Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today by Simon Morrison - review by Rupert Christiansen

Rupert Christiansen

Dancing on Thin Ice

Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today

By

Fourth Estate 507pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

Don’t be misled by the tabloid melodrama implicit in this book’s title. If it leads you to expect a shock-horror exposé and conspiracy theories involving the KGB and double-agent ballerinas, you will be disappointed.

Simon Morrison is a respected musicologist based at Princeton and an expert on Prokofiev. He writes in clean and lucid prose and is a meticulous researcher who has patiently sifted through the archives and arrived at measured conclusions. Yet although he doesn’t deal in gossip or sensationalism, his chronicle of Moscow’s hallowed opera house and its links to Russian regimes of all stripes makes gripping and fascinating reading.

He starts with an account of the most recent scandal: the vicious midnight acid attack that in 2013 almost blinded the Bolshoi Ballet’s artistic director Sergey Filin (he has since recovered 50 per cent of his sight in one eye). Morrison can’t completely explain the motives of the gang that

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