The Bolshoi Theatre (Russian: Большо́й теа́тр) is a historic theatre in Moscow, Russia, originally designed by architect Joseph Bové, which holds ballet and opera performances. Before the October Revolution it was a part of the Imperial Theatres of the Russian Empire along with Maly Theatre (Small Theatre) in Moscow and a few theatres in Saint Petersburg (Hermitage Theatre, Bolshoi (Kamenny) Theatre, later Mariinsky Theatre and others).
The Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera are amongst the oldest and most renowned ballet and opera companies in the world. It is by far the world’s biggest ballet company, with more than 200 dancers. The theatre is the parent company of The Bolshoi Ballet Academy, a world-famous leading school of ballet. It has a branch at the Bolshoi Theater School in Joinville, Brazil.
The main building of the theatre, rebuilt and renovated several times during its history, is a landmark of Moscow and Russia (its iconic neoclassical façade is depicted on the Russian 100-ruble banknote). On 28 October 2011, the Bolshoi re-opened after an extensive six-year renovation. The official cost of the renovation is 21 billion rubles ($688 million). However, other Russian authorities and other people connected to it claimed much more public money was spent. The renovation included restoring acoustics to the original quality (which had been lost during the Soviet Era), as well as restoring the original Imperial decor of the Bolshoi.
Initially, the theater was private, but from 1794 it became a state theater, which together with Maly constituted a single Moscow troupe of imperial theaters. From time to time, the status of the Moscow troupe changed: it was either subordinated to the Moscow governor-general, or again under the St. Petersburg direction. This continued until the 1917 revolution, when all property was nationalized and there was a complete separation of the Maly and Bolshoi theaters.
The whole history of the theater culture of Moscow for many years was associated with the Bolshoi Theater.
Petrovsky Theater – Meddox Theater
The history of the theater is customary to lead from March 17 (28), 1776, when the provincial prosecutor Prince Pyotr Vasilyevich Urusov received the highest permission of Empress Catherine II “to contain… all kinds of theatrical performances, as well as concerts, voxals and masquerades.” The prince began the construction of the theater, which – at the location on Petrovka street (on the right bank of the Neglinka) – was called Petrovsky. The Urusov Theater burned down even before its opening, and the prince handed the affairs over to his companion, the English entrepreneur Michael (Mikhail) Meddoks. It was under the direction of Meddox that the Bolshoi Petrovsky Theater was built in 1776–1789 according to the project of architect Christian Rosberg. The theater was named after Petrovka Street, at the beginning of which it stood on a narrow site, surrounded by chaotic buildings.
A three-story brick building with white stone details and under a back roof rose in five months and cost Meddoks 130 thousand rubles in silver, 50 thousand more than the estimate. The grand opening took place on December 30, 1780. The theater had a stalls, three tiers of lodges and a gallery, accommodating about 1 thousand spectators, a “two-light masked room”, a “card room” and other special rooms; in 1788, a new round masquerade hall, Rotunda, was added to the theater. According to other sources, the hall accommodated 800 visitors:“The theater had four tiers with lodges and two spacious galleries. In the stalls, there were two rows with seats closed on each side. Luxuriously decorated lodges cost from three hundred to a thousand rubles and more. A ticket to the orchestra cost one ruble. The theater hall accommodated 800 spectators and the same number of spectators could fit in galleries ”. For the first 14 years of ownership of the theater, Meddox at the Petrovsky Theater staged 425 opera and ballet performances. In 1794, Meddox was forced to transfer the theater to the treasury due to financial difficulties; the theater became the Imperial.
