President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Urin, you’ve been working now for four months already. What unexpected things have floated up?
DirectOR GENERAL OF BOLSHOI THEATRE VLADIMIR URIN: Nothing.
Vladimir Putin: So, nothing unexpected?
Vladimir Urin: I recently gave an interview to mark the first hundred days of my tenure in which I said: “A hundred days: everything is going according to plan.” Operational issues are being resolved peacefully and normally.
Of course, naturally there are problems.
Vladimir Putin: I remember our talk, and your doubts.
Vladimir Urin: Yes, I really did doubt. In fact, if it had not been a top-down decision, I would have answered in the negative. Because I worked in another theatre for years. I think (and of course it’s hard to evaluate oneself) that we built a very nice theatre there.
Vladimir Putin: If it were otherwise, you would not have been put forward.
Vladimir Urin: You are probably right.
Now I feel thrills and spills to try and solve existing problems.
Vladimir Putin: Things cannot be problem-free. This is a landmark institution.
Vladimir Urin: In fact, if we are to talk about organisational matters, then in general Mr Iksanov [former Bolshoi Theatre Director] left the house in order; I cannot complain. With regards to personnel, people and finances: everything related to government subsidies and all of the Bolshoi’s commercial activities.
Vladimir Putin: This gives us the opportunity to offer him another job in the international arena, which we will soon do.
Vladimir Urin: I am very happy because we are actually very close friends, and this was also one of the reasons that I had doubts. He is a professional of the highest calibre; I remember how he managed [Tovstonogov] Bolshoi Drama Theatre in Leningrad, one of the best. So there were also doubts on this account, and we discussed the issue. At the time I really asked those with whom I discussed this issue to make sure that it would be resolved. I am very glad that it will be resolved as you just said; this is very important.
Vladimir Putin: There are always a lot of art connoisseurs turning around iconic institutions like the Bolshoi Theatre – and it’s hard to simply refer to it as an institution. They are not bothering you overmuch, are they?
Vladimir Urin: I would answer: of course. I always say that in our country we undoubtedly know how to do two things: how to run a state and a theatre.
Vladimir Putin: They also know everything about football; hockey too.
Vladimir Urin: This is still at the spectator’s level. And here we see quite a few willing to advise. But in fact, the ability to listen and hear what is happening and what people say is also extremely important. Sometimes these thoughts can be quite useful. If there are no selfish motives behind them, then in principle they can be useful. Sometimes I extract some interesting reflections from the press about what is going on and how, and closely follow this. I try to get rid of some things if I understand that people are interested in something else altogether. But where there are no selfish motives, and I understand that people are talking about this in a professional manner, then I try to listen.
In fact, the question of how to lead the Bolshoi Theatre in the future is a very serious matter. And this is a question that my colleagues and I have to decide: how this should be. If you ask me about problems, then first and foremost those are creative issues that need to be addressed.
If we talk about ballet, touring in London proved this once again… I was simply a witness to how there was very low-key British, benign criticism at the beginning of the tour. Then it gradually picked up pace and by the end reviews were really glowing. And at the end of the tour people said that perhaps as for the level of the Bolshoi performers, our troupe is unique in the world; to hear this from the British is worth a whole lot. And there they really do understand this. But as for opera, unfortunately the Bolshoi Theatre cannot boast about that today. I would say that today our opera is not rated high in Russia or internationally, and that there is such a thing as a grand opera of the Bolshoi Theatre. And today, probably, one of my main goals primarily concerns the team that is working to involve other people and raise the level of opera.
Vladimir Putin: Let’s talk more in detail about all these issues.