After several days of trying to coordinate on the 9-hour time difference between Moscow and Sarasota, I finally reached the head of the Bolshoi Ballet's press department, Katya Novikova, to get an update on the company's artistic director, Sergei Filin, who was attacked last week by an acid-throwing assailant. (Those of you who are attendees of the "Ballet in Cinema" movie screenings of performances from around the world will recognize Novikova as the translator/interviewer during Bolshoi performance intermissions.)
Contrary to earlier reports, Filin was not transported to a burns center in Belgium, but remains in Moscow, where he has undergone the first of several operations. Novikova, who visited Filin in the hospital late last week, said doctors are still assessing the permanent damage to Filin's face and eyes.
"One eye is more or less OK and one is not," Novikova reported. "In the coming weeks they will make two more operations and when the effect of the acid stops, then one can say what is the damage."
Novikova said Filin was conscious and talkative during her brief visit, and and during an extended coversation with the Bolshoi's General Director, Anatoly Iskanov, and the cultural minister, when she was not present.
"They were both surprised that they were discussing only artistic directives," she said. "Sergei didn't mention anything about his health or his thoughts about the attack, just about artistic notions."
Novikova said Filin, 42, who in recent weeks had seen his car tires slashed and his Facebook account hacked, was aware that he had enemies, but never imagined that a physical attack might be forthcoming.
"Before New Year's, Sergei spoke to me and said, 'There is a bunch of people who are against me personally and against my artistic vision and I'm sure they will be doing something wrong," Novikova recalled. "But it never comes to his mind that something could happen so horrible."
Filin, a well-liked former dancer with the company, followed several short-lived successors (including Alexei Ratmansky) to Yuri Grigorevich, who held the artistic directorship at the Bolshoi for more than 30 years. He has been bold in bringing fresh talent and repertoire to the esteemed company and repairing its reputation in the ballet world.
"Sergei is tough, with a very strong character," Novikova said. "H was very firm about how he was reforming the company. There are 220 people in the company and every time he makes a choice, someone is offended. But what happened (the attack) is a crime. It's one thing to criticize him publicly, it's another thing to commit a crime."
Novikova said she has received calls from around the world last week, expressing concern and support for Filin. Police i investigators have yet to name a suspect in the attack.