THE artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet could lose his sight after a masked man threw acid in his face near his central Moscow home.
Sergei Filin, 42, was assaulted as he left his car late on Thursday near the gate to his apartment block.
Colleagues believe the attack could be linked to his selection of dancers for lead roles at the famed Russian dance company.
Speaking from his hospital bed yesterday he said his attacker was hooded and wore a mask so only his eyes were visible.
Mr Filin, his head swathed in bandages, said: “I got scared and I thought he was going to shoot me. I turned around to run, but he raced ahead of me.”
The victim was later flown to Brussels for treatment at a military hospital, which specialises in chemical burns.
Bolshoi’s general director, Anatoly Iksanov, said the attack may be linked to Mr Filin’s work.
“He is a man of principle and never compromised,” said Mr Iksanov. “If he believed this or that dancer was not ready or was unable to perform this or that part, he would turn them down.”
Mr Filin believed somebody was threatening him or trying to undermine his position, Mr Iksanov said. Mr Filin’s car tyres had been slashed earlier this week and he was targeted this month by computer hackers who posted his professional correspondence online. Mr Iksanov said Mr Filin told him: “I have a feeling that I am on the front lines.”
Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova, who visited Mr Filin in the hospital, said his condition was stable but he would be left partially sighted. She also appeared to confirm that a disagreement over roles may have played a part in the attack.
“We never imagined that a war for roles – not for real estate or for oil – could reach this level of crime,” Ms Novikova said. Bolshoi principal dancer Svetlana Zakharova was close to tears when talking about Mr Filin’s plight. “We’ve just realised that the job of a Bolshoi Theater director is very dangerous one,” she said.
Mr Filin, who danced for the Bolshoi from 1989 until 2007, was appointed artistic director in March 2011. Before returning to the group, he was artistic director at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theatre, Moscow’s second ballet company.
Several stars at the Bolshoi have complained about what they called Mr Filin’s unfair treatment of them.
Alexei Ratmansky, who was Bolshoi artistic director from 2004 until 2008 and is now artist in residence withthe American Ballet Theatre, said: “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 cynical hackers, the lies in the press and the scandalous interviews of staff.
“This is all one snowball caused by the lack of any ethics at the theatre.”
But dancers played down talk of tensions at the company, saying there were disagreements but not “on this scale.”
Mr Filin is the sixth artistic director at the Bolshoi since Yuri Grigorovich quit in 1995 over a dispute with management. Successors still face resistance from dancers and teachers still loyal to Mr Grigorovich, who reigned at the Bolshoi for three decades.