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The Five famous theaters of Moscow

Moscow is a city of hundreds theatres

The culture and entertainment diversity helped the city to become Europe’s Leading Heritage Destination in 2020 according to World Travel Awards 2020. Theatrical art is one of the most suitable ways to discover the atmosphere of the city, learn its history, understand the inhabitants.

According to different sources the Russian capital there are from 250 to 380 theatres of all sorts: ballet, opera, drama, musical, comedy and other kinds. Even those who are distant from this art form can easily name the most popular theatres in the city. These theaters are world known. It is often problematic to get there or acquire tickets. Nonetheless, it's well worth it: the performances become the biggest stories of the season and what everyone around is talking about.

Take a Visit to the Nutcracker: Bolshoi Theatre

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A square at the centre of the city houses theatres on three sides. The central feature of the architectural makeup is a majestic Stalinist Empire style building with multiple columns. An elegant portico is decorated with a chariot driven by Apollo. The Bolshoi, a landmark of Moscow and Russia that seems to has always existed, is the most famous theatre in Russia, and so it is thought: Empress Catherine II granted the prosecutor, Prince Pyotr Urusov, the privilege of holding theatrical performances of all kinds, including masquerades, balls and other forms of entertainment. The theatre was built on Petrovka Street, but a fire caused extensive damage to the building. Then Michael Maddox got down to business: in just a few months, the theatre was ready to hold performances. The next 25 years saw many performances held there until the building caught fire again. "Homeless" actors played in private theatres, then moved to a new venue on Arbat Square. Another misfortune had struck the servants of Melpomene: the buildings were burnt to the ground and the actors had to look for a new venue. Finally, in 1825, the current building opened on Petrovskaya Square. However, a fire in 1853 caused extensive damage with only the columns and external stone walls remaining. After further reconstruction and restoration, the theatre turned back to life: different performances and masquerades were held there.

After the 1917 Revolution, when everything old was banned, the Bolshoi managed to preserve both the building and the repertoire. Eugene Onegin and Swan Lake were first performed at Bolshoi, and scene designers were such famous artists as Konstantin Korovin, Léon Bakst and Alexander Benois. Maya Plisetskaya and Maris Liepa performed on stage at the Bolshoi. Nowadays, the baton of the legendary performers and dancers was acknowledged by Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Svetlana Zakharova. The Artistics Directors became famous masters, including Alexander Sokurov, Adrian Noble and Dmitri Tcherniakov. In the 21st century, Bolshoi did not enter as “greetings from the past”: besides the classics, its repertoire included works by contemporary composers and choreographers. However, there are indestructible traditions: every December the legendary “The Nutcracker” appears on the schedule — a fairy tale by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, equally loved by both children and adults.

Address: Teatralnaya Sq., 1

Avant-garde Lobby: Pushkin Theatre

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A small detached house on Tverskoy Boulevard once belonged to knyaz Ivan Vyazemsky. The building captured the attention of Alexander Tairov, an artistic director, who was looking for a venue for his theatre. To achieve his plan, it was necessary to build an auditorium. During the 1920s, many performances were held that combined several types of art, such important as music, painting and ballet. Moreover, the costumes and scenery were created by famous avant-garde artists. The main star of the theatre was the famous Alisa Koonen. In 1950, the Pushkin Drama Theatre replaced the chamber with one created on the bases of Alexander Tairov's Chamber Theatre. Initially, the repertoire was a time-honoured classic, but over time, both vaudeville and drama were added.

