The Bolshoi Theatre
The oldest and the most famous theatre in Moscow is the State Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre («Bolshoi» means big). The forerunner of today’s theater was Prince Urussov’s Opera and Ballet Theater, commissioned by Catherine the Great in 1776 and financially backed by the Englishman Michael Maddox.
Albert Cavos, designer of St. Petersburg’s magnificent Mariinsky Theater and an expert in acoustics rebuilt the Bolshoi Theatre in 1853 and today it is deemed one of the largest theaters in Europe, seating up to 3,000 people.
The most favorite operas of that time were works by Michael Glinka «The Life for the Czar» and «Ruslan and Lyudmila». And till now traditionally every Theater season begins with one of the operas of Glinka. As for the Ballet, the performances based on Russian themes were replaced by Western romantic themes in the middle of the 19th century. «Sylphide», «Gizel», «Esmeralda» were performed in Russia very soon after premieres in Europe.
The Bolshoi has had the honor of hosting the premieres of many operatic and ballet works by the famous Russian composers Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Aram Khachaturyan, who wrote the spectacularly successful ballet hit of the 1960’s, «Spartacus». The theater’s stars, among them Maya Plisetskaya, Vladimir Vasiliev, Galina Ulanova, Galina Vishnevskaya, Irina Arhipova helped to build the theater’s reputation and boosted their careers into the dazzling heights of international success. The new theatre is considered to be the second largest in Europe after the famous «La Scala» Theater in Milan.
At present the historic building of the Bolshoi Theatre is closed for renovation, so performances are put on the so-called new stage. It doesn’t yield to the main stage in acoustics or settings, maybe just in the seating capacity. The same prominent actors play in the outstanding performances. A trip to see one of the Bolshoi Theater’s world-class opera or ballet performances is an absolute must on your visit to Moscow.