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Bolshoi Theatre

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

Bolshoi Theatre

After six long years of reconstruction, Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre has returned to its historic building. The removal of the hammer and sickle on the building's facade, now replaced with a two-headed eagle, was just the start. The theater's historical interior has been completely overhauled, including the main point of contention - the orchestral pit. In the 1920's, Stalin ordered the bottom of the pit to be filled with concrete, so as to lessen the risk of an assassination attempt; this alteration ended up severely impacting the theater's acoustics.

Established 28 March, 1776, the theater was at first employed as a private venue for shows, masquerades, balls and other celebrations. In the intervening years, it burned down several times. The building that has, in some semblance, persevered until today was built in 1856 by the architect Albert Kavos. Because of its size, it was called the Bolshoi (Great) Theatre, although in the 19th century it was really just a large provincial theater; St. Petersburg, with all of its style and caliber, was still the capital. However, everything changed after 1917 - the Bolshoi Theatre became the center for the state's ideology. Lenin gave his last speech here, and the birth of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was proclaimed from its stage. The new soviet aesthetic was formed on the floorboards of the Bolshoi's stage, and Stalin viewed its evolution from the Czar's box seats, never missing a premier. Pointedly, this included the 1936 premier of Dmitry Shostakovich's opera, "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District"; it was followed by a scathing review in "Pravda", denouncing the work and its author by calling the production "muddle instead of music".

In the newly-remodeled Bolshoi Theatre, the concrete flooring from the seating auditorium has also been removed, now replaced with elastic floorboards that can relay musical vibrations. And the orchestral pit has been enlarged to a capacity that can accommodate up to 130 musicians, allowing for the Bolshoi to now present even the largest of operatic works.

For almost half a century, historical productions formed the basis of the Bolshoi Theatre's repertoire, some of which had been performed completely unchanged since WWII. Revisions started to come about when the Bolshoi Theatre was forced to change locations due to the imminent risk of the building's structural collapse. It was impossible to find another stage in Moscow with the required 20 meters of length, depth and height, so new productions had to be made. The largest shock to traditionalists came with the new staging of Peter Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" in 2006, replacing the 1944 Boris Pokrovsky version. One of Russia's most talented and intelligent opera directors, Dmitry Chernakov, had been invited to produce it, yet older, once world-famous stars refused to continue to sing for the Bolshoi because of this new version. The boycott came to end, however, when the director of the Paris Opera, Gerard Mortier, was so taken by Chernakov's production that he requested the new "Onegin" to open the Paris Opera's autumn season.

The Bolshoi's ballet troupe was also steered towards new impulses during the theater's renovations. Feeling the need to expand the artistic opportunities for his master dancers of classical ballet, Alexander Ratmansky, director of the Bolshoi Ballet at the time, introduced contemporary ballet productions to the Bolshoi and invited world-famous modern choreographers to come work with them.

Equipped with the most modern stage engineering, the newly opened Bolshoi Theatre will try to combine classic productions with new, contemporary stage readings in its repertoire. Hence, the Bolshoi is currently showing two versions of Modest Mussorgsky's opera, "Boris Godunov" - both the historical, 1948 production and the 2007 stage version, created by the film director, Aleksandr Sokurov.

Theatre Square
www.bolshoi.ru

 

11/2011

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