MOSCOW -- The artistic director of the renowned, and in recent years strife-torn, Bolshoi Ballet was returning home from a theatrical celebration with the city's glitterati when a masked man stepped out of the darkness and threw acid onto his face and eyes.
Sergei Filin, who was attacked about 11:30 p.m. Thursday, suffered third-degree burns. He underwent eye surgery Friday, according to Anatoly Iksanov, the Bolshoi's director. At first, he said Mr. Filin would be flown to Belgium for treatment at a burn clinic, but doctors later Friday said he would stay in Russia while his eyes were being treated.
The Bolshoi's artistic director occupies an all-powerful position, inspiring anger and jealousy, said former Bolshoi ballerina Anastasia Volochkova. He decides who dances and who doesn't, and who gets what part, making and breaking careers. Still, she was shocked that passion could take anyone so far.
"What's happening there is a wild and scary fight," she said on Ekho Moskvy radio Friday. "It's a fight for roles."
Ms. Volochkova became known here as "the fat ballerina" after the Bolshoi dismissed her in 2003, accusing her of being too heavy for her partners to lift. She weighed 109 pounds at the time, she said.
"In the past, they dueled," she said. "People used to cross swords or tried to have it out in a decent way. But splashing acid into the face, ... this is so low. It's hard to make any comment."
Mr. Iksanaov said there was grave concern that Mr. Filin might lose his sight, especially in one eye.
Katerina Novikova, press secretary for the Bolshoi, said Mr. Filin had been repeatedly threatened in recent days. His tires had been slashed several times, his Facebook page was hacked, and he had received ominous phone calls.
"I am 100 percent confident that it is linked to his work," Mr. Iksanov said on Russian television. "He is a man of principle, and he has never made concessions. If he believed that a specific artist was not ready or not capable of performing a specific role, he declined him."
Ms. Novikova said Mr. Filin had spent Thursday evening at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater for a performance in honor of the 150th birthday of Konstantin Stanislavsky, who practically invented modern theater, along with a school of acting that was adopted in America as the Method and made famous by Marlon Brando.
Mr. Filin, a 42-year-old former dancer, was near his apartment in a building occupied by artists, musicians and theater people when he was attacked.