The Petrovsky Theater of Meddox stood for 25 years – on October 8, 1805, the building burned down. For three years, the troupe gave performances in the home theaters of Moscow nobility; for some time the performances were in the possession of the Pashkovs in the northern wing of the building on the corner of Mokhovaya and Bolshaya Nikitskaya streets (later rebuilt as the university church of the martyr Tatyana). The new wooden building was built by K. I. Rossi on Arbat Square. The theater had a stalls, a benoir, three tiers of boxes and a rack, and was distinguished by good acoustics; its interiors were painted by artist M.I. Scotty. The area, previously distinguished by impassable mud, was leveled and paved, and flower beds were broken in front of the theater. Having existed for four years, the theater building burned down during the Moscow fire of 1812. After that, the theater was located on Znamenka in the house of Apraksin, which was built in 1792 according to the project of architect F. Camporezi. The theater in Apraksin’s house was cramped and uncomfortable; instead of chairs, there were benches covered with rough cloth; several times during the time the Petrovsky Theater was there, fires occurred in it.
After the war of 1812
In 1816, the Moscow Construction Commission announced a competition for the construction of a new theater building, a prerequisite for which was the inclusion in the construction of the burnt wall of the Meddox Theater. The competition was attended by L. Dubois, D. Gilardi, F. Camporezi, P. Gonzago, A. N. Bakarev and other architects, but not a single project was accepted . The winner of the second competition was the project of the professor of the Imperial Academy of Arts A. A. Mikhailov. However, Mikhailov’s project was considered too expensive, and the theater building he had conceived in its scale, which was excessively large, did not correspond to the surrounding buildings. The project was entrusted to the architect O. I. Bove, who completely preserved the foundations of Mikhailov’s composition, but substantially changed the proportions of the building, reducing its height from 41 to 37 meters, and also made significant adjustments to its exterior and interior decoration.
According to Beauvais, who implemented the ideas of the master plan of Moscow developed by him and approved in 1817, the theater was to become the compositional center of the empire city-church, glorifying the victory in World War II. The greatness of the theater was emphasized by the strict rectangular area that was broken in front of it, in the 1820s it was called Petrovskaya, but it was soon renamed the Theater Square. Beauvais brought the volume designed by Mikhailov in accordance with the area and deployed the Apollo quadriga to the audience . The project for the construction of the theater was approved on November 10, 1821; even before its approval, Beauvais began building the foundations of the theater according to his plan, while part of the foundations of the burnt building were preserved .
The theater opened on January 6 (18), 1825 with the performance “The Triumph of Muses” – a prologue in verses by M. A. Dmitriev, music by F. E. Sholts, A. N. Verstovsky and A. A. Alyabyev: the plot in allegorical form told how The genius of Russia, combined with muses, created a new one from the ruins of the burned down Bolshoi Petrovsky Theater of Meddox. The roles were performed by the best Moscow actors: the Genius of Russia – the tragedy P.S. Mochalov, Apollon – the singer N.V. Lavrov, the muse of Terpsichore – the leading dancer of the Moscow troupe F. Gyullen-Sor. After the intermission, the ballet Sandrilion (Cinderella) was shown to the music of F. Sora, choreographers F.-V. Gullen-Sor and I.K. Lobanov, staged from the stage of the Theater on Mokhovaya. The next day the performance was repeated. S. Aksakov’s memoirs were preserved about this discovery: “The Bolshoi Petrovsky Theater, which arose from old, burnt ruins… amazed and delighted me… A magnificent huge building, exclusively dedicated to my favorite art, already in its very appearance led me into joyful excitement”; and V. Odoevsky, admiring the ballet performance, wrote about this performance as follows: “The splendor of the costumes, the beauty of the scenery, in a word, all theatrical splendor here was united, as well as in the prologue”.
In 1842, the theater passed under the leadership of the St. Petersburg Directorate of the Imperial Theaters; An opera company arrived from St. Petersburg to Moscow, and the famous composer A.N. Verstovsky, who held this position until 1859, was appointed manager of the Moscow Theater Office. A major reconstruction of the theater building was carried out in 1843 according to the project of the architect A. S. Nikitin – he replaced the ionic capitals of the portico with capitals of the Erechtheion type, rebuilt the line of the side boxes, the corridors and the stage where the stage scene appeared.
March 11 (23), 1853 the theater burned down; from the fire that lasted several days, only the stone external walls of the building and the colonnade of the portico survived.
