premiere

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The arrest of prominent Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov has complicated plans to stage the premiere of a ballet about the late dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who was openly gay and fled the Soviet Union.

The head of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre has said he hopes the ballet will be staged in the 2017/18 season – i.e. by next summer – and suggested it could be performed even in the absence of Serebrennikov.

“Whichever decision Serebrennikov makes, whether he allows us to show it without him, or he asks us to wait for the current situation to be resolved and to show the ballet later with him, it all depends on him,” Bolshoi Director General Vladimir Urin said on Tuesday (Sept 13).

The premiere was originally due on July 11 but was cancelled just two days before. Urin said at the time the performers were not ready and that it would instead be staged next May.

Serebrennikov was detained in August on charges of embezzling state funds and placed under house arrest until Oct. 19 pending trial.

The director has a history of criticising Russian authorities and the Orthodox Church, and his supporters say he was framed in the fraud case as part of a government crackdown on artistic freedoms.

President Vladimir Putin denied last week that censorship or political pressure was behind his detention.

Russia’s Investigative Committee has said it suspects Serebrennikov of embezzling close to 1 million euros in state funds earmarked for an art project. Serebrennikov denies the charges.

Serebrennikov made his name with satires mocking corruption and hardline conservatives in Russia. His productions range from drama and opera to movies.

Nureyev is viewed as one of the world’s most gifted male ballet dancers. His dramatic defection to the West in 1961 was a blow to Soviet prestige.

Nureyev later served as director of the Paris Opera Ballet and died of AIDs in 1993 aged 54.