Red Star, White Nights: The Life and Death of Yuri Soloviev is a biography of one of history's greatest dancers, who ended his own life in a snow-bound Russian dacha in 1977 at the age of thirty-six. The book is also a personal memoir by Lisa Whitaker, who befriended Soloviev when he toured Australia in 1969. And it is autobiography, too, describing Whitaker's travels to Russia after Perestroika to find his family and uncover the mystery of his fate.
Soloviev was a government-decorated icon in the USSR, and an international star as well. On tour with the Kirov, he was idolized by audiences and critics. In words and more than one hundred photos, many never before published, his phenomenal talent lives again.
The book is the culmination of decades of research, during which the authors interviewed Soloviev's family, friends, and colleagues to peel back layers of accrued myth and reduction. Soloviev's suicide was his response to both personal and institutional repression, a bombshell hurled at Soviet officialdom. Soloviev's psychology reflected the stringency of the Soviet system and the individual vagaries of a turbulent family.
Red Star, White Nights is informed by Whitaker's experience in Russian research and Lobenthal's many accounts of Russian culture and ballet. The book weaves together Soloviev's story with multiple epochs of Soviet history: the 1917 revolution, Stalin's purges of the 1930s, World War II, the "thaw" of the 1950s and '60s, the stagnation of the '70s.
Preserved on video, Soloviev's talent continues to astound, while his life and death continue to haunt. Red Star, White Nights illuminates the many facets of this most enigmatic of ballet stars.
About the Author
Joel Lobenthal has written biographies of Tallulah Bankhead, Alla Osipenko, and Patricia Wilde. He lives in New York City.
Lisa Whitaker, the great-niece of French writer Geo London, is a graduate in Russian Studies of the University of Melbourne, Australia. A retired nonprofit CEO, she serves on several nonprofit boards, including the Russian Cultural Center in Houston, Texas.