Russia has always had a bewitching allure to me. As a history aficionado, I was fascinated by its excruciating, yet sensitive history. In this context, a visit to the Bolshoi Theatre had an uncanny allure. This venue is world renown and for many years, it was off limits to western travelers. The Bolshoi dates back to the time of Catherine the Great, circa 1776 and its formal name is “The State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia.” The building in its current iteration has been operating since 1856, coordinated with the coronation of Tsar Alexander II. The Bolshoi has survived fires, wars and regime changes. It was recently restored to its magnificent glory.
If you travel to Moscow, you must take a performance at this iconic venue. I suggest buying tickets ahead of time, directly from the Bolshoi website. Do not wait and hope to buy at the box office, as the best performances are sold out weeks in advance. And it should go without saying to avoid the black market tickets. Keep in mind that the Bolshoi company goes dark during their vacation period, usually mid July to mid September. The original stage is listed on the website as the “Historic Stage.” The Bolshoi also operates the “Boris Pokrovsky Chamber Stage,” the Moscow Music Theatre “Helikon Opera” and the so called “new stage” that held performances while the historic stage was remodeled and updated to the 21st century.
The Bolshoi is in the heart of Moscow, walking distance to Red Square, The Kremlin Museum and St. Basil’s Cathedral. If you are not staying in the immediate area, do come early to look around and enjoy the area known as “Teatralnaya Square” or Theatre Square. Once inside the Theatre, ushers will guide you to your seat. Once upon a time, black tie and evening gowns were required to attend a performance at the Bolshoi, but as is true in most other parts of the world, there is no mandated dress code. Be warned, shorts for men or extremely revealing outfits for women will get you denied entry.
During the intermission, you are welcome to look around the magnificent lobby. There are wonderful displays of costumes, photographs and other artifacts that celebrate Russian artists. But remember to be back in your seat before the third bell rings! And while we are discussing etiquette, photographing or recording the performance is prohibited.
If you cannot secure tickets to a performance, you should at least take a historic building tour. The tours are held on specific days and are available in English or Russian only. The tickets are available at the official website and remember that no tours are held from mid July to mid September.
I have admired Russian culture and arts for a long time. From the novels of Pushkin and Dostoevsky, the incomparable musical arrangements of Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky, to the sorrowful history of Imperial Russia to the Soviet Union, there is so much to learn about Russia and her people. A visit to the Bolshoi theatre was an appropriate start.