Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Back Stage at the Bolshoi

You know what "bolshoi" means, right?

It's the Russian word for "big." Because, when it was built, the Bolshoi Theater was the largest building in Moscow. And while the building has always been plagued with difficulties (built on a swamp, fire after fire after fire, the current over-budget/late-beyond-reason renovations) it has a long and glorious history.

I got to take a very special tour today that included not just the auditorium and stage of the part of the theater still in use, but (and for me this was even better) the Bolshoi Workship. This is a completely separate building on Petrovskiy pereulok, where all the sets and costumes are created.

I forgot to bring along something to write on this time, so I don't have quite so many great Fun Facts. But I got some decent photos. I'll post some below with comments and the rest on the blog's page on Facebook (go find it and become a fan . . . you don't have to "friend" me . . . I want to post announcements there about interesting event sin Moscow like this tour). Click on the photos to enlarge them.

The yellow building on the left will be a Bolshoi Museum eventually. The modern building behind that is where the workshops are housed. It was built in the 1930s and makes wonderful use of natural light. It's not at all fancy, but the whole place has an incredible energy to it.

Here is the Fabulous Larissa, Tour Guide Extraordinaire. She makes it all so much fun.

The people who work for the Bolshoi don't make a lot of money. Instead they enjoy Soviet-style benefits (as well as great pride and satisfaction in their work) including two months of vacation annually, all expenses paid, in a variety of resorts around Russia. Here Larissa points to the holiday schedule.

This is where they paint the back drops. At the very far end of the room is a roller with white fabric on it. This is the backdrop for the Grand Re-Opening Gala for the Bolshoi. At least that part has been finished on time and probably on budget. The panel in dark blue is slated for Swan Lake.

View from the catwalks (we were allowed to walk around there). The distance from the catwalk to the studio floor is the same as from the stage to the first row of seats. This gives the set designers and the artists a chance to check their work. You can see a small easel on the left of the frame: this holds a smaller drawing of how the finished piece should look.

I spied this mirror and tea kettle off to the side of the studio.

Moving closer, I got this shot. It's like an icon. Oh, how I wish I had a better camera. Note the cat pictures on the window sill.

In the costume department, a tutu is born.

In this workroom they make all of the costumes for women. Or men playing women's roles.

Every principal has her own dressmaker's form. Costumes for the chorus/corp are not so specifically created.

"Don't be afraid!" Larissa told us before we met Vladimir, one of the shoemakers at the Bolshoi. He is one of three and has been making ballet shoes for over 20 years. A dancer can go through 2 to 5 pairs in one performance. Again, every dancer has a custom-made shoes prepared to fit a mold.

The interior of the small auditorium at the Bolshoi. When renovations to the main stage are complete, this one will be used for experimental and modern productions.

Costumes outside the dressing rooms. Each dressing room has hooks outside and the costumers hang the dancer's or actor's various costumes there. As some performances require multiple costume changes, there might be a few costumes hanging outside a door.

Maybe you would like some contact information.

Here is a link to the Bolshoi.

And here is a link to Larissa's company, Charisma Travel.


valentina said...

Very interesting and well illustrated! Thanks! xo

katbat said...

wow - looks like a great tour- I love the shoemaker! Just how I would picture the shoemaker for the bolshoi!

Miroslava said...

Awesome!!!!! Thanks!!!!! Shoes maker rules!!!!

Karyn said...

Excellent pictures and fun facts - thank you!

MoscowMom said...

What an awesome post!!!! LOVED every bit of it! Oh, how I'd have LOVED to go, too!!!!!!! Yes, the shoemaker rules... Can't you picture them all on holiday?!

Tina in CT said...

What a fantastic tour. I'd have loved to go on it. As for Vladimir, oh no!

I've been to the Bolshoi both times I visited my daughter and hopefully she'll get tickets for us to go again this holiday when I'm there. When we went in May, we had the pleasure of seeing THE leading ballet dancer. I'd recently seen him on 60 Minutes on CBS at home.

Thank you for the interesting post today.

Major Allen Espy said...

thanks for posting. very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great story.
Too bad they can not finish the restorations.

cn said...

Lucky you!

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