A conservative when it came to theater, Mikhail Bulgakov was skeptical of Vsevolod Meyerhold’s avant-guard productions. In The Fateful Eggs (1925), Bulgakov wrote of a “theater named after Vsevolod Meyerhold, who, as is well known, died in 1927 during a Boris Godunov rehearsal when trapezes with naked boyars came down crashing.”

(In real life, Meyerhold was executed in 1940 as a “Japanese spy.”)

The “naked boyars” came to my mind again when I came across a curious discussion at a Russian musical forum. Once again, it was about the Tristan und Isolde at the Mariinsky; one participant saw an early performance, the other a later one:

“By the way, did they remove the Girl with a Vacuum Cleaner from Act Two?”
“No, they didn’t but there were no giggles from the audience.”


  1. You’ve got to wonder whether you have to have your sense of the ridiculous surgically removed before you’re allowed to become a director nowadays. My favourite is Richard Jones: Wotan with a traffic cone on his head. IIRC Bernard Haitink burst into tears when he saw Jones’ proposal for “The Ring”.

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