Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, Russia

The Bolshoi Theater began its life as the private theater of the Moscow prosecutor Prince Pyotr Urusov. On 28 March 1776, Empress of Russia Catherine the Great signed and granted the Prince the privilege of organizing theater performances of all kinds, including masquerades, balls and other forms of entertainment, for a period of 10 years.

The theater's first building was erected on the right bank of the River Neglinka. It stood on Petrovka Street, whence the Theater derived its name Petrovsky (it was subsequently to be called the Old Petrovsky Theater). The Theater opened on 30 December 1780. The opening performance consisted of a solemn prologue The Wanderers written by Alexander Ablesimov and a big pantomime ballet The Magic School, produced by Leopold Paradis to music by Joseph Starzer. Later on the Theater repertoire consisted for the most part of Russian and Italian comic operas with ballet interludes, and separate ballets.

At first, the Bolshoi Theater's Opera and Dramatic Troupes formed a single company. Company members came from very diverse backgrounds - all the way from serf artists to guest stars from abroad. Moscow University and its gymnasium, both of which provided a good musical education, played a major role in the formation of the Opera and Drama Company. Theater classes were organized at the Moscow Foundling Home which was also a source of recruits for the new Company.

The organization of theater performances and entertainments involved a heavy financial burden and Prince Pyotr Urusov shared his "privilege" with a business partner, the Russophile Englishman and theatrical entrepreneur Michael Maddox. The latter was also an equilibrist, theater mechanic and "lecturer", who demonstrated various types of optical equipment and other "mechanical" marvels.

The Bolshoi building, which has always been regarded as one of Moscow's main sights, was opened on 20th of October 1856, on Tsar Alexander II's coronation day. On 29 October 2002 the Bolshoi was given a New Stage and it was here it presented its performances during the years the Historic Stage was undergoing massive reconstruction and refurbishment. Another reconstruction project lasted from July 2005 to October 2011 resulted in reinstating many lost features of the historic building and, at the same time, made it one of the most technically equipped theater buildings in the World.

The Bolshoi Theater is a symbol of Russia for all time. It was awarded this honor due to the major contribution it made to the history of the Russian performing arts. This history is on-going and today Bolshoi Theater artists continue to contribute to it many bright pages.