Exit the Bolshoi boss: the latest chapter in the drama

Anatoly Iksanov, the general director of the Bolshoi Theatre has been replaced by the Russian government.

The Culture Minister, Vladimir Medinsky, announced Iksanov’s departure and his replacement by Vladimir Urin, general director of the Stanislavsky Musical Theatre.

The minister said in a news conference that Urin “will be able to unite the troupe and continue the development of the best theatre in the country and one of the best in the world.

“A difficult situation had developed around the theatre and the troupe, and everything pointed to the need for renewal at the theatre”.

Iksanov, who backed Alexei Ratmansky as artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet in 2004, was appointed general manger of the Bolshoi Theatre in 2000. He had more than a year of his contract to run. (Ratmansky left the company after four years).

Iksanov’s departure is yet another fallout from the acid attack last January on Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi Ballet’s artistic director.

Ismene Brown, the UK writer with the most depth of knowledge on the Bolshoi drama, has reported on the latest development.


I feel sorry for Mark Monahan, joint dance critic of the Telegraph in the UK, whose feature about the Bolshoi Ballet was published in the Telegraph yesterday, ahead of the company’s forthcoming tour to London and only a day before Iksanov’s departure was announced.

Monaghan, who went to Moscow to interview Bolshoi dancers and staff, wrote that “Iksanov, 61, is an engagingly droll and mischievous presence, a career administrator with the confidence that comes with knowing he is in overall charge of the largest (at 200-odd dancers) and most famous ballet company in the world, and employs a total staff of more than 3,000 at the Bolshoi Theatre (including both ballet and opera).

“Since taking the job 13 years ago, he has increased the theatre’s subsidy tenfold to about £75 million and drafted in an unprecedented number of modern or brand-new works from the West, from Christopher Wheeldon’s Elsinore and Mats Ek’s Apartment to Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room”.

It’s not safe to report anything at all about the company with confidence that things will not change very soon.

I know this from my own experience. I interviewed Filin in Moscow in January 2012 and concluded in an article published later that year that everything seemed relatively calm at the company after years of turmoil.

Here’s Iksanov’s background, as it appears on the Bolshoi’s website:

Mr. Iksanov has graduated from Theatre History Department (Division of Theatre Management) of Leningrad State Institute of Theatre, Music and Film in 1977 and began his professional career as House Manager of the Maly Drama Theatre in Leningrad.

In 1978 he was invited by Georgy Tovstonogov to join Maxim Gorky Bolshoi Drama Theatre (BDT), and in 1983 was appointed BDT General Manager. In 1994 he has established Bolshoi Drama Charitable Foundation and was appointed its Executive Director, and in 1996 has become BDT Managing Director.

Mr. Iksanov has served as Director General of the Culture TV Channel in 1998-2000, and was appointed Director General of the Bolshoi Theatre on September 1, 2000 by the Directive of the Prime Minister of Russian Federation.
He has studied theatre management in the West, and completed professional internship programs in the United States (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and Yale University), France and Switzerland.
Coauthor of two books, How To Solicit Money For The Arts (1995) and Bolshoi Drama Charitable Foundation: Theory and Practice of Success (1997), he was the first to introduce the term ‘fundraising’ in Russia.

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Anatoly Iksanov, photo Getty Images