Raising the curtain on the Bolshoi’s past

The new stage of the Bolshoi has become the new talk of the town, with theater insiders niggling over what it looked like Before and After its pricey surgery.

­Meanwhile, many have actually forgotten the old Bolshoi stage was crying out for renovation. To bring some memories back, one of Russia’s foremost fashion photographers, Vladimir Fridkes, has launched a “secret weapon”: photographs taken just 10 days before the beginning of the much-needed repairs.

Fridkes’ pictures are historic proof, capturing the landmark theater badly in need of a radical facelift.

“When I learned that the Bolshoi Theater was closing for renovation, I realized that all those old stage boards and the staircases that hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of theater-goers had once shuffled along, the curtains that had risen and fallen tens of thousands of times, all this, including the Soviet symbolism, would disappear,” Fridkes recalled.

A photographer with an eye for detail, Fridkes didn’t forget the long-standing residents of the theater, either.

“Vladimir Fridkes. Ten Days Before…”

“The famous cats that lived here would also be gone, taking away the smell too. Maybe they will return, maybe not, but even then, they will be different cats.”

“The spirit of the theater was to be replaced by a new one, and a new History was to begin,” the photographer added.

Fridkes’ lens captures the way the theatre operated, just days before the repairs finally began. His camera catches the actors before their stage exit, and the stagehands who prepared this exit.

“I have never photographed ballet, and have no idea how dancers should really look. I simply wandered about with my camera and scanned the spaces before me. And I realized the theater was a whole organism. That is how I tried to look at it.”

The exhibition at the Multimedia Art Museum will display 61 photographs, 9 of which were featured in the Bolshoi photo album published to celebrate the reopening of Russia’s most important theater.

“As it turned out, I went there for 10 days running, as if I was going to work. On the last day they removed the curtain… and the theatre closed. For me, the figure 10 became symbolic,” Fridkes wrapped up.

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