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The Bolshoi Theater

Большой театр
Фотобанк Лори
Большой театр
Фотобанк Лори

The Bolshoi Theater is the center of musical and theater culture not only in Moscow, but in all of Russia. Moreover, the Bolshoi is an architectural gem of Moscow and one of the shining symbols of Russia.

The theater's history started in the 18th century. Prince Pyotr Vasilyevich Urusov had a reputation as a passionate theater-lover and owned a small theater on Znamenka Street. He also had partner, Michael Maddox, an Englishman, theatrical entrepreneur, engineer, watchmaker, mathematician, and illusionist, who had been invited to Russia by Catherine the Great to serve as a mathematics and physics teacher for her son and future emperor Paul.

In 1780, the wooden Znamensky Theater suddenly caught fire and burned down due to the negligence of the staff.  The prince was so depressed by the incident that he left the business, transferring it over to Maddox. On the right bank of the Neglinka river, the Englishman erected a stone building for a new theater named the Bolshoi Petrovsky, because of its location on Petrovka Street. The theater was built in a record five months, and its first performance — the prologue to A. Ablesimov's operetta «The Wanderers» to music by the Russian composer E. Fomin — was triumphantly given on December 30, 1780.

Later, concert and masquerade halls were added to the theater building. The auditorium could seat around 1,000 people, making it one of the largest theaters in the world. Originally, the troupe was small, but it was constantly adding new people, both free and bonded actors.

This was a public theater, open for everyone, where operas, ballets, and plays were produced. In 1805, a cloakroom attended caused a fire to break out, when he forget to extinguish lit candles. The fire started just before the start of a performance and was completely destroyed. It was replaced by a wooden theater built on Gogolevsky Boulevard, but it was also ruined by the fire in 1812.

In 1821, construction began on a stately, imperial-style building designed by Joseph Bové and dedicated to the Russian victory in the Patriotic War of 1812. The building of the new theater, which opened its doors in January 1825, was decorated by a statue of Apollo on a chariot with three horses and a heavy portico with eight columns. This building was much more spacious, solid, and comfortable than the old Petrovsky theater. The auditorium could seat over 2,000 people, and had more space for additional resting areas and coat rooms. In addition to plays, the operas of Donizetti, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Verdi, and Glinka, as well as ballets were put on the stage.

Some thirty years later, in 1853, a fire attacked this building, too. The architect Albert Cavos led the reconstruction of the theater. An the eve of Alexander II's coronation in 1856, the Bolshoi Theater was opened in grand fashion with a performance of Bellini's opera «The Puritans.» The exterior of the building was slightly changed: a second pediment with bas-relief was added, Apollo's trio of horses turned into a bronze quadriga, and the column caps were changed. Special attention was paid to the interior design. Not without reason, the Bolshoi Theater's acoustics were considered among in the world's best in the second half of the 19th century. Anterooms were added, and the Tsar's luxuriant box, with cantilevers in the form of bent atlantes, was pushed slightly outward. Everything boggled the minds of contemporaries: the gilding and crimson dorsal on the balconies, the stucco work, the ornate cut-glass chandeliers, and the specially-designed Italian curtains  In the second half of the 19th century, the theater's ballet-master was the outstanding M. Petipe, who put «Don Quixote» on the stage. From 1899, the great Shalyapin sang on the stage of the Bolshoi.

In 1917, the Imperial Bolshoi Theater became the State Bolshoi Theater. The new government adapted the theater building to its own needs, and later, even considering closing the theater.  In 1921, a special commission declared that the state of the building was catastrophic. Renovations began -- some rooms were redesigned, while the stage was completely overhauled in 1938.

During the Great Patriotic War, the theater was half-deserted, though some actors remained behind and continued performing. In 1941, a bomb hit the building, made a hole in the facade, and ruined the entrance hall. Despite the war, renovations were not halted, and in 1943, the Bolshoi opened the season with M. Glinka's opera «A Life for the Tsar,» renamed as «Ivan Susanin.» In Soviet times, the repertoire was revised. In the 1930s, Stalin ordered the creation of «Soviet classical opera music». Stagings of works by foreign authors were prohibited, and among the permitted ones were the works of I. Dzerzhinsky, B. Asafiev, and R. Glier. Many old plays were edited.

The most recent large-scale renovation of the Bolshoi took place from 2005 to 2011. It cost 35.4 billion rubles. Having doubled its area with underground floors, complex system of gallery passages, elevators, and new transforming stage, the Bolshoi triumphally opened on October 28, 2011.

Nowadays, the Bolshoi's repertoire includes Russian and foreign classics along with modern works, for example, those of the young but already famous Dmitry Chernyakov.   Since its foundation, the theater has staged around 800 works, including the legendary operas «A Life for the Tsar» and «Ruslan and Lyudmila» by M. Glinka, the ballet «Gizelle» by A. Adam, «Swan Lake», «The Nutcracker», and «Eugene Onegin» by P. Tchaikovsky, and «Boris Godunov» by M. Mussorgsky.

For several years running, the Bolshoi Theater building has been used for the Circle of Light Festival. Impressive video projections are displayed to music on the theater's facade.To see a performance, especially a premiere or popular one, one has to buy tickets well in advance. Since 2011, ticket buyers must show a passport to make a purchase. The Bolshoi's ticket offices are located in the New Stage, Administration, and Main Stage buildings.

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Phone number: +7 (495) 455-55-55
Address: 1, Teatralnaya Square

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