A video has surfaced that appears to show technical difficulties at the Bolshoi Theater prior to a performance in which an actor was murdered.
Performers are seen fleeing the stage during a rehearsal because the mechanism that lowers the background does not seem to work properly.
It wobbles and collides with other parts of the set when lowered, creaking from above.
Shared on a Telegram channel called Devil in Pointe Shoes, the video was shot at the world-famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow during rehearsals for the 19th-century opera Sadko.
During a Saturday night performance of the same opera, actor Yevgeny Kulesh, 38, was killed in front of a packed house when a two-ton backdrop crushed him.
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Performers are seen fleeing the stage during a rehearsal because the mechanism that lowers the background doesn’t seem to be working properly
During Saturday’s performance, actors could be seen frantically waving their hands to alert staff to the incident, shouting ‘Get a doctor! Call an ambulance, someone has been hit by the background!’ sounded across the room as actor Yevgeny Kulesh was imprisoned
The Telegram channel claimed: ‘There were background issues at rehearsals….
“Nobody wanted to change anything.”
The report also claimed Kulesh’s death had been covered up and called on the illustrious theater’s senior management to resign.
Instead of equipping the moving parts of the landscape with “motion sensors,” money was wasted elsewhere, the bill claimed.
Nikolai Tsiskardze, a former principal dancer at the theater, told the Russian newspaper Komsomolkaya Pravda after Kulesh’s death that the company’s actors, dancers and workers regularly suffer injuries and near-accidents as a result of the dangerous working conditions.
“Backstage is hell,” Tsiskardze said.
‘Dancers damage their legs when sets and stairs fall over. I’ve been screaming about the problems of the Bolshoi for 25 years. There is no order, no medicine, no ethics.’
‘We are all serfs!’ exclaimed Tsiskardze, comparing the treatment of theater workers with that of the lowest peasant class in tsarist Russia.
“We shouldn’t blame Yevgeny or find a scapegoat.”
Actor Yevgeny Kulesh, 38, somehow got stuck under the background and was then crushed to death
It is suspected that Kulesh – who has been performing in the theater since 2002 – walked the wrong way on Saturday during a set change and then couldn’t get out of the way of the set in time.
The orchestra abruptly stopped playing as actors began to scream for help, as stunned onlookers thought they were witnessing part of the performance before the full horror of what was happening dawned on them.
Kulesh has performed with the theater company for almost his entire adult life in a career spanning nearly two decades
Ushers then emptied the room as actors with stage hands begged to raise the backdrop so medics could get to Kulesh.
But medics said nothing could be done to help the actor, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Moscow investigation committee said it is investigating the death, while former Bolshoi Theater actors have condemned working conditions at the world-famous venue.
The footage shared online shows performers panicking, begging staff to lift the landscape that had fallen on top of Kulesh, as orchestral music stopped abruptly and actors began screaming.
Actors can frantically wave their hands to warn staff of the tragedy, while yelling “Stop, Stop! Call an ambulance, someone has been hit by the background! There’s blood!’ sounded down the hall as Kulesh lay captive.
Kulesh, an esteemed actor and stalwart of the Bolshoi Theater, had performed with the company for nearly his entire adult life over the course of nearly two decades.
“It was horrific,” a witness wrote on Facebook after she was evicted from the theater.
“We arrived at the Bolshoi Theater and sat down in our seats. Then suddenly, as the landscape collapsed during the very first scene, someone yelled, “Doctor! We need an ambulance quickly, someone has fallen under the landscape!”
“The orchestra fell silent and the curtains were drawn.”
Kulesh died during a set change in Sadko, a 19th-century opera by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
The incident took place on Saturday night at the world-famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow during an opera performance
The witness added that the theater had told the audience that the performance had been canceled due to technical problems, but she learned that Kulesh had been murdered after speaking to guards on her way out of the theater.
Other theatergoers on social media said they first thought they were witnessing a staged trick, but it soon became clear what happened when the other performers reacted horribly.
It is not the first time that employees of the Bolshoi Theater have been killed or injured during a performance.
In 2013, a senior violinist – Viktor Sedov, who had played the violin for four decades in the theater – died after falling into the orchestra pit.
Ballet soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko – former principal dancer of the Bolshoi Theater – was sentenced two years earlier to six years in prison for organizing an acid attack on the artistic director of the company.