Saturday, November 19, 2011

Beauty Revisited: The Bolshoi

Since my prospect of visiting Russia and Moscow's Bolshoi Theater is not high, I was excited to see that we could have a peek anyway. The Bolshoi Theater, closed for renovations in July, 2005, reopened on October 28, 2011. It is the home to both the Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera.

 Ballerina Maria Alash during a rehearsal of Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Sleeping Beauty"

Ballerina backstage on November 16, 2011

The building was built in 1824. It had many minor additions, a fire and some renovations over the years, but this was its most extensive. The project cost at least $688 million dollars, although no one knows for sure. The theater's rigging, lighting and acoustical elements were upgraded with the leading technological advancements available, making it one of the most modern in the world. 

The Main Hall

Bolshoi Theater in 1860

The renovations were done staying as close to the original methods as possible. Four tons of gold were used in the theater. In many areas, Soviet era symbols were replaced- the Soviet star by the imperial crown and the hammer and sickle by the imperial monogram or double-headed eagle.

 Main Lobby

 Main Lobby ceiling

3,600 skilled craftsmen were brought in to recreate the gilded paneling, velvet and gold-brocaded balconies and reveal its original murals covered over by decades of paint. 

Beethoven Hall's walls are covered with two layers of red Jacquard satin

Beethoven Hall ceiling

""Gilding is done by an old Russian vodka-based method," said Mikhail Sidorov, communications director of Summa Capital, which has led the renovation for the past 1.5 years. To bring back the theatre's imperial sheen, Sidorov said they are using a medieval recipe which relies on keeping egg whites in a warm room for 40 days before mixing it with clay. Finished off with vodka, it is then used to apply gold leaf measuring 0.1-mm thick onto the theatre's curved ceilings and balconies. "This method keeps gold from being overused and helps retain its lustre for 50-70 years," he told reporters."*
Choir Hall with its grisaille painting on the walls and ceiling

Choir Hall ceiling

 Round Hall ceiling

Exhibition Hall ceiling

The royal box

Bravo to the Russian people for their hard work and dedication to preserving such a beautiful treasure. Combining state-of-the-art technology without losing the respect of the ancient crafts seems to me to be the best way of caring for our buildings.


  1. oh how wonderful! thanks for sharing these photos!

  2. Thank you for these photos. What an amazing project and of course, vodka would have to be in there somewhere!

  3. Lynne-
    Honestly, the first pic's backdrop looks like you did it! It is exquisite.

  4. Gorgeous! You are so knowledgeable about so many things. I feel like my posts are just fluff. You always have great thought and substance. Much to enjoy. Hope all is well with you. Are you geting really busy right now with events and holiday decorating? XO, Mona

  5. Love coming over here for my sweet tooth fix! My garden is still blooming...have a last late batch of lavender to clip, even. With your eye for beauty I bet you can always find something to clip and bring indoors! Happy Thanksgiving! XO Trish

  6. I will probably never make it to the theatre so thank you for these wonderful images. As you know, I am a great fan of plaster work and architecture.
    I hope you have a lovely week.

  7. Just really piece of ART is this Bolshoj building!!!

    Fantastic post,thank you so very much for these great reminding:-)))*
    I'am since 11 years live in Netherland,but when I'am in Moscow,this is always big joy to me!

    Wish you very good week ahead,




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