New boss at the Bolshoi – just like the movie

New boss at the Bolshoi – just like the movie


norman lebrecht

August 03, 2010

No-one who saw Radu Mihaileanu’s delightful rom-com The Concert will be startled to learn that the Bolshoi Theatre has a new music director. In the film, it is the office cleaner who grabs the baton and takes the orchestra to Paris.

In real life, the lucky loser, announced today in Moscow, is Vasily Sinaisky, a highly proficient conductor who has worked with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, making several records for Chandos, and recently conducted the Shostakovich opera, A Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, in Berlin.

Sinaisky, 63, worked with the Bolshoi Opera in Dresden six weeks ago in Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, after which his accession was rubber-stamped by the powers-that-be, though no-one knows if they will still be there next week, such is the chaos that prevails in Russia’s leading cultural icons.

Mihaileanu’s film tells more of the truth than today’s formal press release. It exposes a Russia where a gas oligarch decides who plays what and where, a gangster state where music is an occasional ornament to organised banditry. It is nothing short of amazing that music survives at all in such conditions, and everyone will be praying that Sinaisky can survive the dreadful conditions and transform them.

Seeing the film again on a large screen, as distinct from the cramped DVD I was shown for review, I was forcefully struck by the power of Sarah Nemtanu’s playing in the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. Some record label ought to get her into studio fast. She has a real feel for the piece and a highly personal expression. Maybe Sinaisky should conduct, bringing the life-art imitation to full fruition.