Address: Tverskoy Blrd., 23

Believe It or Not: Moscow Art Theatre

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The Art Theatre’s existence began after a meeting between Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko at the Slaviansky bazaar restaurant on June 19th, 1897. An actor and director Konstantin Stanislavski and a playwright Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko discussed the future of theatrical and dramatic art. They wanted to create a theatre based on ensemble art and a less rigid acting style, which would ultimately change the history of performing art. They quickly found like-minded people and in October 1898 "Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich" by Aleksey Tolstoy was the first play in the Moscow Art Theatre. It was hard to imagine the public's considerable delight. The theatre gained fame. The new troupe played at the Moscow Hermitage Garden on Karetny Ryad Street. However, the theatre was too small to welcome everyone. Savva Morozov helped them. This was a novelty for the Russian scene: theatre policy was determined not by the troupe, but by the shareholders. In 1902, architect Fyodor Schechtel reconstructed for free the Moscow Art Theatre on Kamergersky Lane. He created the design of the theatre, including a curtain with a seagull which has become the symbol of the MAT.

The basis of the repertoire was Chekhov's works, but that was expanded and works from Ibsen, Pushkin and even Shakespeare were very soon added. In Soviet times, the theatre became more academic: the repertoire included a list of proven classics, the status of an academic implied, without any experiments, following the canons. Oleg Efremov breathed new life into the Moscow Art Theatre: in 1987 the troupe split up — some tried to stick to the classics, others wanted to move forward. This, in turn, established two of Moscow's Art Theaters: the troupe in Kamergersky began to bear the name Chekhov MKhT, and the other — Gorky MKhAT.

Address: Kamergersky Lane, 3, Bld. 1

Electric God: Electrotheatre Stanislavsky

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The name of Stanislavsky is associated not only with the Art Theatre, but also with the Moscow Art Theater's experimental troupes. For example, Opera and Drama Studio became the Stanislavsky Drama Theatre. Apparently, the willingness to experiment naturally originated in the Theatre. Therefore, when the innovative director Boris Yukhananov took charge of it in the 2000s, the troupe did not resist and on the contrary, were keen to take part in the new chapter of the life of the Theatre.

The new artistic director was not fond of half measures: he immediately abandoned the old repertoire and declared the Drama Theatre a platform for innovative artistic strategies. Even the theatre building was transformed: the lobby of the old hall was turned into an art area, a venue for holding exhibitions and public talks. The fascinating modernist staircase became a venue for concerts, and the auditorium itself became transformable, which can be easily modified depending on the performance. And finally, the prefix “electro” was returned to the Theatre's name, and by no coincidence. The Ars Electrotheatre used to be located in this building on Tverskaya Street.

The repertoire of the renewed Theatre is rich in experiments: from the Bacchaes by the Greek Theodor Terzopoulos to the multi-part opera-series Sverliytsy, created by Yukhananov himself.

Address: St. Tverskaya, 23

Russian Style: Theatre of Nations

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If you pass through Petrovsky Lane and see this building, you would want to stop: the red brick facade, the intricate turrets and the trio of kokoshniks on the facade depict a Russian fairytale castle. In fact, it is a theatre. The amazing building was erected in the late 19th century for the repertory company of Fyodor Korsh. The theatre aroused envy, as its hall and the lobby were lit by electricity. Even the Bolshoi and Maly Theatres still used gas lamps at that time. The Korsh's Theatre existed until 1932, then it was transferred to the supervision of the Moscow Art Theatre. The Theatre of Nations was established in the 1990s, and in the 2000s, it began a new transformation. The Moscow Art Theatre school graduate Evgeny Mironov, who leads the troupe, suggested a way of experimenting. The repertoire consisted of such plays as the Pushkin Tales by Robert Wilson, Hamlet by Robert Lepage, and the Circus based on a Soviet musical film where they sing about Mary who goes to heaven.

Address: Petrovsky Lane, 3

Interesting Facts

The Quadriga of Apollo, which adorns the facade of the Bolshoi Theatre, can be seen on the hundred-ruble note.
Girls used to make dates with unwanted suitors at the ninth column of the Bolshoi Theatre. The hint is obvious: there are only eight columns.
The Pushkin Theatre has a long-lived performance, The Scarlet Flower. Since 1950, it had been seen more than five thousand times.

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