Note: The Bolshoi Theatre is currently undergoing extensive renovations and is scheduled to reopen in 2013.
Moscow is home to a historic theater for ballet and opera, the Bolshoi Theatre. The Bolshoi Ballet is known as one of the leading companies in the world and has been in practice for more than 200 years. The Bolshoi Theatre was built in 1824 by Osip Bove, and for much of its history, was overshadowed by another theatre in St Petersburg. The Mariinsky Theatre dominated opera and ballet in Russia until 1918 when Moscow was restored as the capital. From this time through the present, ballet in Moscow has been considered the best in the country and among the best in the world as well. While the theatre is closed for extensive renovations until 2013, there are still many opportunities for cultural offerings in Moscow, including museums and trips to the palaces and Red Square.
The Bolshoi Ballet had modest beginnings and was started as a dancing school for the Moscow Orphanage in 1773. Later, the theatre itself was built to house the company, and it became known for its excellent acoustics. Throughout the years, the Bolshoi Ballet has been under the direction of many famous leaders, including Artistic Director Yuri Grigorovich. For three decades, ballet in Moscow grew in popularity thanks to the innovative work of Grigorovich and the talented dancers that came through the school.
Bolshoi is the Russian word for large or grand, and this title was given to the theatre that houses opera and ballet to show their superiority over performances, including drama and comedy. These plays were shown in theaters with "maly" in the name, meaning small. The root of the name of the theater displays just how important ballet in Moscow is. Still a highlight of any trip to the historical city, the quality of performances at the Bolshoi Theatre is world-class.
The Bolshoi ballet is unique for many reasons. The sets and costumes for most productions are made in the Bolshoi’s own workshops, showing a sense of pride in craftsmanship for the performances. While guest performances are sometimes advertised, most of the performers are from Bolshoi’s own regular opera and ballet companies. One of the most important historical moments for the Bolshoi Theatre was the premiere of Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake in 1877. During your trip to Russia, you can see the lake that inspired the famous ballet when visiting the Novodevichy Convent. A favorite for all fans of dance and music, this ballet is still one of the most beloved and performed ballets of all time.
Unlike many other opera houses across the world, until the mid 1990s, operas were sung in Russian. In recent years, performances of Western opera classics including Puccini have performed and sung in Italian, as they were intended to be performed. In 2005, the Bolshoi Theatre was closed for renovations; the federal government is funding this extensive project, intended to ensure the building's safety and restore its historic beauty.