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Saturday, 2 September, 2000, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Bolshoi has new director
Gennady Rozhdestvensky
Gennady Rozhdestvensky shortly after his appointment
New directors have been announced for Russia's famous Bolshoi Theatre, just days after the former director Vladimir Vasilyev was sacked by presidential decree.

The new director general is Anatoly Iksanov, head of the Kultura television channel and formerly of the Grand Theatre in St Petersburg.

Renowned orchestra conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky is appointed the new artistic director. He was chief conductor of the Bolshoi from 1965 to 1970.

The appointments were announced during a meeting of Bolshoi employees on Saturday.

Criticism

President Putin's decision to place the theatre under the control of the ministry of culture has been criticised as a "Soviet-style" presidential decree.

Anatoly Iksanov
Anatoly Iksanov has experience of managing financial problems
The daily Kommersant newspaper said the sacking of Mr Vasilyev was performed "in the best traditions of the secret services".

But Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoi has promised that his ministry will not oversee the Bolshoi Theatre "in the Soviet sense of the word".

Reputation

He was quoted by the Russian newsagency Interfax as saying Mr Iksanov had "an impeccable reputation in the theatre world".

Vladmir Vasilyev
Vladmir Vasilyev was sacked after five years
He was the right man for the job because he had "a lot of experience working as a director of a theatre that has experienced financial problems".

The 200-year-old theatre, which houses the Bolshoi ballet troupe and opera company, has struggled to maintain its international reputation in recent years, suffering both artistic and financial difficulties.

Renovation

The building itself - a landmark in central Moscow - is in desperate need of repair and is the focus of an ambitious redevelopment programme.

The move comes at a time when Moscow is re-establishing central authority over Russia's cultural life, which has been abandoned to the free market since the end of Communist rule.

Russia has contributed immensely to the development of world ballet. But Russians are aware that this once-glittering symbol of national cultural prowess has lost much of its former sparkle.

Plans now under discussion include turning the Bolshoi Theatre into an artistic centre, which would end its traditional - and some say conservative - role.

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See also:

31 Jul 00 | Europe
UN in talks to save Bolshoi
22 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Bankrupt Bolshoi looks West
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