Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, Russia

In 19th century Imperial Russia the Tsars assumed the role of great composers, devising how Russian culture, its establishments, and its institutions, would eventually evolve. Catherine II the Great opened this great movement in Russian history with the creation of what she saw as a worthy “ostinato” or overriding theme, that being a duet of theatrical groups.

As lead, the “grand” or “bolshoi” theater group would perform only opera and ballet, what Catherine saw as the “higher theatrical arts” while the accompaniment would be assigned to the “lesser” or “maly” theater group, presenting the “lower arts” of tragedy and comedy.

Catherine directed Prince Pyotr Urusov, her prosecutor, to take the lead role in orchestrating the score of what would become Russian theater in March 1776. Prince Urusov brought onto the stage Britain’s Michael Maddox, who had only recently helped project Samuel Foote’s Haymarket Theater in London. Together the Prince and the play-master created Russia’s first great performances in a newly constructed wooden theater on Znamenka Street.

Just before its 4th season, the building burnt to the ground. Prince Urusov quit the enterprise in despair, but Maddox took a risk and commissioned the German architect Christian Rosberg to build a new stone theater on Petrovka Street, financing 130 000 rubles but unfortunately went bankrupt. In 10 months, the structure was completed, yet sadly too caught fire in 1805.

A replacement theater was assembled by architect Carlo Rossi on Arbat Street for the following season, but this structure naturally fell victim to the great fire that left Napoleon’s troops starving in the winter of 1812. After Napoleon was sent to his fate, Osip Bove began to design Tsar Alexander’s new planned city and planned the Theater Square on what was once the banks of the Neglinnaya River. Paradoxically the new theater designed by Alberto Cavos burned down as well, alas it was one of the largest theaters in the world, surpassing at the time even the epic stages of Italy.

The Bolshoi’s most recent renovation took place between 2006 and 2011 making it the most technically equipped theater building in the world. From acoustics and state-of-the-art machinery to faithful restoration of the bright crimson and gold interiors, to even the renovation of the emblematic Apollo Quadriga statue by Peter Klodt, the theater is again the pride of Russia.
Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, Russia
Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, Russia

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