In October 2017, Oper Stuttgart presented his half-finished production of “Hänsel und Gretel,” transposed to Rwanda. Mr. Serebrennikov is also a welcome guest at Komische Oper Berlin. His most recent work there was a modern-day, social media-heavy staging of Rossini’s “Il Barbière di Siviglia” in 2016, which is currently being revived. He was also set to direct Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress” in the 2019-20 season.
“It’s with great sadness that we think about Kirill,” Barrie Kosky, the Komische Oper’s artistic director, said in an interview. “We’re all waiting. That’s the most frustrating and saddest thing about it.”
Mr. Kosky said that he hoped Mr. Serebrennikov would soon be able to work again at the Komische Oper and elsewhere, but that he was anxious about what the Russian director might face first. “I’m fearing that it will be a bit of Russian grotesque with shades of Bulgakov,” he said, referring to the Russian author of the satirical novel “The Master and Margarita.”
The investigation against Mr. Serebrennikov began in May 2017. Prosecutors have so far presented little to support their claims, and they have dismissed striking evidence against them — multiple newspaper reviews, for instance, of a show they say was never staged. Mr. Serebrennikov has repeatedly protested innocence, most recently on Feb. 21.
At home and abroad, the outpouring of support for the director has been enormous. A Change.org petition initiated by Thomas Ostermeier, artistic director of the Schaubühne (another Berlin theater where the Gogol Center has performed in the past) has garnered more than 50,000 signatures. Among the most prominent artists lending their support are the actress Cate Blanchett, the filmmaker Lars von Trier and the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Elfriede Jelinek.
At a news conference at the Deutsches Theater on Monday, Mr. Serebrennikov’s assistant, Anna Shalashova, urged the assembled journalists to read a campaigning website tracking the case. “You will see how Kafkaesque this whole trial is,” she said.
While expressing gratitude to the Deutsches Theater, whose collaboration also included a guest performance in Moscow this February, Ms. Shalashova said she doubted that the Gogol Center’s visit to Germany would have much effect on Mr. Serebrennikov’s legal position. “We just hope to present good productions, to show them to a German audience and to enter into dialogue with them,” she said, speaking in Russian with a German translator.
Since Mr. Serebrennikov’s arrest, many have suggested that the director is being made an example of to discourage other Russian artists from voicing dissent in their work. Ms. Shalashova seemed to subscribe to this view. “Kirill is the emblematic figure of Russia’s theatrical landscape,” she said. “By now, he’s Russia’s most important director. Perhaps that’s why he’s been singled out.”
Ulrich Khuon, the Deutsches Theater’s artistic director, said the guest performances were “part of a larger movement of international solidarity.”
“And I think that it has a psychological and emotional effect on the work that the theater does and on Kirill,” he added.
Beyond mere symbolism, however, Mr. Khuon said he was more hopeful than Ms. Shalashova that artistic exchanges such as this one might influence the trial’s outcome. “I think that this wide publicity could be politically relevant for Putin’s, or the court’s, decision,” he said.
Mr. Khuon also sees the artistic exchange between his theater and Mr. Serebrennikov’s as an opportunity to explore the role of the arts in society. “In Russia today, this is of course both tougher and more necessary” than in Germany, he said, adding that the Deutsches Theater’s program regularly examined the company’s East German history.
Odin Biron, an American actor in the Gogol Center’s ensemble, said he was at a loss to explain what exactly had prompted the action against Mr. Serebrennikov.
“What I do know,” he said, “is that there’s a definite line, very important for the current administration to frame the questions: What is Russian? What Is Russia? And one of the main columns that that understanding rests on is Russian literature. It’s how you support the language, which, in essence, supports the country.”
Mr. Serebrennikov’s often-provocative productions of works by Russian masters from Alexander Pushkin to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Mr. Biron said, might present a view of that culture not favored by the country’s political class.
Mr. Putin, he said, stood for stability, while Mr. Serebrennikov’s work reflected and was inspired by the turmoil of contemporary Russia.
“For better or worse, art thrives when things are unstable,” Mr. Biron added. “That is what art is supposed to do. Art cannot live on a steady foundation. And the theatrical and creative blood flows in Russia like in no place I’ve ever been.”