Moscow Fires Theater Director, Including to Fears of a Clampdown

Moscow Fires Theater Director, Including to Fears of a Clampdown

One among Russia’s most distinguished theater administrators has been fired, a transfer broadly seen as an try to clamp down on creative freedom within the nation.

The director, Kirill Serebrennikov, who led the Gogol Center in Moscow, mentioned on Tuesday in an Instagram post that the town’s tradition authorities had informed him that his contract wouldn’t be renewed when it expired on Feb. 25.

“The Gogol Heart as a theater, and as an concept, will proceed to dwell,” Serebrennikov wrote, “as a result of theater and freedom are extra essential, and due to this fact extra tenacious, than every kind of bureaucrats.”

Serebrennikov was appointed head of the Moscow theater, which receives metropolis funding, in 2012, and he reworked it into certainly one of Europe’s most vibrant playhouses. His productions typically contained thinly veiled criticisms of life beneath President Vladimir V. Putin, and typically featured nudity and sexual imagery that ran opposite to the Russian authorities’s promotion of household values.

Serebrennikov’s work was nonetheless embraced by elite Russian arts organizations. In 2017, the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow staged a ballet about the life of Rudolf Nureyev, which Serebrennikov directed. The manufacturing, which highlighted the dancer’s homosexuality, prompted a lot hypothesis. (Endorsing homosexuality is against the law in Russia.)

However the backing of such establishments was not sufficient to cease the authorities from concentrating on the director. In 2017, Serebrennikov was put under house arrest after being accused of embezzling greater than $1 million in state funding from the Gogol Heart. He has continued working from his Moscow residence, directing a movie selected for the Cannes Film Festival and operas in Zurich and Hamburg, Germany. His case has additionally attracted the attention of Western artists and human rights teams.

Final June, Serebrennikov was sentenced to three years probation and a $11,000 fine.

His firing comes as Russia cracks down on political opposition within the nation following widespread demonstrations in support of Aleksei A. Navalny, Putin’s most distinguished critic. Final week, Navalny was sentenced to over two years in prison.

A number of artists have been detained throughout these protests, together with Oxxymiron, a popular rapper, and members of Pussy Riot, the political arts collective.

Serebrennikov’s firing had been anticipated, after an article printed final week by TASS, the state information company, quoted an anonymous source in the Culture Ministry saying that Serebrennikov’s contract wouldn’t be renewed. Distinguished figures in Russia’s theater world intervened to try to cease it: On Sunday, the Affiliation of Theater Critics sent an open letter to Metropolis Corridor in Moscow calling for Serebrennikov to stay. “The Gogol Heart is inconceivable with out Serebrennikov,” it mentioned, including, “Moscow within the 2020s is inconceivable with out the Gogol Heart.”

“What is occurring as we speak in Russia as an entire, and in its cultural house, is a really unhappy image, with much less freedom and extra violence by the authorities,” Ludmila Ulitskaya, the internationally acclaimed Russian novelist, mentioned in an e-mail. “My honor and respect to Kirill Serebrennikov,” she added. “He’s a worthy consultant of Russian tradition.”

Theater figures outdoors Russia additionally condemned the transfer. “It is a clear message that creative freedoms are being lowered to zero,” mentioned Thomas Ostermeier, creative director of the Schaubühne theater in Berlin, which has hosted Serebrennikov’s productions on tour.

Neither Serebrennikov, nor a spokesman for Moscow’s tradition division responded to requests for remark.

Ostermeier mentioned he feared that the Moscow authorities would usher in an outsider to steer the Gogol, and that their selection would flip it right into a “boring, protected, typical house.” However Russian state media reported on Tuesday that Aleksey Agranovich, an actor and director from inside the firm, would take cost. A spokesman for the theater didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Marina Davydova, a theater critic, mentioned in an emailed assertion earlier than Agranovich’s appointment that an inner candidate can be greatest the answer as they might “protect the theater, its troupe and its prime rating repertoire.”

“Life continues to be buzzing right here,” she mentioned, “and creative, artistic achievements are potential.”

Serebrennikov’s Instagram put up didn’t say what he deliberate to do subsequent, but it surely did comprise a message to his colleagues on the Gogol Heart and his many followers. “Attempt to guarantee that the theater stays alive,” he wrote. “You understand what must be performed.”

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