Reconstruction by A. Kavos
Architects Konstantin Ton, A. S. Nikitin, Alexander Matveev and the chief architect of the Imperial Theaters Albert Kavos were involved in the competition for the restoration of the theater. Won the Kavos project; the theater was restored in three years. Basically, the volume of the building and layout were preserved, but Kavos somewhat increased the height of the building, changed the proportions and completely redesigned the architectural decor, designing the facades in the spirit of early eclecticism. Instead of Apollo’s alabaster sculpture who died in a fire, a bronze quadriga by Peter Klodt was placed over the entrance portico. A gypsum double-headed eagle, the state emblem of the Russian Empire, was installed on the pediment. The theater reopened 20 on August 1856 the year the opera Bellini’s ” I Puritani “.
In 1886-1893, the rear side of the building was rebuilt according to the project of the architect E.K. Gernet, as a result of which the portico columns preserved by Kavos were inside the warehouse . In 1890, cracks appeared in the walls of the building; The survey revealed that the foundations of the theater rested on rotten wooden piles. In 1894-1898, according to the project of architects I. I. Rerberg, K. V. Tersky and K. Ya. Mayevsky, a new foundation was laid under the theater building. However, the upset of the building did not stop: in 1902, during the performance, the wall of the auditorium sank significantly, as a result of which the doors to the middle boxes jammed and the audience was forced to get out through the neighboring ones.
Since 1918, the Bolshoi Theater began to be called academic. For several years after the October Revolution, disputes about the fate of the theater did not stop; many spoke in favor of closing it. In 1922, the Presidium of the All – Russian Central Executive Committee decided to consider the closure of the theater to be economically inappropriate. In 1921, the theater building was examined by a commission including prominent Moscow architects A. V. Shchusev, I. P. Mashkov, S. F. Voskresensky and I. V. Zholtovsky; The commission came to the conclusion about the catastrophic condition of the semicircular wall of the auditorium, which served as a support for the corridors and the entire auditorium. Work on strengthening the wall under the direction of I. I. Rerberg began in August-September 1921 and continued for two years. In 1928, in order to eliminate the ranking hierarchy of visitors, the architect P. A. Tolstykh re-planned a number of stairs and other rooms of the building. In the mid-1920s, the old curtain depicting Apollo’s quadriga was replaced by a new one, made according to the design of F. F. Fedorovsky.
During the Great Patriotic War, from October 1941 to July 1943, the Bolshoi Theater was evacuated in Kuibyshev, where he regularly performed the performances “ Eugene Onegin ” and “ Swan Lake ”. At this time, the theater staff actively contributed to the Defense Fund and received thanks for this from Stalin. Artists and musicians lived in an empty school building allocated to the theater on the outskirts of the city, where there was no furniture.
In 1955, a new luxurious brocade curtain, nicknamed the “golden”, appeared on the stage of the theater, designed by F. F. Fedorovsky, which for 50 years has been the main decoration of the stage. After the reconstruction of the Bolshoi Theater, the curtain in a restored and slightly modified form (coats of arms and inscriptions were replaced), again decorated the stage of the main theater of the country.
From 1976 to 1991, the theater was officially called the “State Twice Order of Lenin Academic Bolshoi Theater of the USSR”.
On November 29, 2002, the premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov ’s opera The Snow Maiden opened a new stage for the Bolshoi Theater. During the reconstruction of the Main Stage, from 2005 to 2011, the whole opera and ballet repertoire of the Bolshoi Theater was performed on it. Currently, performances from the Bolshoi Theater repertoire are being performed on the New Stage, and tours of Russian and foreign theater groups are being held.
Reconstruction of 2005-2011
On July 1, 2005, the historical stage of the Bolshoi Theater closed for reconstruction, which was originally supposed to be completed in 2008. Mussorgsky ’s opera Boris Godunov (June 30, 2005) was the last performance to take place on the Main Stage before closing. The planned opening time is October 28, 2011, the performance is the premiere of Glinka ’s opera “Ruslan and Lyudmila” (directed by Dmitry Chernyakov). Preparatory work for the upcoming reconstruction, during which only three bearing walls remained from the historical building – the main facade and side walls, and a giant foundation pit more than 30 meters deep were dug under the foundation, dragged on.
