Russia’s iconic Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow emerges as a world premier cultural venue

After six years of a painstaking US$ 700 million restoration that was plagued by financial scandals, the historic Russian State Academic Bolshoi Theatre reopened Friday with a gala concert attended by politicians and celebrities from all over the world.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev opened the gala, which was broadcast live on a screen outside the theater, on Russian television, the Internet and in movie theaters in 36 countries. The gala for the re-opening of the Bolshoi Threatre featured stars like Romanian opera diva Angela Gheorghiu and the Bolshoi’s own dazzling prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova as well as Violeta Urmana, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Natalie Dessay, performed in the two-hour long concert.  

In his opening speech, Medvedev called the Bolshoi “one of our greatest national brands.” Speaking about the restoration of the Bolshoi, which has burned down and suffered bombing throughout its 235-year history, Medvedev said the country “has always found the money to keep the Bolshoi in such a proper condition.”

The theater’s space has been more than doubled to almost 780,000 square feet from the original 340,000-plus as the building expanded about 79 feet deep into the ground, where a new performance venue called Beethoven Hall was created for small-scale productions.

The theater’s 236th opera and ballet seasons on the historical Bolshoi stage will open early next month with the premieres of Mikhail Glinka’s opera “Ruslan and Ludmila” and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Sleeping Beauty,” starring American David Hallberg as a Bolshoi premier dancer.

Most notably, US ballet star David Hallberg has joined the Bolshoi for the new season, the first time an American has become a member of the legendary company whose stars until now were all Russian or from ex-Soviet states.