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Curtain Call: Moscow’s Bolshoi Reopens Its Doors

Moscow’s most iconic cultural landmark prepares for its grand reopening this fall. After an extensive and ambitious restoration project, the Bolshoi Theatre has been brought back to its former glory. With Credit Suisse as the theatre’s general sponsor, the new season is scheduled to start this October as the Bolshoi reclaims centre stage.

Moscow’s celebrated Bolshoi Theatre prepares for its much-anticipated reopening this fall. With its curtains drawn for the last six years, the renovation period has been extended repeatedly as restoration teams determined that the actual work load was far greater than initially established. Bringing the iconic structure back to its former glory, in addition to the implementation of state-of-the-art technical accents, was no small task and engaged over 3,000 workers on site and a further 1,500 artisans from external ateliers. Between 1825 and 1840, the theater exclusively presented Russian works. Foreign composers entered the repertoire thereafter until a fire in 1853 caused extensive damage. A three-year reconstruction then followed, led by Alberto Cavos. During World War II the building was hit by a bomb, but swiftly repaired. However, inappropriate changes and years of neglect during the Soviet era have left their mark.

Egg Whites, Vodka and Gold

In addition to the numerous structural changes, such as the reduction of seats from 2,100 to 1,720 and the introduction of a new revolving stage, the extensive undertaking is delineated by extraordinary attention to detail. The gold plaited decorative accents, for instance, required over five 11 pounds of mosaic gold, used for the gilding of the theatre and its massive chandelier. The restoration of the ceiling’s historic fresco alone, depicting Apollo, the Greek god of prophecy, music and the arts, surrounded by ten muses against a blue sky backdrop, took ten months to complete.

Mikhail Sidorov, spokesman for Summa Capital, the company responsible for the restorations, says “guilding was done by an old Russian vodka-based method.” Interestingly, the secret formula for the finishing touches of the renovation of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre is a concoction made of egg whites, Russian vodka and gold. To bring back the imperial sheen the medieval recipe requests that the egg whites are kept in a warm room for 40 days before being mixed with clay and other ingredients. Finished off with vodka, it is then used to apply gold leaf onto the curved ceilings and decorative features. “This method keeps gold from being overused and helps retain its lustre for longer,” he adds.  (INSERT PHOTO Bolshoi.6.jpg)

New Acoustic Resonance

The Bolshoi’s iconic tilted stage qualities have been thoughtfully preserved, keeping its distinctiveness and noticeable sense of history. The orchestra pitch has also been enlarged and overall, the renovations were intended to restore the original acoustics of the theater. After the extensive remodelling, the end result is not only outstanding but nothing short of extraordinary, considering that the building’s foundation and brickwork had to be repaired entirely by hand. As the theatre’s general sponsor, Credit Suisse is particularly proud of the association with the home of such world-renowned talent and looks forward to the reopening performances of Moscow’s Bolshoi this coming November.

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