In September 2009, the UPC of Russia initiated a criminal case on unreasonable expenditure of funds. According to the Accounts Chamber, over the period of reconstruction of the Bolshoi Theater its cost has grown 16 times, and according to the Minister of Culture A. A. Avdeev in March 2011 exceeded 20 billion rubles (500 million €), which, allegedly, was primarily due with a strong rise in price of cement and brick.
On February 14, 2012, the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation indicated that “the reconstruction of the Bolshoi Theater cost 35.4 billion rubles, instead of the planned 37 billion, which is 95.5 percent of the estimated cost. These conclusions were reached by the auditors of the Accounts Chamber / SP / Russia based on the results of the expert examinations ” .
Since 2009, after Alexander Vedernikov left the post of chief conductor, the musical directors of the theater were composer Leonid Desyatnikov (2009—2010) and conductor Vasily Sinaisky (2010-2013). In January 2014, Tugan Sokhiev became the main conductor and musical director of the theater. Since July 2013, Vladimir Urin has been the General Director of the Bolshoi Theater.
In 2013, the Bolshoi Theater installed a new, fourth in the history of the theater, wind organ produced by the German organo-building company Glatter-Götz.
In July 2016, the Bolshoi Theater, with the support of the Summa group and the culture department of the Moscow government, launched a series of street broadcasts of its performances. Broadcasts were carried out on a special all-weather screen mounted on the main facade of the theater, and were timed to the fifth anniversary of the end of the restoration. On July 1 and 2, Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Tsar’s Bride was shown; on July 8 and 9, George Balanchine’s ballet “Jewels” was shown.
During the existence of the theater, more than 800 works were staged here. The first production created by the troupe of the theater was D. Zorin ’s opera Rebirth (1777). According to the memoirs of contemporaries, the public was very successful in the premiere of M. Sokolovsky’s opera “The Miller is a Sorcerer, a Deceiver and a Matchmaker” (1779). During this period of the theater’s existence, the repertoire was quite varied: operas by Russian and Italian composers, dance paintings from Russian folk life, ballets, divertissements, performances on mythological subjects.
By the 1840s, the theater approved domestic opera vaudeville and large-scale romantic operas, which was largely facilitated by the administrative activities of the composer A. Verstovsky, the music inspector, repertoire inspector and manager of the Moscow Theater Office in different years. In 1835, the premiere of his opera Askold’s Grave took place.
Events of theatrical life are productions at the Glinka Opera House “ Life for the Tsar ” (1842) and “ Ruslan and Lyudmila ” (1845), A. Adan ’s ballet “ Giselle ” (1843). During this period, the theater focused on creating a truly Russian repertoire, mainly a musical epic.
The second half of the 19th century was marked in the ballet by the activity of the outstanding choreographer M. Petipa, who staged a number of performances in Moscow, of which one of the most significant is Don Quixote Lamanchsky by L. Minkus (1869). At this time, the repertoire is also enriched by the works of P. Tchaikovsky: “Voivode” (1869), “ Swan Lake ” (1877, choreographer Vaclav Reisinger) – the composer’s debuts in opera and ballet; ” Eugene Onegin ” (1881), ” Mazepa ” (1884). Premiere of the opera Cherevichki by Tchaikovsky in 1887-m becomes the author’s conductor’s debut. Outstanding operas by composers of the “ mighty handful ” appear: the folk drama “Boris Godunov” by M. Mussorgsky (1888), “The Snow Maiden ” (1893) and “The Night Before Christmas ” (1898) by N. Rimsky-Korsakov, “ Prince Igor ” by A. Borodin (1898).
At the same time, the works of J. Verdi, S. Gounod, J. Bizet, R. Wagner and other foreign composers were also staged at the Bolshoi Theater.
