Bolshoi To Reopen
After nearly six months of reconstruction that have led to accusations of embezzlement and fraud, Russia’s Bolshoi Theater is expected to reopen in October.
The work on the venerable Moscow building, which has survived fires, a Nazi bombing and Lenin’s order to close it down, will have cost $660 million – 16 times the original estimate.
“We’re not saying a word about our predecessors,” explained Mikhail Sidorov of Summa Capital, the contractor that will complete the job.
In 2009, investigators said that millions of dollars had been misspent by a subcontractor, and the Moscow government has several times fired subcontractors and officials responsible for the reconstruction.
The result is that the building, which has stood since 1825 and is home to the world famous Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera, will be restored to something approaching its 19th-century design.
It will include the return of the Czarist insignia and embroidered silk tapestries and the addition of acoustics-improving fir and papier-mâché panels.
The rectangular building will also have its original violin-shaped auditorium.
About 3,500 construction workers are still busy adding sophisticated electronic and hydraulic devices, redesigning the stage floor and completing an underground stage just 30 yards from a metro station.
The Bolshoi was originally built on a foundation made from thousands of stained oak stilts stuck in central Moscow’s constantly moist soil. But nearby rivulets were encapsulated in underground pipes and the stilts dried up and collapsed. It was further damaged by fires and a 1941 Nazi bombing.
Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin wanted to close the ornate theater, which he saw as a symbol of decadent aristocracy, but the Communists ended up using it for party gatherings.
Lenin’s death was announced from the theater’s stage, and the troupe was twice awarded the Order of Lenin, the Soviet Union’s highest award.
While the ballet and opera corps enjoyed generous benefits and tirelessly toured the world, the building’s acoustics were crippled by the remodeling of the hall and the filling of a gigantic hollow resonator under the orchestra pit with concrete.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the theater troupe tried to shed its conservative reputation by staging several controversial productions.