Bolshoi actor killed onstage during opera

A Bolshoi Theatre performer died on Saturday during an opera performance. The accident occurred in a scene-change, according to the theatre.

The 37-year-old man was performing in “Sadko,” an opera by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, when he was reportedly crushed by a piece of scenery. Russian media reports that a background fell onto the stage and he went the wrong way.

Videos circulating online appeared to show performers shouting “Stop!” and pleading with staff to lift the backdrop and call an ambulance. Before the curtain was drawn, the orchestra stopped playing. Several performers fled to the rear of the stage.

“The opera was immediately stopped and the audience was asked to leave,” the theater said in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.

Local media outlets reported that audience members appeared to think that the onstage panic was part of the performance and were unaware that someone had died.

The man had reportedly been with the company since 2002 as part of a 50-person group of Bolshoi employees who served as onstage extras.

He was not identified by authorities, but the Tass news agency named him as Yevgeny Kulesh, citing an unnamed law enforcement official.

It is not the first time tragedy has struck the renowned theater, home to one of Russia’s most famous ballet and opera companies.

A senior violinist died in 2013 after falling into the orchestra pit. Viktor Sedov, 65, had played violin for the Moscow theater’s ballet and opera productions for almost four decades, and was reportedly known for his sense of humor and “extraordinary” erudition.

That same year, ballet soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko was ordered jailed for six years by a Moscow court for his role in a brutal acid attack on the company’s artistic director, Sergei Filin, that left him almost blind. Dmitrichenko had admitted to Filin that he had wanted Filin “roughed-up” but denied wanting acid put in his face. This was in an instance which revealed bitter rivalries at the theatre and infighting.

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