The reconstruction of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater, which dragged out for more than five years, is finally coming to an end. The solemn reopening ceremony is scheduled for October 2. Again, like so many times before, the eyes of spectators will be riveted on the magnificent crystal-gold chandelier.
One of Bolshoi’s key attractions, the 8-meter-tall three-level chandelier has been restored to its dazzling beauty, shining with 24,000 crystal-glass threads, ball-shaped pendants and “oak leaves”. It weighs about 2 tons and is 6.5 meters in diameter.
The Bolshoi’s chandelier as we see it now was installed before the coronation of Russia’s last Emperor Nicholas II, which took place at the Bolshoi Theater in 1896. The original oil-burning chandelier not only illuminated the theater hall, but also ventilated it through a special hole in the ceiling. Mikhail Sidorov, a manager of the firm that carried out the Bolshoi’s reconstruction, knows more about it.
"The parterre used to be a standing area as designed by architect Alberto Cavos. Imagine standing here with lamp oil dripping on you from the chandelier. Standing tickets were the cheapest ones, bought mostly by poor clerks and students who did not care what would happen to their clothes. In 1863, the first gas station was built in Moscow, right near the Bolshoi Theater. And then this chandelier appeared. It arrived from Paris and was initially a gas-burning one. To prevent the flame from being blown out by the wind, the lanterns had special glass bulbs over them. In winter, however, cold air came in through the hole in the ceiling and caused the hot bulbs to blow up. The glass splinters fell down on spectators. Opera lovers who bought the cheapest tickets in the standing area were very courageous people indeed. When the first electric power station appeared in 1895, Bolshoi’s gas-burning chandelier was redesigned into an electric one in time for Emperor Nicholas II’s coronation. Electric bulbs were very expensive back them. One bulb cost 25 rubles, the average salary of a clerk. And the chandelier had 380 or 410 bulbs!"
It took months of meticulous work by best Russian restorers, 13,000 new pendants instead of the damaged ones, and more than 3 kg of gold leaf to restore the Bolshoi’s wonder.
© The Voice of Russia. 6 August, 2011