Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today (Hardcover)
Ona freezing night inJanuary2013, a hooded assailant hurled acid in the face of the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet. The crime, organized by a lead soloist, draggedone of Russia's most illustrious institutionsinto scandal. The Bolshoi Theater hadbeen acrown jewel during thereign of the tsars andan emblem of Soviet power throughout thetwentiethcentury. Under Putin in the twenty-first century, ithas been called on to preservea priceless artistic legacy and mirror Russia's neo-imperial ambitions.The attack and its torrid aftermath underscored the importance of the Bolshoi to the art of ballet, to Russia, and to the world.
The acid attack resonated far beyond the world of ballet, both into Russia's political infrastructure and, as renowned musicologist Simon Morrison shows in his tour-de-force account, the very core of the Bolshoi's unparalleled history. With exclusive access tostatearchivesand private sources, Morrisonsweeps us through the history ofthe storied ballet, describing the careers of those onstage as well as off, tracing the political ties that bind the institution tothevarying Russian regimes, and detailing the birth of some of the best-loved ballets in therepertoire.
Fromitsdisreputable beginnings in 1776 at the hand ofaFaustian charlatan, the Bolshoi became a point of pride for thetsarist empireafterthe defeat of Napoleon in 1812. After the revolution, Moscow was transformed from a merchant town to a global capital, its theater becoming a key site of power. Meetings of the Communist Party were hosted at the Bolshoi, and the Soviet Union was signedinto existence on its stage.During the Soviet years, artists struggled with corrosive censorship, whileballet joined chesstournamentsandspace exploration as points of national prideand Cold War contest.Recently, a $680 million restorationhas restoredthe Bolshoi to its former glory, even as prized talent has departed.
As Morrison reveals in lush and insightful prose, the theater has been bombed, rigged with explosives, and reinforced with cement. Its dancers have suffered unimaginable physical torment to climb the ranks, sometimes for so little money that they kept cows at home whose milk they could sell for food. But the Bolshoihas transcended its own fraught history, surviving250 yearsof artistic and political upheaval todefinenot only Russian culture but also ballet itself. In this sweeping, definitive account, Morrison demonstrates once and for all that, as Russia goes, so goes the Bolshoi Ballet.