There are plenty of interesting facts, stories and even legends in the history of the Bolshoi Theater. We have selected ten of them, as they determine both the appearance and the content of the Bolshoi, shape its unique destiny and determine the role this theater plays in contemporary ballet art.
1. The current building of the Bolshoi Theater is the fourth one
Three preceding buildings were burnt down. The first one was ruined in a fire in 1805, the next one - in 1812, when Moscow was set on fire because of the threat of an attack by Napoleon’s army. Another fire broke out in the building of the Bolshoi Petrovsky Theater in 1853. The fire raged for three days and destroyed everything except the stone walls and columns of the portico.
By 1856, the theater building was restored - and it is considered to be the very building that we have today, although it was seriously modified on numerous occasions. Even a new foundation was installed under it: initially the building stood on piles, but they rotted and one of the walls caved in. So, renovation of the Bolshoi building is usual practice.
2. The era of the Soviet Union began within the walls of the Bolshoi
The historic First Congress of Soviets was held on December 30, 1922, in the "scenery" of the Bolshoi Theater. The document that united the countries into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was signed here, and later, meetings of the Communist Party and the government were often held in the theater
3. Acoustics of the theater resemble those of a violin
When designing the building in 1865, the architect Alberto Cavos was inspired by the structure of the violin. The walls were covered with spruce wood panels, which are great sounding boards! The ceiling was also made from wood, and the rooms under the amphitheater were filled with earth. During the major renovation completed in 2011, the designers achieved an important goal of returning the theater its legendary acoustics.
4. The Bolshoi building miraculously survived during World War II
Fires burned it to the ground several times but the Nazis could not destroy it. During the war, the theater was disguised as residential buildings, the heating and lighting were turned off, and the legendary chandeliers were sent to safety. As a result, the Bolshoi Theater survived.
5. One of the symbols of the Theater - its stage curtain - is made of gold threads and silk
The curtain itself has been renewed several times, but its appearance has remained unchanged. Its base is made of gold and silk threads. The very first curtain, which adorned the stage in 1955, had an area of over 500 square meters and weighed more than a ton.
6. The name of the Theater is not translated into other languages
It is only transliterated. So, on foreign call boards you can often find the spelling in the Latin alphabet - Bolshoi. Russian ballet is famous all over the globe, and the name of its Home has long become a proper name in world culture.
7. The quadriga of bronze horses on the pediment replaced the trio
At first, the pediment of the Theater was decorated with the figure of Apollo, who drove three horses made of alabaster. After the fire of 1853, a bronze quadriga created by Peter Klodt appeared. The appearance of the sculpture changed over time, besides, the Nazi bomb damaged it a little. The quadriga was restored several times, during the major reconstruction of 2005-2011, a chaste fig leaf was added to the deity's body.
8. There are two varieties of tulips bred in honor of the Bolshoi Theater
In the 1950s, the Dutch breeder David Lefeber visited Moscow and was astonished by the grandeur and monumentality of the theater building. Inspired, he created two new tulip varieties: Bolshoi Theater and Galina Ulanova. These flowers adorned the gorgeous flowerbed in front of the theater for many years and have become one of its symbols.
9. From 30 to 1,000 people: the theater troupe has grown more than 30 times
The first troupe had a little more than 30 actors without a clear division into drama, opera and ballet. As years passed, the theater building was transforming and growing, as did the glory of Russian ballet. And the troupe was growing too. It currently employs about 1,000 people.
10. The first production of the Bolshoi Theater after reconstruction was Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow Maiden
The premiere performance on the New Stage of the theater after restoration took place on November 29, 2002. The audience saw The Snow Maiden by Rimsky-Korsakov. For the first time the Bolshoi audience applauded this opera almost 110 years ago. And this production is still in the theater’s repertoire!