I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a backstage tour of the Bolshoi Theater. The Theater hosts one of the most renowned opera and ballet companies in the world. The current building was built in 1850 and the first time it was used was for coronation parties for Tsar Nicholas II. In 2005 it was closed for six years for a major renovation and it reopened last year.
One of the highlights of the tour included watching a rehearsal of the opera Boris Godunov. The opera had a large cast of at least 50 people and we were able to see some of the sets. You can watch a short clip from the rehearsal here:
The Theater is much larger than it looks from the outside with multiple stages and private rooms. There is a gigantic chandelier hanging from the ceiling. When the Theater was first built the lights in the chandelier were candles and the chandelier was hoisted up when the candles needed to be changed. Now that it operates on electricity, the space upstairs is a stage that is an exact replica of the main stage. It is used for rehearsals and small performances. When I was there a ballerina was hanging out doing splits on the stage.
The tour also allowed us to watch the costumes being made and mended. There were so many tutus, I really wanted to try one on. One of the costumes I saw was a Ded Moroz (Russian Santa Claus) costume from the early 1900’s. They had it out because they were making a new version of the costume. The costume rooms overlook the main square the Theater sits in and it provided a great view of the statue in the Square.
One of the side rooms that is currently used for private events or by oligarchs when they attend the Theater was where the coronation party for Tsar Nicholas II was held. On the wall are beautiful rugs that were recently restored. If you look at the rugs you will notice that the oval that has the Tsar’s initials is much brighter than the rest of the fabric. During the Soviet era the Tsar’s initials were replaced by the hammer and sickle. As part of the restoration many items that had the hammer and sickle were replaced with the double headed eagle, the Russian state symbol.
It was amazing to be behind the scenes and get a sense of how the Bolshoi operates. It is quite a production!
From Russia with Love,