End of XIX – beginning of XX century
At the turn of the XIX and XX centuries, the theater reaches its peak. Many Petersburg artists are seeking to participate in the performances of the Bolshoi Theater. The names of F. Chaliapin, L. Sobinov, A. Nezhdanova are becoming widely known throughout the world.
In 1912 F. Chaliapin staged in the Bolshoi opera M. Musorgsky “Khovanshchina. ” The repertoire includes Pan Voivode, Mozart and Salieri, The Tsar’s Bride by Rimsky-Korsakov, The Demon by A. Rubinstein, The Ring of the Nibelung by R. Wagner, Verist operas by Leoncavallo, Mascagni, Puccini.
During this period, S. Rakhmaninov actively collaborated with the theater, who proved himself not only as a composer, but also as an outstanding opera conductor, attentive to the style of the performed work and achieved in operas combining the ultimate temperament with fine orchestral decoration. Rachmaninov improves the organization of work of the conductor – so, thanks to him, the conductor console, which was formerly behind the orchestra (facing the stage), is deployed and transferred to its modern place.
Outstanding artists, participants in the World of Art, Korovin, Polenov, Bakst, Benoit, Golovin, participate in the creation of performances.
The first years after the 1917 revolution were marked, first of all, by the struggle to preserve the Bolshoi Theater as such and, secondly, to preserve a certain part of its repertoire. So, the opera Snegurochka, Aida, La Traviata and Verdi in general were subjected to ideological criticism. There were also statements about the destruction of ballet as “a relic of the bourgeois past.” However, despite this, both the opera and the ballet continue to develop in the Bolshoi.
New productions are created by choreographer A. A. Gorsky, ballet conductor Yu. F. Fire – in 1919 the first Nutcracker was staged by P. I. Tchaikovsky, in 1920 – a new production of Swan Lake appeared.
Choreographers in the spirit of the times are looking for new forms in art. KY Goleizovskii puts ballet ” Joseph the Beautiful ” SN Vasilenko (1925), LA Lashchilin and VD Tikhomirov – the play “The Red Poppy” RM Glier (1927), is a huge success in spectators, V.I. Vainonen – ballet “The Flames of Paris” by B.V. Asafiev (1933).
The opera is dominated by the works of M. I. Glinka, A. S. Dargomyzhsky, P. I. Tchaikovsky, A. P. Borodin, N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, M. P. Musorgsky. In 1927, director V. A. Lossky gave birth to a new edition of Boris Godunov. The operas of Soviet composers are staged – Trilby by A. I. Yurasovsky (1924), Love for Three Oranges by S. S. Prokofiev (1927).
Also in the 1920s, the theater presented to the public the best operas of foreign composers: “Salome” by R. Strauss (1925), “The Wedding of Figaro” by W.-A.Mozart (1926), “Cio-chio-san (Madame Butterfly)” (1925) and Tosca (1930) by G. Puccini (Tosca turned into a failure, despite the emphasis in the production of the “revolutionary line”).
In the 1930s, a demand by JV Stalin for the creation of a “Soviet opera classic” appeared in print. The works of I. I. Dzerzhinsky, B. V. Asafiev, and R. M. Glier are put on. At the same time, a ban is imposed on the work of contemporary foreign composers.
In 1935, the audience premiered the premiere of D. D. Shostakovich ’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. However, this work, highly praised by Soviet and foreign connoisseurs, causes a sharp rejection of power. The article “ Muddle instead of Music ” is well known, attributed to Stalin and which caused this opera to disappear from the Bolshoi’s repertoire.
The theater marks the end of World War II with the bright premieres of S. Prokofiev’s ballets Cinderella (1945, choreographer R.V. Zakharov) and Romeo and Juliet (1946, choreographer L.M. Lavrovsky), where G. S performs in major roles Ulanova.
