Bolshoi Theatre

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Bolshoi Theatre
Большой театр
Bolshoi Theatre
Central Moscow.svg
Red pog.svg
Bolshoi Theatre
Location within central Moscow
Address Teatralnaya Square 1,
Tverskoy District, Moscow,
Coordinates 55°45′37″N37°37′07″E / 55.76028°N 37.61861°E / 55.76028; 37.61861 Coordinates: 55°45′37″N37°37′07″E / 55.76028°N 37.61861°E / 55.76028; 37.61861
Public transit Teatralnaya or Okhotny Ryad (Moscow Metro)
ArchitectPeter Urusov, Michael Maddox

The Bolshoi Theatre (Russian:Большо́й теа́тр, tr. Bol'shoy teatr,IPA:  [bɐlʲˈʂoj tʲɪˈat(ə)r] , lit. 'Big Theater') is a historic theatre in Moscow, Russia, originally designed by architect Joseph Bové, which holds ballet and opera performances. [1] 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 among the oldest and best known ballet and opera companies in the world. It is by far the world's biggest ballet company, with more than 200 dancers. [2] The theatre is the parent company of The Bolshoi Ballet Academy, a leading school of ballet. It has a branch at the Bolshoi Theater School in Joinville, Brazil. [3]

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. [4] 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. [5] [6] 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. [4]


The old Bolshoi Theatre in the early 19th century Bolshoy Teatr.jpg
The old Bolshoi Theatre in the early 19th century
Bolshoi Theatre in 1883 after reconstruction by Alberto Cavos Bol'shoi teatr 1883.gif
Bolshoi Theatre in 1883 after reconstruction by Alberto Cavos
Bolshoi Theatre in 1905 Bolshoi Theatre 1905.jpg
Bolshoi Theatre in 1905
Bolshoi Theatre in 1932 Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13138, Moskau, Bolschoi-Theater.jpg
Bolshoi Theatre in 1932
The Bolshoi on a 1951 stamp The Soviet Union 1951 CPA 1612 stamp (175th death anniversary of the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre. Theatre building).jpg
The Bolshoi on a 1951 stamp
Bolshoi Theatre in 2006 before the renovation Bolshoi Theatre.JPG
Bolshoi Theatre in 2006 before the renovation


The company was founded on 28 March [ O.S. 17 March] 1776, [7] when Catherine II granted Prince Peter Urusov a licence to organise theatrical performances, balls and other forms of entertainment. [8] Urusov set up the theatre in collaboration with English tightrope walker Michael Maddox. [9] Initially, it held performances in a private home, but it acquired the Petrovka Theatre and on 30 December 1780, it began producing plays and operas, thus establishing what would become the Bolshoi Theatre. Fire destroyed the Petrovka Theatre on 8 October 1805, and the New Arbat Imperial Theatre replaced it on 13 April 1808, however it also succumbed to fire during the French invasion of Moscow in 1812.[ citation needed ]

The first instance of the theatre was built between 1821 and 1824, designed and supervised to completion by architect Joseph Bové based upon an initial competition-winning design created by Petersburg-based Russian architect Andrei Mikhailov that was deemed too costly to complete. [10] [11] The new building opened on 18 January 1825 as the Bolshoi Petrovsky Theatre with a performance of Fernando Sor's ballet, Cendrillon . Initially, it presented only Russian works, but foreign composers entered the repertoire around 1840.[ citation needed ]

Renovations in the 19th century

In 1843 a large-scale reconstruction of the theatre took place using a design by A. Nikitin, but a fire in 1853 caused extensive damage and so a further reconstruction was carried out, by Alberto Cavos, son of the opera composer Catterino Cavos.

20th century

On 7 December 1919 the house was renamed the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre. Only a few days later, however, on 12 December, there was an unsuccessful attempt to shut the institution entirely. Beethoven Hall opened on 18 February 1921. Ivan Rerberg directed further reconstruction of the theatre between 1921 and 1923. A bomb damaged the structure during World War II, but this was repaired.

New stage of 2002

A new stage for the Bolshoi Theatre, called the New Stage, went into service on 29 November 2002, constructed to the left of the theatre's historic main stage. Together with auxiliary buildings — a restored 17th-century building, two rehearsal halls, and artists' recreation rooms — it forms a single theatre complex, the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia. The new building is on a natural hill which it shared, until recently, blocks of old houses with communal apartments. [12]

Major rebuilding and renovation (2005–2011)

The curtain of the Bolshoi Theater Moscow BolshoyTheatre 009 2507.jpg
The curtain of the Bolshoi Theater

From July 2005 to October 2011 the theatre was closed for restoration. The building, whose architecture combines three different styles, was damaged and a quick renovation seemed to be necessary.

Repairs were initially estimated at 15 billion rubles ($610 million) but engineers found that more than 75% of the structure was unstable, [13] According to The Moscow Times, the true cost may have been double that, [5] and Der Spiegel quotes a figure of $1.1 billion. [6] The rebuilding and renovation was funded entirely by the federal government. [14]

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 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. [4] [15] Finally, on 28 October 2011, the Bolshoi Theatre re-opened with a concert featuring international artists and the ballet and opera companies. [4] The first staged opera, Ruslan and Lyudmila, followed soon after.

Notable premieres

The Bolshoi has been the site of many historic premieres, including:

Other notable facts

Ballet and opera

Performance in the Bolshoi Theatre (1856) Performance in the Bolshoi Theatre.JPG
Performance in the Bolshoi Theatre (1856)
Alexander III of Russia and his family at the Bolshoi, 1883 Alexander III of Russia's coronation album 21.jpg
Alexander III of Russia and his family at the Bolshoi, 1883

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. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there have been a few attempts to reduce the theatre's traditional dependence on large state subsidies.[ citation needed ] The Bolshoi has been associated from its beginnings with ballet. Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake premiered at the theatre on 4 March 1877.[ citation needed ] The chief ballet conductor from 1923 to 1963 was Yuri Fayer.[ citation needed ]

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.[ citation needed ]

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; [17] 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. [18] [19]

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.[ citation needed ]

Auditorium of the Bolshoi Theatre in 2014 Golden Mask 2014 photographer Dmitriy Dubinskiy.jpg
Auditorium of the Bolshoi Theatre in 2014


Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater in the workplace Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater in the workplace.png
Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater in the workplace

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 accepted his resignation, and selected Tugan Sokhiev as replacement. Sokhiev's four-year contract, settled on 20 January 2014, and became effective immediately.

Tugan Sokhiev left his position in connection with the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. [20]

Chief conductors and music directors

Cultural status

The quadriga was sculpted by Peter Clodt von Jurgensburg. Moscow 05-2017 img27 Bolshoy Theatre quadriga.jpg
The quadriga was sculpted by Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg.

The Bolshoi Theatre is attracts large numbers of tourists. As a result, prices can be much higher than in other Russian theatres.[ citation needed ]


See also

Related Research Articles

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