Bolshoi exposed as a 'cesspool of cruelty'
With a cast including disgruntled ballerinas and the Soviet old-guard pitched against progressive modernisers, Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre has long been a creative hotbed of murky melodrama.
But last week's acid attack on Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi's artistic director who now faces partial blindness, has brought the corruption and infighting at the company out of the shadowy wings and on to the global stage.
Vicious internal politics have been blamed for the incident, which has left some of its former stars describing the jewel of Russia's artistic heritage as a "disgusting cesspool" where the culture is "pathologically cruel".
Filin, 42, was walking home after a party in Moscow on Thursday night when a masked attacker called out his name before throwing acid in his face.
Speaking from his hospital bed, his face wrapped in bandages, he said: "I saw his hand . and thought he was going to shoot me."
Filin suffered third-degree burns to his face and neck. He underwent 15 hours of emergency surgery and is expected to remain in hospital in Moscow for a week, after which he may be moved to Brussels. His wife, Bolshoi dancer Maria Prorvich, said: "I now fear for his life, even for those of our children."
Filin said: "This is linked to my work - someone doesn't like that I'm successfully leading the Bolshoi."
His theory is shared by almost everyone in Moscow.
Anatoly Iksanov, its general director, said: "I am 100% confident it is linked to his work. He told me he felt like he was on the front lines."
Katerina Novikova, a spokesman for the Bolshoi, said: "Sergei was constantly receiving threats after he took up this post.''
The Bolshoi has been the scene of infighting and artistic clashes for decades. For more than 30 years, it was run as what has been described as a "Stalinist dictatorship" under Yuri Grigorovich, the Soviet stalwart who oversaw a reign of terror in which dancers lived in fear of being sacked.
Alexei Ratmansky, its former artistic director, won praise for attempting to modernise it from 2004 to 2008, but eventually resigned in frustration. He wrote on his Facebook page last week: "What happened with Sergei Filin was not accidental. The Bolshoi has many ills.
"It's a disgusting cesspool, of those developing friendships with the artists, the speculators and scalpers, the half-crazy fans ready to bite the throats of the rivals of their favourites." - © The Sunday Telegraph