Bolshoi chief pledges 'transparency' at troubled theatre

MOSCOW - The director of Russia's Bolshoi theatre vowed Wednesday to bring an end to the bitter infighting that culminated in an acid attack on its artistic director and create a "normal artistic atmosphere" at the legendary institution.

The Bolshoi suffered a devastating blow to its image when its ballet troupe's artistic director Sergei Filin was doused with acid on the order of a ballet soloist last year. It has also seen an exodus of disgruntled dancers, some accusing the management of corruption in casting star roles.

But director Vladimir Urin, who was appointed to lead the theatre last year in an attempt to stop the spiralling scandals, assured journalists that he intends to "create a normal artistic atmosphere and stage quality shows".

"The issue is to create the maximum transparency, especially in the distribution of roles," he said.

Given the Bolshoi's giant 1,000-strong troupe, there will always be disgruntled stars, he said, while conceding that the current situation was extreme.

"When 70 per cent of people are upset and 30 per cent who are close to the management are happy, that is not normal."

The trial of Filin attackers, which ended in December with dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko being jailed for six years, uncovered bitter backstage rivalries and jaw-dropping allegations that Filin handed out roles in exchange for money and sexual favours.

Urin said only that Filin, who was left nearly blind by his attackers, has a contract with the theatre until March 2016 and the issue of whether it is renewed will not come up until next year.

The theatre in November also faced allegations in the media by American ballerina Joy Womack that she was denied promising roles unless she paid a bribe. Womack has since quit and joined a different Moscow theatre.

Urin, who joined the theatre last July after the previous director was sacked, defended the theatre.

"When such allegations arise in any civilised country, they are fantasies, rumours or a method of publicity," Urin said when asked to comment on Womack's case.

"If they are real, then there should be a complaint to the police."

In a groundbreaking move, Urin also announced that the Bolshoi will offer standing room tickets for the first time.

He said the theatre would improve the seating plan in its historic building, which was designed in the 19th century and has obstructed views for many balcony seats.

"We'll remove these seats," he said. "We will sell standing space there for two euros (US$2.70)."