Bolshoi to reopen late in 2009 after rescue work

Thu Jan 31, 2008 12:48pm EST
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By Valery Stepchenkov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre will reopen after restoration in November 2009, a year behind schedule, after emergency work to save it from collapse, officials said on Thursday.

The historic opera and ballet theatre closed in July 2005, its facade crumbling, its walls and columns pitted by 17 vertical cracks, and its foundations shifting dangerously.

The restoration was initially due to cost 15 billion roubles ($610 million) and finish later this year. But last year engineers found the structure was more than 75 percent unstable and pushed back opening night indefinitely.

"We are now planning to open on November 1, 2009 with opera 'Ruslan and Lyudmila'," Mikhail Shvydkoi, head of Russia's federal cultural agency, told journalists, standing in a muddy, roofless space that was once the main stage.

More than 1,000 workers have toiled around the clock to put in steel and concrete pilings to steady the nearly 200-year-old walls, Shvydkoi said, adding that Italy's La Scala orchestra and choir were also scheduled to perform in November 2009.

"Until then, it's build, build, build!"

Founded in 1776 by a decree of the empress Catherine the Great, the Bolshoi has been in its current building since 1825.


<p>A man walks in a hall of the Bolshoi Theatre were construction work is underway in Moscow January 31, 2008. Emergency work to shore up the crumbling walls of Russia's most famous performance hall has saved the Bolshoi Theatre from collapse but delayed its reopening until next year, officials said on Thursday. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov</p>