A production of Wagner's opera 'Tannhauser' seen as offending devout Orthodox believers.
'What has been done in the Novosibirsk Opera House - is sacrilege.' Picture: Slava Stepanov
The dismissal of Boris Mezdrich was announced by Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky, a move that is likely to deepen a controversy that has divided opinion across the country.
The theatre's 'avant-garde' production of the Wagner opera amounted to blasphemy, according to some Orthodox activists. Mezdrich was replaced by Vladimir Kekhman, head of the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg, who had openly called for his resignation.
The dismissal came as several thousand protesters rallied against the opera, waving patriotic flags and banners. One said: 'Orthodox Christianity is the foundation of the great Russian culture.'
The decision to fire Mezdrich brought to an end his second stint at Russia's largest theatre. Picture: Maya Shelkovnikova
Another demonstration in Novosibirsk was in support of the modern interpretation of the 19th century work.
The dispute has been portrayed as a battle between a liberal intelligentsia in charge of prominent cultural institutions, and an increasingly assertive Orthodox Church.
Many leading Russian cultural figures have spoken in favour of artistic freedom as the controversy deepened in recent weeks.
Prosecutors started administrative case against the performance's director Timofey Kulyabin and Mezdrich for 'desecration of objects of religious worship'. The court dropped the charges last Tuesday, but the prosecutors appealed.
The decision to fire Mezdrich brought to an end his second stint at Russia's largest theatre. Kekhman said he would remain in charge of the Mikhailovsky combining it with his new role.
Earlier this month he branded the performance as 'sacrilege'.
Kekhman said he would remain in charge of the Mikhailovsky combining it with his new role. Picture: Denis Vyshinsky/Trend
'My teacher Elena Obraztsova often repeated: 'I sing because God gave me the talent, and without God I am nothing',' he said. 'What has been done in the Novosibirsk Opera House - is sacrilege.
'I, as a believer, baptized, orthodox, as a Jew, take it as an insult. This is a demonstration of the internal wickedness in the style and spirit of the union of militant atheists.
'Frankly, I spoke today with Mezdrich, and he told me that he will not give up this show and will go to the end. I think that he must resign, and performance should be removed from the repertoire.'
A major business figure, involved in fruit imports, Samara-born Kekhman has faced controversy in his commercial dealings.
Principal dancer, 26, will perform in 9 ballets during 2016 at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre
One month after criminal proceedings launched into 'blasphemous' Tannhauser, officials rule production did not break any laws.
The 22 year has twice walked out of Britain, while this is the third time in his rollercoaster year that he has gone on to perform in Siberia.