Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today

Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today

by Simon Morrison
Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today

Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today

by Simon Morrison

Hardcover

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Overview

A Booklist Editors' Choice Selection

An enthralling, definitive new history of the Bolshoi Ballet, where visionary performances onstage compete with political machinations backstage.

On a freezing night in January 2013, a hooded assailant hurled acid in the face of the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet. The crime, organized by a lead soloist, dragged one of Russia’s most illustrious institutions into scandal. The Bolshoi Theater had been a crown jewel during the reign of the tsars and an emblem of Soviet power throughout the twentieth century. Under Putin in the twenty-first century, it has been called on to preserve a 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 to state archives and private sources, Morrison sweeps us through the history of the storied ballet, describing the careers of those onstage as well as off, tracing the political ties that bind the institution to the varying Russian regimes, and detailing the birth of some of the best-loved ballets in the repertoire.

From its disreputable beginnings in 1776 at the hand of a Faustian charlatan, the Bolshoi became a point of pride for the tsarist empire after the 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 signed into existence on its stage. During the Soviet years, artists struggled with corrosive censorship, while ballet joined chess tournaments and space exploration as points of national pride and Cold War contest. Recently, a $680 million restoration has restored the 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 Bolshoi has transcended its own fraught history, surviving 250 years of artistic and political upheaval to define not 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.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780871402967
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 10/11/2016
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 1,053,458
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Simon Morrison is a professor of music at Princeton University, a contributor to the New York Times and the Times Literary Supplement, and the author of, most recently, Lina and Serge. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Table of Contents

A Note on Transliteration and Dates ix

Introduction xi

1 The Swindling Magician 1

2 Napoleon and After 43

3 Fleet as Lightning: The Career of Ekaterinn Sankovskaya 81

4 Imperialism 119

5 After the Bolsheviks 200

6 Censorship 258

7 I, Maya Plisetskaya 330

Epilogue 411

Acknowledgments 425

Notes 429

Index 481

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