In subsequent years, the Bolshoi Theater turned to the works of composers of the “fraternal countries” – Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary (The Sold Bride by B. Smetana (1948), Pebbles by S. Monyushko (1949) and others), as well as revising classical Russian productions operas (new productions of Eugene Onegin, Sadko, Boris Godunov, Khovanshchina and many others are being created). A significant part of these productions was carried out by the opera director B. A. Pokrovsky, who came to the Bolshoi Theater in 1943. His performances in these years and the next few decades serve as the “face” of the Bolshoi opera.
In the 1950s and 1960s, new productions of operas appeared: Verdi (Aida, 1951, Falstaff, 1962), D. Obera (Fra Devilo, 1955), Beethoven (Fidelio, 1954), theater actively collaborates with foreign artists, musicians, artists, directors from Italy, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, East Germany. For a short time, Nikolai Gyaurov, who was at the very beginning of his career, joined the troupe of the theater.
Choreographer Yu. N. Grigorovich comes to Bolshoi, the ballets The Stone Flower by S. S. Prokofiev (1959) and The Legend of Love by A. D. Melikov (1965), previously staged in Leningrad, are transferred to the Moscow stage. In 1964, Grigorovich headed the ballet of the Bolshoi Theater. He makes new editions of The Nutcracker (1966) and Swan Lake (1969) by Tchaikovsky, and also puts on Spartak by A. I. Khachaturian (1968).
This performance, created in collaboration with artist Simon Virsaladze and conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky, with the participation of virtuoso artists Vladimir Vasiliev, Maris Liepa, Mikhail Lavrovsky, is phenomenally successful with the public and receives the Lenin Prize (1970).
Another event in the life of the theater is the production of “Carmen Suite” (1967), created by the Cuban choreographer A. Alonso to the music of J. Bizet and R. K. Shchedrin specifically for the ballerina M. M. Plisetskaya.
In the 1970s and 1980s V. Vasiliev and M. Plisetskaya act as choreographers. Plisetskaya plays the ballets of R. K. Shchedrin “Anna Karenina” (1972), “The Seagull” (1980), “The Lady with the Dog” (1985), and Vasilyev – the ballets “Icarus” by S. M. Slonimsky (1976), “Macbeth ” K. V. Molchanova (1980),” Anyuta “by V. A. Gavrilin (1986).
The Bolshoi Theater troupe often tours, having success in Italy, Great Britain, the USA and many other countries.
The modern period
Currently, the Bolshoi Theater’s repertoire retains many classical productions of opera and ballet performances, but at the same time the theater is striving for new experiments. In the field of ballet, productions of D. Shostakovich’s works “The Bright Stream” (2003) and “Bolt” (2005) are created.
The work on the operas involves directors who have already gained fame as dramatic or filmmakers. Among them are A. Sokurov, T. Chkheidze, E. Nyakroshyus and others.
Work is underway to “cleanse” the original opera scores from later strata and markings, and return them to the original editions. Thus, a new production of Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky (2007), Ruslan and Lyudmila by Mikhail Glinka (2011) was prepared. Some new productions of the Bolshoi Theater caused disapproval of part of the audience and honored masters of the Bolshoi. So, the scandal was accompanied by the production of Leonid Desyatnikov ’s opera “ Children of Rosenthal ” (2005), largely due to the reputation of the author of the libretto writer Vladimir Sorokin. Indignation and rejection of the new play “Eugene Onegin” (2006, directorDmitry Chernyakov) was expressed by the famous singer Galina Vishnevskaya, refusing to celebrate her anniversary on the Bolshoi stage, where such productions are taking place. However, the mentioned performances also have their fans.
In March 2010, the Bolshoi Theater, together with Bel Air Media, began broadcasting its performances in world cinemas. On March 11, 2012, together with Google Russia, the Bolshoi Theater began broadcasting ballet performances on its YouTube channel in Russia.
Repairs were initially estimated at 15 billion rubles ($610 million) but engineers found that more than 75% of the structure was unstable, and as a result the cost estimate jumped to 25.5 billion rubles (app. $850 million). At the completion of the work, however, it was announced that only 21 billion rubles ($688 mil) had been spent. According to The Moscow Times, the true cost may have been double that, and Der Spiegel quotes a figure of $1.1 billion. The rebuilding and renovation was funded entirely by the federal government.
