MOSCOW, August 20 (RIA Novosti) – Prominent Russian artist Mikhail Shemyakin said in an interview published Tuesday that he intended to sue St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater because of unpaid fees for his work as chief designer on a series of ballet productions staged eight years ago.
Shemyakin said that, while money "was not the issue," he was owed about 30,000 euros ($40,000) by the Mariinsky Theater and that the theater’s director, Valery Gergiev, had given instructions that Shemyakin was not to be paid, according to a transcript published on the website of radio station Ekho Peterburga.
“For the last eight years – as if I haven’t asked and haven’t written so many letters – they have refused to pay me for my work. The choreographer was paid. People who worked on the show and the props received their money. But the chief designer received nothing,” Shemyakin told the radio station.
“I wrote to Valery [Gergiev] because I didn’t, as they say, want to wash our dirty laundry in public. But I have received such rebuffs from the Mariinsky Theater’s lawyers about my money! I was told that Gergiev said that Shemyakin will get no money.”
The Mariinsky Theater declined to comment on Shemyakin’s allegations, according to Russian media reports.
“It’s possible that we have received official documents from Mr. Shemyakin, but the press service does not know about this. The season is over, and many employees are on holiday,” a spokesperson for the Mariinsky Theater said, Russian media reported.
Shemyakin told the radio station that while he had not signed a contract concerning his involvement with three one-act ballets – Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” “A Gentle Creature,” based on a short story by Dostoevsky, and “Metaphysical Ballet” – he had not been paid for the work he had done.
Shemyakin, who was expelled from the Soviet Union because of his controversial avant-garde artistic work, spends most of his time in New York, according to his biography on Snob.ru. It was not clear whether the legal dispute with the Mariinsky Theater would be decided by a Russian or a foreign court, Shemyakin told Ekho Peterburga.
Gergiev was made artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater – then known as the Kirov Theater – in 1988, and has recently presided over the construction of a controversial second stage for the St. Petersburg landmark. Gergiev earns about $16.5 million every year, mainly from his intensive schedule of concerts, according to estimates by Forbes magazine.