Tatar Opera House Terminates Tenor Khachatur Badalyan’s Contract Because Of His Height

By Nicole Kuchta

The Tatar Academic State Opera and Ballet Theatre has terminated its contract with Russian tenor Khachatur Badalyan. The reason? His short stature.

According to Classical Music News RU, it was agreed between the Tatar Opera House and the Premier Art Agency, representing the tenor, that Badalyan would participate in four projects of the International Opera Festival F.I. Chaliapin. He would perform as Pinkerton in “Madame Butterfly” and Alfred Germon in “La Traviata,” and appear in two gala concerts. The contract is viewable here

Casting manager Anna Bagautdinova sent necessary measurements of Badalyan for the purpose of stage costume preparations on Jan. 20. However, upon his arrival on Feb. 3, it was revealed that the costumes were in fact too large. The costumes were promptly altered, and he went on to perform as Pinkerton on Feb. 4th. His performance was received quite well by both the press and theatre management.

On Feb. 8, Bagautdinova received a call informing her that the theatre had canceled Badalyan’s upcoming performances due to his height of 1m 70cm (around 5 feet 6 inches). On Feb. 14, a legal representative of the theatre communicated that an official letter of unilateral termination of the contract would be sent on Feb. 15. However, Badalyan was removed from the cast/lineup listings on the website on Feb. 14.

Theatre director Raufal Mukhametzyanov has yet to comment on the situation. Premier Art Agency stands behind its client, citing improper grounds for termination and arguing that such a firing could result in reputational and psychological damages to the artist.

Music columnist Alexander Matusevich comments that “The situation is very strange, if not absurd, and at the same time very ugly.”

“For almost 19 years of my career in various theatres of Russia and the world – I have never heard such an outrage! I was removed from ‘Traviata’ and from the gala concerts at the Shalypinsky Festival after the successful performance of ‘Butterfly!’ As the director of the theater of the Tatar Opera considered that it does not fit my height and I will look for him ‘comical,'” the singer noted Facebook, according to Business Online.”

He also offered an alternative view of why his contract was terminated.

“I am convinced that if our grandfathers had not shed blood in the Second World War against fascism, that in the Opera Theatre of Tatarstan there would exist oppression on the principle of ‘eugenics!’ I think this fact is outrageous!”

Finally, the tenor noted that there were a plethora of famed artists that were of similar stature and that if the same logic were applied, they would also be out of a job with the Tatar Opera House.

“I am afraid that this principle applies to a good half of the world’s most famous tenors (Jose Carreras, Nicola Martinucci, Jussi Björling, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Mario del Monaco, Lawrence Brounley…), who would never have been able to sing in this theater!”

Badalyan has been backed by many colleagues, including opera singers Maria Gulegina, Anna Kiknadze, and Veronica Dzhioeva, to name a few. Even artists closely associated with the Kazan Opera have shown support, including tenor Alexei Tatarintsev. St. Petersburg Opera Director Yuri Alexandrov also had something to say on the matter: Khachatur, stay Gulliver in the country of Lilliput!”

Sergey Savostyanov, among others, has criticized Premier Art Agency’s decision to go public with the ordeal, as such issues ought to be solved backstage.

Irina Komarova, General Manager of Premier Art Agency, has not yet discussed the future of the company’s relationship with the theatre.

“At the moment we are watching the development of the situation. Our further actions will be exclusively within the limits of the law and depend on actions and decisions of the theatre … We very much hope that this situation will not affect relations with other artists … I would like to believe that this will not happen in the future, but we will always defend the interests of our artists,” she noted.