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Conductor cries "sabotage" as he quits Bolshoi
A leading conductor who resigned as artistic director of the Bolshoi Theatre last week has made a scathing attack on the company, claiming he has had to put up with "sabotage", singers deserting the company and backstage chaos.

Gennady Rozhdestvensky’s list of complaints included scenery that refused to leave the ground, soloists who refused to sing, scores that arrived months late and mistakes in the programme, reports The Daily Telegraph newspaper. The 70-year-old conductor said the combination had all but wrecked his pet project, a new production of Prokofiev's The Gambler.

He told one of Russia’s national television channels that theatre administrators had boycotted rehearsals and ignored his pleas for help. "There is no other word for it but sabotage," he said.

The Telegraph’s correspondent in Russia, Marcus Warren, says Rozhdestvensky's resignation last Thursday was damaging enough for what was once a showcase for Russian culture. "But the reasons for his departure will increase the sense of doom about its future," Warren says. "Appointed only last autumn, he was supposed to revive the Bolshoi's fortunes, refresh the repertoire and compete with Russian opera's current star, the flamboyant Valery Gergiev of the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg."

But his first attempt at an original production, a world premiere of the first version of Prokofiev's opera earlier this month, was also his last, denounced by the critics as a fiasco. Rozhdestvensky complained: "We ran up against so many problems I couldn't believe it." Many Bolshoi Opera soloists, some earning as little as £50 a month, announced that they were unavailable to sing due to better paid engagements abroad.

Rozhdestvensky said: "On a human level, I cannot blame them for anything. They want to eat. But you cannot answer for the theatre's artistic standards in this sort of situation."

Scores for the obscure Prokofiev work, a version of a Dostoyevsky short story, arrived more than two months late, leaving little time to master the music, he said. Computer-operated scenery designed by the Khrunichev factory - which Warren points out is famous for its work in space technology - arrived on time but, instead of flying around the stage as planned, refused to budge. The programme turned up on the day of the premiere, but had not been proof-read and was "crammed with the most stupid and absurd mistakes".

Rozhdestvensky has been associated with the Bolshoi for half a century and is, with the exception of GMN Family Artist Gergiev, probably Russia's most celebrated conductor. His career included a spell with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the 1970s and the championing of avant-garde composers in the then Soviet Union.

His appointment as the Bolshoi's artistic director coincided with the return of the choreographer Yuri Grigorovich. The theatre's creative crisis has been compounded by its decrepit premises, in need of a £145 million facelift to repair leaking ceilings, faulty wiring and squalid conditions behind the scenes, the Telegraph reports.

Tue Jun 19 2001 (2:40:53 PM)