During the long period of reconstruction, the company continued to mount productions, with performances held on the New Stage and on the stage of the Great Kremlin Palace.
The renovation included an improvement in acoustics, to attempt to replicate the sound believed to have existed in pre-Soviet times, and the restoration of the original Imperial decor. The building’s foundation and brickwork were thoroughly reset. Inside, the entire space was stripped from the bottom up. The 19th-century wooden fixtures, silver stage curtain and French-made red velvet banquettes were removed for repair in specialist workshops. Outside, on the top of the façade, the double-headed eagle of the original Russian coat of arms was installed in the place where the Soviet hammer and sickle had been mounted for decades.
Finally, on 28 October 2011, the Bolshoi Theatre re-opened with a concert featuring international artists and the ballet and opera companies. The first staged opera, Ruslan and Lyudmila, followed soon after.
In March 2019, for the first time in its 243-year history, the Bolshoi Theater staged the famous opera by Antonin Dvořák “The Mermaid” (directed by Timofei Kulyabin) on the New Stage.
Rossini’s opera Journey to Reims (director – Damiano Mikieletto, conductor Tugan Sokhiev) became the winner of the 2018 Casta Diva opera award in the nomination “Performance of the Year”.
In 2019, the ballet Nureyev was named the best at the Golden Mask theater award, and his choreographer Yuri Posokhov became a laureate in the nomination Ballet-Contemporary Dance / Work of the choreographer-choreographer.
The theater includes ballet and opera troupes, the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra and the Brass Band. At the time of the creation of the theater, the troupe included only thirteen musicians and about thirty artists. At the same time, the troupe initially did not have specialization: dramatic actors took part in operas, and singers and dancers in drama performances. So, the troupe at different times included Mikhail Shchepkin and Pavel Mochalov, who sang in the operas of Cherubini, Verstovsky and other composers.
The title of artists of the Imperial Theaters are: actors managing troupes, directors, bandmasters, choreographers, orchestra conductors, dancers, musicians, decorators, machinists, lighting inspectors and their assistants, painters, chief dresser, prompters, dressing masters, sculptors, theater supervisors, mastermasters music office, persons involved, music scribes, singers and hairdressers; all these persons are considered to be in the public service and are divided into three categories, depending on their talents and the roles they occupy and positions.
By 1785, the troupe had already grown to 80 people and continued to grow constantly, reaching 500 by the beginning of the 20th century, and by 1990 more than 900 artists.
Throughout the history of the Bolshoi Theater, its artists, artists, directors, conductors, not counting the admiration and gratitude of the public, have repeatedly been awarded various signs of recognition by the state. In the Soviet period, more than 80 of them received the title of People’s Artists of the USSR, 4 people received the title of People’s Artists of the USSR (academician Fedor Fedorovsky, academician Simon Virsaladze, academician Vadim Ryndin, academician Valery Levental), more than 60 received Stalin Prizes, and 12 received Lenin Prizes (Elena Obraztsova, Evgeny Nesterenko, Irina Arkhipova,Yuri Grigorovich, Maris Liepa, Mikhail Lavrovsky, Natalya Bessmertnova, Galina Ulanova, Maya Plisetskaya, Boris Pokrovsky, Simon Virsaladze, Vladimir Vasiliev), eight were awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labor (Irina Arkhipova, Yuri Grigorovich, Elena Obraztsova, Ivan Nestozenko, Ivan Nestozko, Ivanoest Koz Maya Plisetskaya, Marina Semenova, Galina Ulanova – twice a hero). In the period after 1991, many artists became People’s Artists of the Russian Federation and laureatesState Prizes of the Russian Federation.
