The one and only – Bolshoi Theater!

// Pre-scriptum! Do you know what Bolshoi means in Russian? You do now: Big!

In the summer of this year we signed a partner agreement with none other than Moscow’s Bolshoi! At the signing ceremony, we were kindly invited for a personal excursion around the theater. And the other Sunday that’s just what we got – hurray! This post is all about that unforgettable excursion…

We met up with our host/guide at the front door, then we were in and up the service stairs to the White (Main) Foyer:

Now, you, like I, might have expected this private excursion to have been on a day-off for the theater – when it’s empty. It was looking that way when we were invited on a Sunday – in the afternoon, but no. Once we entered the main auditorium guess what ballet was just finishing up on stage, the house packed out? Oh, only Swan Lake!! Indeed, it was being shown during the Sunday daytime program! ->

And guess where we were – in the Central Box! Yes – where the kings, queens, presidents, and general secretaries get/got to sit!!

La fin. Encore! Bravo!

The history of the Bolshoi is a long and interesting one, but I won’t go into it in detail here. Check the theater’s own site or Wikipedia for the facts, figures and stories. I will mention here though the briefest of histories…

The theater was founded in 1776 – nearly 250 years ago! It was built to replace the Opera House that had burned down, and was originally called Petrovsky Theater, since it was situated on Petrovsky Street (as the Bolshoi is still today). Over the next 80 years the theater burned down a full three times – in 1805, 1812 (yes – as in the Overture:), and in 1853. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and it underwent a total reconstruction – between 2005 and 2011.

Ok, enough history; now for some pics…

And this is what the main auditorium looks like from up on stage:

And from the top (fourth) balcony:

This chandelier – doesn’t look so huge, right? But it weighs – two tons!

We return to the White Foyer, and notice that the chandeliers there are clearly the originals from way back when – before electricity. We were told how they started out as candle-housings; then, later – they were oil powered (and the oil would have a habit of dripping down onto the audience – let’s hope having cooled before hitting the theater-goers heads! Still, what a mess it would make of one’s best evening wear!); and later still the chandeliers were gas-powered – and you can see the on/off levers still in place today! ->

Next up – the thoroughly grandiose Imperial Foyer:

The acoustics in here are mind-blowing. I can just imagine the amplifying effect on an opera singer’s sopranos )…

Tsarist (Nikolai II) symbols all nicely restored:

Underground, there’s another hall – the Beethoven Hall:

The view of the – surprisingly vast – stage from the right side (where trainers, choreographers, ballet-masters and the rest normally sit) ->

Can’t get a closer, clearer view than from here! ->

The best seats! ->

Next – through the door marked “Service Entrance” ->

Inside, backstage and the stage door! ->

Backstage things look more like a steel refinery than a theater; well – almost ) ->

Of course – digital tech all present and correct:

Next up – the dressing rooms:

Technical sections up above the stage:

Plenty of cool analogue gear here! ->

Yet more analogue kit – more than at a Emerson, Lake & Palmer gig in the 70s! ->

Above – the bell controls; below – the bells themselves:

These inscriptions are Russian Orthodox – showing that the bells were taken from churches; if there are no inscriptions – the bells were made specially for the theater:

Up in the attic – the rehearsal/training hall ->

And here are Alexander Mogilev, choreographer, director, producer; and Igor Tsvirko, Principal Dancer of the Bolshoi:

Igor had just played the Evil Genius in Swan Lake, which we’d just seen the last few scenes of. But instead of heading out to some kind of glitzy post-show event – or even just home – he’s back to a spot of practice upstairs! Respect!

The view from that same – top – floor:

The downside of having such an enormous chandelier! ->

Ah, this is better ) ->

The Bolshoi is a bit like Dr Who’s TARDIS: there’s a lot more inside the building than you can possibly imagine. Here’s another example of this: somewhere up around the top floor there’s… this! ->

Basically a smaller version of the main stage – for rehearsals.

Since it’s so massive, our guided tour lasted a full two-and-a-half hours! And during the last minutes of our excursion we came across… our first window! ->

Sundown moon-up already!

Another hall! ->

…Where we were treated to an impromptu performance by an opera singer who was rehearsing. She kindly let us sit in on her practice sessions, which turned out to be simply wonderful – and extraordinarily loud! ->

And that was that. The kids were already getting tired – as indeed were we. Time we were off.

A huge spasibo to our hosts: the management of the theater, and especially its press relations director, Katerina Novikova, who gave us the terrific tour:

PS: I didn’t think the Bolshoi could possibly go higher in terms of how much I respect it, but… get this:

In March 2020 – i.e., immediately once covid lockdown began – the theater simply (actually, probably not!) went online (like the rest of us!), with millions tuning into its earlier-recorded performances on YouTube (and that was just on the first day!). Wait – there’s more…

Later, big-name classical, variety, theater and movie stars all took part in special performances to an empty hall (but broadcast live) to express their solidarity and appreciation of the doctors and medical staff hard at work saving lives. Woah. Impressive. (To compare, Cirque du Soleil never thought to go online, laid off most of its staff, and nearly went bankrupt :O).

That’s all for today folks. Back soon from… Singapore!

The rest of the photos of the… Big Theater are here ).

Leave a note