The Bolshoi Theater is an opera and theater company that is located in Moscow, Russia. It is open to performances of ballet and opera. In earlier times, this theater was home to the renowned and respected Ballet of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theater. In its early years, Bolshoi was overshadowed by another theater called the Imperial Theater.
However, this changed during the Soviet era, and the Bolshoi grew in power and importance and soon became the center of culture, of sorts. The focus shifted from Saint Petersburg (which was home to Imperial) to Moscow (where Bolshoi was); and some of the dancers from Imperial also joined the forces at Bolshoi Ballet.
Over the years, Bolshoi has been home to some of the best and greatest dancers as well as directors of the world. Russian opera and ballet together, it could be said, have produced some of the greatest cultural high points that there are in world history.
The name Bolshoi is derived from the Russian word ‘Bolshoi’ which means ‘large’, which can be construed as ‘grand’. In St. Petersburg and Moscow, collectively, there were only 2 theaters that stood ground. One of these theaters was meant to showcase opera and ballet; and the other one was for comedies and tragedies. Given the fact that, at that point in history, opera and ballet were considered nobler than drama, the opera house was often named ‘Grand Theater’, while the name ‘Small Theater’ was reserved for the drama theater.
The foundation of the Bolshoi Theater dates back to the year 1825. This was when this example of a fine classical building appeared, replete with its 8 columned portico, which was crowned by a carriage of Apollo. This new theater was said to be only 2nd to the famous ‘La Scala’ Theater of Milan, which was the largest one in the whole of Europe. The theater may have been new, but the theatrical company had already been in existence for almost half a century. To honor the opening of the brand new theater, they put together a rendition called ‘The Triumph of Muses’.
The company was founded by Petr Vasilievich Ursov, a province public prosecutor, in the year 1772; and it found leadership in his energetic and extremely enterprising partner, an Englishman by the name Michael Medox. Thanks to Medox, the new theater stood on the abandoned ground that was used to being normally flooded owing to the Neglinka River.
The 2nd half of the 19th century can be considered a period when national originality was being churned out of Moscow Theater and Russian Art. The creative activities of the directors and composers of that time contributed to this raise of the Theater. It was around this time that Alexander Varlamov and Alexis Verstovsky founded the Russian Opera Repertoire. The most popular and favored operas of that era were the works of Michael Glinka. ‘Ruslan and Lioudmila’ and ‘The Life for the Czar’ were so popular that even today, traditionally speaking, each theater season will begin with one of Glinka’s operas.
As for the Ballet performances, the Western romantic themes ended up replacing the Russian themes by the time the mid 19th century had dawned.
Come to think of it, Great Russian Opera Theaters are not merely centers of music and culture; they are also academies that impart professional acting techniques. Till date, the Trainees’ Group of Bolshoi is the crowning joy among young conductors, singers, directors and leaders of choruses.
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There was an announcement made in December 2010 that around 300 cinemas around 22 countries of the world would be showing some of the real-time ballets that are staged by the Bolshoi in Russia. This was said to be a joint venture taken up by Bolshoi and CielEcran Company. The ballets, in their 235th season, would be aired online on Sundays; and would be available in France, Czech Republic, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Netherlands, Britain, Switzeerland and the United States. With some shift in time, they would also be viewable in Japan and Australia.
This program will end on the 29th of May, along with the end of the Theater season at Bolshoi. It will culminate in the Ballet ‘Coppelia’ by Enrico and Petipa Cecchetti.