Russian elite celebrate Bolshoi's lavish revival

Fri Oct 28, 2011 1:49pm EDT
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By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Bolshoi Theater re-opened Friday with an exclusive party to celebrate a luxurious renovation that has taken six years, cost $700 million and revived a revered cultural symbol scarred by centuries of use and abuse.

Politicians, billionaires, film directors and fashion designers of the Russian elite strolled the red carpet leading up to the cream-colored, eight-columned ballet and opera house that began life as a pet project by Empress Catherine the Great who founded it in 1776, the year the United States was born.

"The Bolshoi is one of our greatest national brands so we are all celebrating the opening of the main building of the Bolshoi theater," a black tie-clad President Dmitry Medvedev said on the grand stage.

Medvedev paid tribute to all those involved in restoring luster to a building that has been a physical witness to the rule of tsars, their brutal overthrow in the Bolshevik revolution, two world wars, the rise of the Soviet state, the collapse of communism and Russia's latest resurgence in a capitalist world.

"I would like to thank all those who took part in the rebirth of our miracle, our great national brand - the Bolshoi Theater," he told guests including Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Russian ballet legend Maya Plisetskaya, seated under a six-meter chandelier.

He then took a seat in a gold-lined box where tsars and Soviet leaders sat for performances.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is seeking a return to the presidency in a vote next March, did not attend the performance as he had a prior arrangement with a financial policing body, his spokesman said.

About 100 musicians and opera singers in orange and white hard hats and workmen's overalls took to the stage, where they burst into song performing "Slavsya" by the Russian 19th century composer Mikhail Glinka.   Continued...

<p>People look at the illuminated Bolshoi Theatre on the eve of its reopening in central Moscow October 27, 2011. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin</p>