Bolshoi Is Stung by Loss of Two Stars
Author: DANIEL J. WAKIN
Date: November 14, 2011
Publisher: New York Times
Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, major stars of the ballet world and two of Russia’s best-known classical artists, said on Monday that they were leaving the storied Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow for the Mikhailovsky Theater in St. Petersburg.
Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
Natalia Osipova, top, and Ivan Vasiliev will join the Mikhailovsky.
While a blow to the Bolshoi, which recently reopened after a long renovation, their defection is a coup for the Mikhailovsky, a venerable but lesser-known house that has received a large infusion of money from Vladimir Kekhman, the owner of Russia’s largest fruit company, who became its general director in 2007.
The transfers were big news in Russia, where dance is closely followed, and they were featured on the evening television news.
In telephone interviews Ms. Osipova, 25, and Mr. Vasiliev, 22, who are a couple, said they were leaving for “artistic freedom,” namely the chance to dance with other companies in addition to the Mikhailovsky and to broaden their repertories.
“Life has become, well, too comfortable for me in Moscow, performing a limited number of titles,” Ms. Osipova said. “I just wanted to take a challenge in my life.”
She said her busy schedule at the Bolshoi made it difficult to take on more outside assignments.
“It was very difficult to understand the time you have for your own projects,” she said.
Mr. Vasiliev said he had been typecast in heroic roles.
“Now I very much want to develop another side of my artistry — more lyrical characters,” he said, as well as perform new works.
The two, who are known for a characteristically Bolshoi dramatic commitment and vitality, spoke by telephone from offices at the Mikhailovsky, through an interpreter, Alexander Arkhipov. Mr. Arkhipov is the theater’s deputy director general.
They will first perform there on Dec. 1 at a gala. Mr. Arkhipov said that the company’s artistic director, Nacho Duato, a Spanish contemporary dance choreographer, will create a full-length work for them to perform in 2012. Future repertory was still being decided.
A spokeswoman for the Bolshoi, Katerina Novikova, said the company hoped that the two dancers would change their minds, Agence-France Presse reported. Ms. Novikova pointed out that the pair were leaving just as the Bolshoi had reopened following a major renovation.
“And not even to the Paris Opera, but to the Mikhailovsky Theatre,” the news agency quoted her as saying.
Mr. Kekhman said that the arrival of the dancers was a boost to his company’s prestige, and that he credited his appointment of a foreigner, Mr. Duato, as artistic director — a rarity for a Russian company — as a major draw. The theater was founded by Czar Nicholas I in 1833.
“Their association with the Mikhailovsky will definitely enhance the reputation of the house,” Mr. Kekhman said, “since also Ivan and Natalia have many followers all over the world, especially in America.”
Mr. Vasiliev said financial considerations had not been the lure.
“The most important thing for me was the chance to develop myself artistically,” he said. “Freedom as well is the important factor to take this engagement.”
He and Ms. Osipova recently performed as guests with American Ballet Theater to positive reviews. The news comes nearly two months after David Hallberg, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theater, announced that he was joining the Bolshoi, a rare move that was partly inspired by the chance to partner with Ms. Osipova.
In the interview Ms. Osipova said she would continue to dance with Mr. Hallberg. “We share the stage at American Ballet Theater,” she said, pointing out that after a“Giselle”that they recently danced together at the Bolshoi, no other joint engagements there had been planned.