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Russia's Serebrennikov Directs Hamburg Opera – From House Arrest In Moscow

Under House Arrest, Russia's Serebrennikov Directs Opera From Afar
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Kirill Serebrennikov’s version of Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco opera successfully premiered in the German city of Hamburg -- despite the fact that the production's famed Russian director is under house arrest in Moscow.

The premiere at Hamburg State Opera on March 10 was deemed a success, even with the director more than 2,000 kilometers away, restricted to his Moscow apartment for the past two years.

Baritone Dimitri Platanias, as Nabucco, led a cast of singers, while the Staatsoper choir and the Philharmonic State Orchestra gave solid performances, theater reviewers said.

The modern take on Verdi's Nabucco focuses on the antimigrant populism that has flared amid Europe's refugee crisis.

Serebrennikov before a court hearing in Moscow on January 21
Serebrennikov before a court hearing in Moscow on January 21

In house arrest without a phone, Serebrennikov relied on Yevgeny Kulagin -- a colleague, friend, and co-director -- and others to allow him to remotely direct the performance by sending instructions to the singers and costume and set designers.

The team sent him daily video clips of the Hamburg rehearsals, delivered to his apartment using USB data sticks.

Serebrennikov would respond by filming his comments and sending them the same way back to Hamburg.

Serebrennikov’s August 2017 arrest drew international attention and prompted accusations that Russian authorities were targeting cultural figures who are at odds with President Vladimir Putin's government.

The acclaimed 49-year-old director initially was charged with organizing the embezzlement of 68 million rubles ($1 million) in state funds granted from 2011 to 2014 to Seventh Studio, a nonprofit organization that Serebrennikov established.

In January 2018, prosecutors raised the amount Serebrennikov and his three co-defendants are accused of embezzling to 133 million rubles ($2 million).

All four defendants -- Serebrennikov, producers Aleksei Malobrodsky and Yury Itin, and former Culture Ministry employee Sofia Apfelbaum -- have pleaded not guilty.

Serebrennikov has called the case "absurd."

Russian Judge Yelena Akkuratova on February 5 suspended a scheduled trial and ordered new research after lawyers questioned a conclusion by experts upon which the allegation was based that Serebrennikov's studio embezzled the funds.

Lawyers claimed the document in question was based on data from sources the investigators themselves considered unreliable.

A fifth person charged in the case, accountant Nina Maslyayeva, pleaded guilty and has provided testimony used as evidence against the defendants. Maslyayeva is to be tried separately.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, dpa, and AFP
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