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MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - Russia's famed Bolshoi Theater opened its 235th season on Tuesday, presenting a new musical director and putting an end to more than a year of infighting that had thrown its future into chaos.
"I have come to the Bolshoi for a seriously long time," grey-haired conductor Vasily Sinaisky told reporters in a marble-lined hall adjacent to the main building, which is undergoing a grand $1-billion rebuild.
Currently conducting Finnish and British orchestras, Sinaisky's near 40 years of experience contrasts to Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov, who had served as the temporary musical director after his predecessor's abrupt July 2009 exit.
Alexander Vedernikov, who had an eight-year career at the Bolshoi, suddenly resigned citing bureaucratic differences.
When Desyatnikov, who has written operas and film music, was musical director he had five rotating conductors work under him.
Sinaisky, who plans to conduct throughout the season, said the confusion surrounding the appointment of a new musical director had actually helped raise expectations, and he intended to meet them without making wholesale changes.
"The recent scandals surrounding the invitation of a new director have been a good thing. I don't want to make any radical changes," Sinaisky said.
Located near Red Square, Russia's best-known international theater has been closed since 2005 for a major renovation after decades of Soviet neglect. The eight-columned, cream-colored opera and ballet house was built in 1776.
Bolshoi's general director Anatoly Iksanov, describing himself as an "arch optimist," said the main stage would reopen in October 2011 as planned. Four operas and five ballets will premiere this season, four of which are global, notably an opera version of Anton Chekhov's much-loved play "Uncle Vanya," co-produced by the Bolshoi and France's National Opera.
Chic Russian designer Igor Chapurin, in his fifth Bolshoi production, created the costumes for the world premiere of ballet "And then, one thousand years of peace," a joint collaboration with France's Ballet Preljocaj.
All productions, as they have for the past five years, will be staged on the less grand, somewhat cramped stage in the adjacent modern building.
Originally expected to reopen in 2008, officials are still investigating allegations that millions of rubles destined for the renovation of the main stage were stolen, claims that have embarrassed Russia's cultural authorities.
Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman