Vodka, gold are finishing touches on Bolshoi revamp

Wed Mar 2, 2011 12:43pm EST
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By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya

MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - A medieval recipe of Russian vodka, gold leaf and eggs is the key behind the finishing touches on the protracted revamp of Russia's Bolshoi Theater, renovators said Tuesday.

After years of neglect during Soviet times, the Bolshoi's main stage closed in 2005 and was meant to reopen in 2008. However, the eight-columned, cream-coloured ballet and opera house is now expected to be complete in October 2011.

Although it was built in 1776, gilders, weavers and decorators are working around the clock to restore the theater to its 19th century glory, the era considered its most opulent.

"Gilding is done by an old Russian vodka-based method," said Mikhail Sidorov, communications director of Summa Capital, which has led the renovation for the past 1.5 years.

To bring back the theatre's imperial sheen, Sidorov said they are using a medieval recipe which relies on keeping egg whites in a warm room for 40 days before mixing it with clay.

Finished off with vodka, it is then used to apply gold leaf measuring 0.1-mm thick onto the theatre's curved ceilings and balconies. "This method keeps gold from being overused and helps retain its lustre for 50-70 years," he told reporters.

With officials investigating allegations that millions of roubles destined for the $1-billion rebuild were stolen, and Russia's cultural authorities growing increasingly embarrassed by delays, gilders are now fighting against time to finish.

"We are supposed to work 8-hour days, but we've been staying longer because of the time pressure," said gilder Svetlana, who has been decorating the top balcony for over a year.   Continued...

<p>Specialists on scaffolding work on the finishing of the ceiling of the main hall in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow March 1, 2011. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov</p>