Bigonzetti Steps Down at La Scala

"We have nothing personal against [Mauro] Bigonzetti, but we believe that it would be suitable to appoint a person who has more classical background."

These foreboding words are part of a statement given to a reporter for Italian newspaper La Republicca by La Scala dancers, back in January when it was announced that Mauro Bigonzetti would become the ballet company's new director. If the sentiment sounds familiar, you're right. Last month, dancers at Staatsballett Berlin were petitioning against the appointment of Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman—for the very same reason. It's been a turbulent time for European ballet as companies from Berlin to Milan to Paris adjust to the recent comings and goings of directors. The waters haven't settled yet.

Mauro Bigonzetti, here, swiftly replaced Makhar Vaziev when he became the Bolshoi Ballet's director in March. PC Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press.

Now, just eight months after taking the helm, Bigonzetti has resigned from La Scala. Fréderic Olivieri, past company director and current director of La Scala's dance school, has taken over in the interim, and the La Scala expects to have a permanent director chosen before March 2017.

The company's announcement gave a straightforward reason for Bigonzetti's very short tenure: a severe back problem that he's been dealing with since early summer. However, the dancers' statement from January suggests the situation is more complicated than that. This post on gramilano.com cites mounting tension between the new director and his troupe. Not only did the dancers object to Bigonzetti's appointment, but last season's repertoire was more contemporary than La Scala was used to. It's possible that the rift deepened when the company toured China and Japan without him, apparently due to his injury. Upon returning home, the dancers held a meeting discuss leadership issues. 

When Bigonzetti's departure was announced on Saturday, his new version of Coppélia also went out the door. The ballet was set to premiere at La Scala in December, and the company said it will announce a different choreographer for the production next week. Until then—and likely for the next several months—the state of uncertainty will continue.

 

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