Six Years, a Scandal, and $681 Million Later, Moscow's Restored Bolshoi Theater Is Ready to Reopen
After six years, $681 million, and a few setbacks — crumbling foundations that forced plans to be redrawn 10 times, contractors who became embroiled in an ongoing embezzlement investigation — Moscow's historic Bolshoi theater has been restored to its dazzling former glory.
Since its opening in 1776, the storied building has been the site of premiers by composers Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov andShostakovich; Communist Party conferences; the formation of the Soviet Union; and the announcement of the death of Vladimir Lenin. Understandably, after 235 years, three fires, and numerous wars, the Bolshoi has also undergone its share of wear and tear.
"Cracks in the lower wall were so big that you could put a hand through," said Mikhail Sidorov, a spokesman for Summa Group, the contractors who took over in 2009 after Russian police raised embezzlement suspicions against the previous contractors,Bloomberg reports. "The theater could have just collapsed like a house of cards."
The Bolshoi employed more than 3,600 artists, designers, builders, and engineers in the last two years alone to restore its historic interiors, a much-needed intervention and the building's first in 150 years. During the six-year project, the team worked to restore silk textiles, curtains, and upholstery; gold plating; chandeliers; and Venetian mosaic floors. The floor area was also doubled, a rooftop rehearsal added, and the basement renovated to serve as a recording studio and access for the disabled. They even enlarged the seats and added shower rooms for its 900 performers.
The theater reopens to the public on November 2 with Mikhail Glinka's opera, "Ruslan and Lyudmila," but not before Prime Minister Vladimir Putin throws a grand, private gala featuringPlacido Domingo, Dmitry Hvorostovsky, Violeta Urmana, andNatalie Dessay on October 28. While sadly, the prime minister's party is invitation only, opera lovers can look forward to forthcoming productions of the "Boris Godunov" opera, "Sleeping Beauty," and "The Nutcracker."