Barrie Kosky has spoken out strongly in support of Kirill Serebrennikov, the theatre and film director who was taken for questioning by Russian police on Tuesday following a dawn raid on his home. Serebrennikov is the artistic director of the Gogol Centre, the Moscow theatre widely credited with leading a revival of contemporary Russian drama, some of it shining an unwelcome light on aspects of modern Russian society and its relationship to the administration of President Vladimir Putin.
“We at the Komische Oper Berlin are concerned about the action and allegations against the Moscow Gogol Centre and its artistic director Kirill Serebrennikov,” said Kosky, intendant at Berlin’s Komische Oper, whose production of The Magic Flute is currently playing at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. “During our co-operation in Berlin 2012 and last year, we found Kirill Serebrennikov to be an inspired, dedicated and intimate artistic personality, and as a sincere person we arranged further projects with him. Against the backdrop of the narrowing freedoms for critical and independent art and culture in Russia today, we hope to have an up-to-date and fair explanation of the allegations. We wish Kirill to continue his successful work in Moscow and beyond.”
Serebrennikov, whose film drama confronting the impact of Christian fundamentalism on a Russian high school, The Student, won the Chalais prize at last year’s Cannes Festival, was held for most of the day, before being released late on Tuesday night. He told media yesterday that he was in “total shock” following the raids on his property and that of 15 other people. Actors at the Gogol Centre had their phones confiscated and were detained for several hours while police searched the theatre. Investigators are alleging that 200 million roubles ($4.7 million) of state funding were embezzled between 2010 and 2014 by Studio Seven, a theatre group founded by Serebrennikov, although at this stage it is unclear whether the director himself is a suspect.
Russian artists were quick to rally to Serebrennikov’s defence, with dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov condemning the state’s actions on Facebook. “An artist of whom Russia should be proud is being humiliated and insulted. And since this is a man known for his independence and love of freedom, a man who has repeatedly spoken with bold political statements, these sudden repressions look especially bad,” he wrote.
Director of the Bolshoi Theatre Vladimir Urin described the investigator’s actions as “wrong” and was among the many who addressed a letter to President Putin. “He [Serebrennikov] is an artist, someone who is not, in my opinion, responsible for the financial sphere,” he said, according to the Russian Interfax news agency.