Twenty years ago, a Dom Kultury (House of Culture), was found in almost every small town in Russia, where at least once a week there would be the teaching of ballet. Three Czars marked their coronations at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre and after the communist revolution of 1917 Lenin claimed the emergence of the Soviet union from the stage. Once an expression of the communist society and performing arts in the country, the Bolshoi, true to the destiny of all Soviet figures, faded with the era’s demise.
By the late 1990s, Russia was almost bankrupt. The Bolshoi’s budget was not sufficient to even payroll ballerinas and foreign tours. Rather than focusing on presenting the beautiful performances the theatre is known for, a lot of time was spent installing netting to keep plaster from falling on performers’ and audiences’ heads, becoming a reflection of the society around the largely derelict city. On October 28 2011, the Bolshoi reopened after a six year $700m refurbishment.
Opulent colours of gold and red adorn the Bolshoi once more, there has been extensive renovation of the 19th century music chamber, and the stage’s titanic curtains have been newly sewn with the Russian imperial crest. Great care was taken to bring the ancient theatre back to its original glory. Evgeny Vasiliev, an artisan working on the project, had to make his very own tools to suit the design of the chandelier in the White Hall upstairs. After learning French especially to understand the gold and the crystals better, Vasiliev set about to perfect them in their regal décor.
An effort has been made to cross out the Soviet era’s influence from the theatre for it had caused much damage, from ruining the music chamber with the installation of a concrete floor instead of the originally intended placing of elm to the ordaining of a Soviet hammer and sickle in the Czar box; the original double-headed eagle off the Russian coat of arms now honours the Czar box.
The revival of the Bolshoi has largely been funded by the MetLife Corporation, which means the theatre now fronts collaborative ploys by bearing hallmarks of the corporation: the mascot, a dancing dog. Private sponsorship used to be illegal in the the USSR and is still particularly unfavourable to many. After the renovation, the theatre opened with a concert featuring artists from abroad, and regional ballet and opera productions.
Founded by Catherine the Great in 1776, the theatre has seen performances in the likes of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, but in Moscow it is mostly famous for the trademark Bolshoi ballet troupe and opera productions. The transformation of the Bolshoi Theatre in recent years has seen the troupe touring overseas once more, alongside showcasing ballet to a national audience.