Ballet and opera
The Bolshoi is a repertory theatre, meaning that it draws from a list of productions, any one of which may be performed on a given evening. It normally introduces two to four new ballet or opera productions each season and puts a similar number on hold. The sets and costumes for most productions are made in the Bolshoi’s own workshops. The performers are drawn primarily from the Bolshoi’s regular ballet and opera companies, with occasional guest performances. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there have been a few attempts to reduce the theatre’s traditional dependence on large state subsidies. Corporate sponsorship occurs for some productions, but state funding is still the lifeblood of the company.
The Bolshoi has been associated from its beginnings with ballet. Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake premiered at the theatre on 4 March 1877. Other staples of the Bolshoi repertoire include Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, Adam’s Giselle, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, and Khachaturian’s Spartacus.
After the death of Joseph Stalin, the company toured internationally and became an important source of cultural prestige, as well as foreign currency earnings. As a result, the “Bolshoi Ballet” became a well-known name in the West. However, the Bolshoi suffered from losses through a series of defections of its dancers. The first occurrence was on 23 August 1979, with Alexander Godunov; followed by Leonid Kozlov and Valentina Kozlova on 16 September 1979; and other cases in the following years. Bolshoi continues to tour regularly with opera and ballet productions in the post-Soviet era.
The opera company specializes in the classics of Russian opera such as Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride, as well as the operas of Tchaikovsky. Many operas by western composers are also performed, especially works of Italian composers such as Rossini, Verdi, and Puccini. Until the mid-1990s, most foreign operas were sung in Russian, but Italian and other languages have been heard more frequently on the Bolshoi stage in recent years.
Some operas, such as Borodin’s Prince Igor, include extensive ballet sequences. Many productions, especially of classic Russian opera, are performed on a grand scale, with dozens of costumed singers and dancers on stage for crowd or festival scenes.
The orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre is a virtuoso ensemble in its own right. It gives occasional concerts of symphonic music in the theatre and elsewhere, and has made recordings. Over the decades, it has toured overseas as the “Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra,” the “Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra” and, most recently, as the “Bolshoi Orchestra.”
Music director and chief conductor, Vassily Sinaisky, quit abruptly at the start of December 2013, after a 41-month tenure, citing the need to avoid conflict. General director Vladimir Urin promptly accepted his resignation and selected Tugan Sokhiev as replacement. Sokhiev’s four-year contract, settled on 20 January 2014 and became effective immediately. The new chief also holds conductorships in Toulouse and Berlin.
The Bolshoi Theatre is world-famous and attracts large numbers of tourists. As a result, prices can be much higher than in other Russian theatres. This is especially the case for ballet, where prices are comparable to those for performances in the West. For local citizens, concerts and operas are still relatively affordable, with prices ranging from 100 rubles (≈$1.5) (for students, for balcony seats for matinée performances) to 15,000 rubles (≈$230) (for seats in the orchestra or stalls).
The rebuilding and renovation cost was $1.1 billion, sixteen times the initial estimate. In 2009 prosecutors alleged the lead contractor was paid three times for the same work.
Anastasia Volochkova, a former Bolshoi prima ballerina, has said she sees the theatre “as a big brothel” because, she has claimed, ballerinas are invited to parties by theatre administrators and refused roles if they do not accept.
On 17 January 2013, Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi’s ballet director, was attacked with sulfuric acid and as a result lost much of his eyesight. A male dancer was later charged with the crime.
In the area of box office, a theatre insider told the German publication Der Spiegel that tickets are often sold to mafia dealers, who in turn sell them on the black market for double the face value.
Performance quality has been criticized by the former music director Alexander Vedernikov (2001-2009). He has claimed the Bolshoi Theatre was putting “bureaucratic interests before artistic ones.”
July 8, 2017, three days before the premiere, the Bolshoi Theatre called off the premiere of a ballet about legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. The Director General Vladimir Urin claimed it was due to the bad quality of the dancing, however the principal dancer Maria Alexandrova claimed it was the first sign of a ‘new era’ of censorship. It was the first time a show has been pulled in such a way since the collapse of the Soviet Union, sparking rumours about the motivation behind it.