The Bolshoi building, which for many years now has been regarded as one of Moscow’s main sights, was opened on 20 October 1856, on Tsar Alexander II’s coronation day.
On 29 October 2002 the Bolshoi was given a New Stage and it was here it presented its performances during the years the Main Stage was undergoing massive reconstruction and refurbishment.
The reconstruction project lasted from l July 2005 to 28 October 2011. As a result of this reconstruction, many lost features of the historic building were reinstated and, at the same time, it has joined the ranks of most technically equipped theatre buildings in the world.
The Bolshoi Theatre is a symbol of Russia for all time. It was awarded this honor due to the major contribution it made to the history of the Russian performing arts. This history is on-going and today Bolshoi Theatre artists continue to contribute to it many bright pages.
The Bolshoi is a repertory theatre, meaning that it draws from a list of productions, any one of which may be performed on a given evening. It normally introduces two to four new ballet or opera productions each season and puts a similar number on hold. The sets and costumes for most productions are made in the Bolshoi’s own workshops. The performers are drawn primarily from the Bolshoi’s regular ballet and opera companies, with occasional guest performances.
The Bolshoi has been associated from its beginnings with ballet. Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake premiered at the theatre on 4 March 1877.
The Bolshoi Theatre is world-famous and attracts large numbers of tourists. As a result, prices can be much higher than in other Russian theatres. This is especially the case for ballet, where prices are comparable to those for performances in the West. For local citizens, concerts and operas are still relatively affordable, with prices ranging from 100 rubles (≈$1.5) (for students, for balcony seats for matinée performances) to 15,000 rubles (≈$230) (for seats in the orchestra or stalls).
The opera company specializes in the classics of Russian opera such as Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride, as well as the operas of Tchaikovsky. Many operas by western composers are also performed, especially works of Italian composers such as Rossini, Verdi, and Puccini. Until the mid-1990s, most foreign operas were sung in Russian, but Italian and other languages have been heard more frequently on the Bolshoi stage in recent years.
Some operas, such as Borodin’s Prince Igor, include extensive ballet sequences. Many productions, especially of classic Russian opera, are performed on a grand scale, with dozens of costumed singers and dancers on stage for crowd or festival scenes.