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Russia's Bolshoi to Reopen After Reconstruction

Russia's Bolshoi to Reopen After Reconstruction
Photo Source: AP Photo
MOSCOW – After years of reconstruction and accusations of embezzlement and fraud, Russia's iconic Bolshoi Theater is preparing to reopen looking just as it did during its czarist era, a subcontractor said Monday.

The theater will be finished in October in its original 19th-century design, with restored czarist insignia, embroidered silk tapestry and acoustics-improving fir and papier-mache panels, Summa Capital said. The rectangular building also will have its original violin-shaped auditorium.

The company said some 3,500 construction workers are currently employed in shifts, adding sophisticated electronic and hydraulic devices, redesigning the stage floor to ease the ballet dancers' pain and completing an underground stage located just 30 meters (yards) away from the nearest metro station.

"Directors could do things that were impossible before," said Summa Capital's spokesman, Mikhail Sidorov.

The 1825 building stood on thousands of stained oak stilts stuck in central Moscow's constantly moist soil, but after nearby rivulets were encapsulated in underground pipes, the stilts dried up and collapsed. It was further damaged by fires and a 1941 Nazi bombing.

Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin wanted the building blown up, but Communists ended up using the theater for party gatherings. Lenin's death was announced from the theater's stage, and the troupe was twice awarded the Lenin's Medal, the Soviet Union's highest award.

While the ballet and opera corps enjoyed hefty benefits and tirelessly toured the world, the building's acoustics was crippled by the remodeling of the hall and the filling of a gigantic hollow resonator under the orchestra pit with concrete.

After the Soviet collapse, the theater troupe tried to get rid of its conservative reputation by staging several controversial productions.

In 2005, the theater closed for reconstruction that authorities now say has cost at least $660 million, surpassing the original estimate 16 times. Productions continued at a nearby auxiliary theater.

Investigators said in 2009 that millions of dollars have been misspent by a subcontractor, and the Moscow government has several times fired subcontractors and officials responsible for the reconstruction.

"We're not saying a word about our predecessors," spokesman Sidorov said as he declined to comment about the accusations.

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