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Gala concert for reopening of the Bolshoi

Vladimir Radyuhin
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The ceiling inside the main hall of Moscow's Bolshoi theatre after restoration. — Photo: REUTERS
The ceiling inside the main hall of Moscow's Bolshoi theatre after restoration. — Photo: REUTERS

The world-renowned Bolshoi Theatre is reopening after a reconstruction that took six years to complete and became the most expensive theatre renovation project ever.

The inaugural gala concert on Friday will be attended by President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and will be broadcast live across the world over several TV networks and YouTube. It will be an invitation-only night, but ticket hawkers were reportedly offering front row seats for $60,000 apiece.

The renovation involved replacing the entire foundation, which was crumbling, and revamping the interior to restore the original ornate opulence of gold-plated carved moldings, crystal chandeliers and embroidered silks.

The makeover has doubled the floor area adding rooftop rehearsal halls and underground spaces equivalent in size to a six-storey building that house sophisticated stage moving equipment and a concert hall for 320 seats. However, the famous eight-column exterior of the theatre topped by a bronze statue of Apollo's four-horse chariot has remained intact.

Architects have meticulously recreated the Bolshoi (which means “Grand” in Russian) as it looked when re-opened in 1856 for the coronation of Czar Alexander II, the third and last time the 235-old theatre was rebuilt after devastating fires.

Sound quality has been dramatically improved by the restoration of acoustic panels made of hand-picked resonance spruce that cover the walls, the ceiling and the floor of the main auditorium. The systems will carry the magnified voices of singers and orchestra to all the six tiers of seats.

Theatre-goers will enjoy wider and more comfortable red-fabric chairs restored to their 19th-century Italian designs. This required the removal of 480 extra chairs stuffed into the original 1,720-seat hall for Communist Party congresses.

The Bolshoi will continue to use its New Stage next door where it moved its performances during the renovation, which means it may have to cut on foreign tours now.

Bolshoi's general director Anatoly Iksanov said the renovation had cost a whopping $700 million, while infrastructure experts put the figure at almost twice that. Mr. Iksanov promised that the most expensive tickets would not exceed 3,000 rubles (roughly $100) when the theatre opens to the public on November 2, but online box offices are already offering tickets priced $600 to $800.

Moscow theatre restored to its 1856 splendour.


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