Bolshoi Theatre: Backstage Tour

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This day was set up to be one of the most memorable and most awe striking experiences and it did not disappoint. We had family from outside  Russia stay with us, a mere three months after we moved here and almost before our belongings had arrived with the haulage company, and we really wanted to do something special that they would not only remember but that is unique to Moscow. We were very fortunate to have a privately arranged backstage guided tour of the Bolshoi Theater.

Bolshoi, in Russian means big or great, and upon arrival, you are met with a majestic sight of a  bronze sculpture of Apollo in his chariot supported by a row of colossal pillars, welcoming you to one of the greatest theaters ever built – the world renowned Bolshoi Theater. Located right opposite the large and busy road of Teatral’nyy, and destined to be overlooked by Apollo and his team of horses is a large statue on Revolyutii square over which parts of the Kremlin peak.  Once we walked through the great pillars and into the foyer of the theater, this expat could not help getting this overwhelming sensation of being surrounded by greatness.

An interior of marble, white and gold leads you down a maze of passages to beautiful, elegant small lifts that transport theater goers between the cloakroom and all the floors of the main theater – of which there are six. Coats duly checked into into the cloakroom we efficiently received a numbered token before we set off to the first floor of the Main Stage and entered the enormous, pitch perfect, acoustically sound, auditorium. As we sat in the seats of the amphitheater, we sat in silence for a moment just to take in all the beauty, splendor and history. The stage, which is at a perfect three degree angle, is located beyond the orchestra pit. Once you are viewing this from up close, you can’t help feeling very small and insignificant. Turning around to get an dancer’s view of the theater, it is dominated by the Royal Box in the center of the Belle-Etage and the rows of ornate golden balconies. On the far right, directly above the stage is another box, said to be the one used by Stalin and located directly opposite is the box where distinguished dancers and opera singers sat.

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We progressed to the top floor of the theater and entered the forth balcony. Walking over to the edge of the balcony, you can almost touch the magnificent crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The ceiling features beautifully painted figures, one on each panel, representing the twelve muses of Apollo.

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After a barrage of camera activity, we proceeded with our tour and headed up into the rafters that is the ninth floor, where all the members of staff work tirelessly to put together the perfect productions expected by discerning ballet and opera goers. We were treated to a private  rehearsal of Spartacus that was taking place on the rehearsal stage – the stage is an exact replica of the Main Stage and dancers rehearse each production here until the opening night when they take their costumes, their ballet shoes and what is left of their nerves downstairs to perform on the Main Stage for the first time. Making our way back, we passed through the wardrobe rooms where all the costumes are made. Here they work tirelessly, crafting each item by hand with the view of enhancing each performance. And the view from their window is just priceless – this expat would never get any work done!

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As our tour was nearing it’s end, we were led down to one of the lower floors and showed to two ballrooms. We made our way up one of a most beautiful marble staircases, surrounded by yet more crystal, gold and mirrors. The Imperial Ballroom was decorated in a warm shade of red, typically associated with soviet times. Everything looked absolutely immaculate and pristine as we took in one lingering last glimpse of all the beauty that surrounded us before making our way back to the foyer.

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