Thursday, March 30

The Russian ballet hangs by a thread in Spain: Mérida rectifies and the Real thinks about it

The first Russian shows have begun to fall in Spain. The Mérida Festival communicated last Monday to the representative of the Saint Petersburg Ballet that he would no longer participate in the 2022 edition, as has learned. It has been revealed by Tatiana Solovieva, a Russian producer based in Spain and organizer of international tours for Russian performing arts companies. The management of the event refuses to talk about cancellation, since the programming is still open and there was no contract with the Ballet, but they do not deny the news either.

“I told the director of the Mérida Festival [Jesús Cimarro] that in the company there are practically no people with a Russian passport,” says the businesswoman. “They replied that the decision from above is that the Russians don’t act,” she says. Solovieva alleges that, although her dancers belong to the Russian ballet school, they have passports from “the whole planet”: Ukraine, Moldova, the Czech Republic, Italy and Spain. “I proposed changing the name and put mine, let it be the ballet Spartacusa production by Tatiana Solovieva, but they told me no,” he reveals. The Saint Petersburg Ballet had planned a European tour that, according to its representative, has been completely cancelled.

While the cascade of cancellations occurs to Russian companies and shows throughout Europe, the Teatro Real maintains the seats announced and for sale for the six performances of the Bolshoi ballet in May. Cancellations in large European institutions are piling up for the most important and prestigious state company in Russia. The Royal Opera House in London canceled a planned residency days ago from July 26 to August 14. They have also canceled the recorded projections of Swan Lake throughout the UK, Ireland and Greece. But these measures do not only affect Bolshoi dancers.

Milan’s Scala theater fired its conductor, Valery Gergiev, for refusing to condemn the invasion of Ukraine. Soprano Anna Netrebko suspended her concerts in Denmark due to alleged pressure to oppose the actions of Vladimir Putin. Both have been shown in the past to be close to the figure of the president and to certain policies. Solovieva also does not hide her pro-Russian opinion, but she says that the Mérida Festival has not asked her to position herself.

“What does art have to do with politics? My art is not going to be better or worse if I position myself,” says the producer. The first artist canceled in Spain was the Russian pianist Denis Matsuev at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, where he planned to perform on March 5. Matsuev was decorated by President Putin in 2018 and in 2014 he signed a public document in support of the Russian army’s invasion of Crimea.

Waiting at the Royal Theater

The most important Russian show that is scheduled to take place in Spain soon is that of the Bolshoi Ballet between May 21 and 27 at the Teatro Real in Madrid. There are six functions that will host an approximate capacity of 1,900 people each and for which there are practically no tickets left.

Real sources assure that they have not yet made an institutional decision on whether they will keep the Russian company in the May programming. They do not hide that it is a difficult decision, but they are studying the contractual relations. The Royal Theater has various bodies: an advisory council, an international council and a diplomatic council. To the latter, in charge of consolidating the image of the Teatro Real outside the borders, belongs to the Russian ambassador in Spain.

If it does not cancel, the Real would go in the opposite direction to that of governments such as the Irish and Greek and institutions such as the Royal Opera House. However, they assure that in the next few days they will send a statement with the corresponding decision. In case of cancellation, said note will contemplate the method of returning the tickets and perhaps a new show that replaces the Bolshoi on those dates.

A few days ago, the Royal Theater staged a Ukrainian flag in the last function of The sunset of the gods, which closed his tetralogy on Wagner. The stage director considered that the last scene was an allegory about how power struggles can lead to the self-destruction of humanity and one of the tenors proposed to the artistic direction of the theater to remove the Ukrainian flag in tribute to the victims. “But to all the victims, not just the Ukrainian ones,” says the Theater. Nor do they see that there is a relationship between that gesture and keeping the Bolshoi because the first was “an artistic decision, not an institutional one.”