First production sparks scandal at reopened Bolshoi

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Russia's Bolshoi Theatre has provoked a scandal with the first production in its reopened historic home which was booed and whistled by part of the opening night audience.

The new production of Glinka's opera Ruslan and Lyudmila -- a love story based on a poem by Pushkin -- is the first in the restored Bolshoi Theatre which reopened with a gala last week after an agonising six-year closure.

Russian director Dmitry Chernyakov makes no attempt to please traditionalists in his version of what some see as Russia's national opera which received its premiere on Wednesday night.

The opera opens in period dress and decor with a display of almost dazzlingly kitsch colours in a bright blue hall. It then transfers to modern times with elements including a Thai massage and a tattooed athlete.

At the curtain several members of the audience yelled "shame!" and booed and whistled, an unusual outburst in Russia which is unaccustomed to Italian-style displays of audience dissatisfaction with performances.

Chernyakov said ahead of the performance that it was not his intention to create a scandal but that he was prepared for attacks from more conservative elements in the public.

"The subject is completely modern and the emotions will be as in real life," he said.

However first night critics largely expressed admiration for the performance, in particular the musical direction under the baton of star Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski who until now has largely worked abroad.

"It was a risky bet for the Bolshoi but a great success," said the critic of the Kommersant daily Sergei Khodnev. "The Bolshoi Theatre has sent a message that it is not going to be stuck in tradition," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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