I f you've been lucky enough to experience the Bolshoi, you'll know what I mean when I say it is truly magical. The chatter in the foyers, the tapping of heels down the gorgeous grand halls, the clinking of glasses toasting to a special occasion or romantic night. There's a certain atmosphere at the Bolshoi that cannot be replicated anywhere, except maybe on one of those cold winter nights when you're snuggled up on the couch, listening to Tchaikovsky, a cat purring by your feet while you read A Gentleman in Moscow.
Planning a night at The Bolshoi can be difficult. There's a lot of different ways to do it; different theatres, different shows, different dress codes... and you only need to worry about those things if you manage to nab a ticket - they sell out 3 months in advance and sometimes for thousands of dollars.
So, I've summarised all my research and experience below, I hope it helps you plan your Bolshoi experience!
The good news is that you can purchase tickets online quite easily via the main Bolshoi website. You'll need your passport details and debit / credit card handy and will only be able to purchase 2 tickets at a time.
The bad news is that tickets often sell out quickly. Tickets are released 3 months in advance, but you can subscribe to an alert service to be emailed as soon as they're released.
If you happen to be in Moscow 3 months before your show, you can purchase in person at the Ticket Box office even earlier than online. There are also a few unofficial ticket reseller sights, but they tend to be more expensive and risky.
The Bolshoi is known for it's world renowned Ballet and Opera performances. Presenting an array of both Russian and English classics and modern masterpieces of world literature, you cannot choose wrongly. It is really up to personal preference.
If you're not sure which show, stick to the classics - the Bolshoi's most acclaimed and popular shows (the Golden Collection) include Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Marco Spada, The Nutcracker and The Tsar’s Bride.
You can view the current seasons repertoire, including the credits, cast and synopsis, on the official website (link below).
The main stage is the The Historic Stage, the main building you see in all the photos and movies, and read about in all the books. The Bolshoi building, regarded as one of Moscow’s main sights, was opened on 20 October 1856, on Tsar Alexander II’s coronation day.
The Bolshoi Theatre is a symbol of Russia for all time. It was awarded this honor due to the major contribution it made to the history of the Russian performing arts. This history is on-going and today Bolshoi Theatre artists continue to contribute to its many bright pages.
All of the main performances are held here. It is the true Bolshoi experience, but ticket prices do reflect that. Ticket prices depend on the show and time of year, but expect to pay minimum ~$100AUD for a basic seat, normal show, normal season. The Nutcracker at Christmas was AUD$2,500 a ticket...
If you can't get a ticket to a show at The Historic Stage, your next bet is The New Stage. The New Stage was actually used as the main stage between 2002 and 2011 while the Historic Stage was being renovated, so its a very close second. This is the stage we went to and is the stage pictured in my photos throughout this blog. It was honestly incredible (and still cost us AUD $550 per ticket for an opera show - The Story of Kai and Gerda, during the Christmas season.)
If you choose not to attend an Opera or Ballet performance, you will likely visit the Beethovan Hall. Most chamber concerts are held at the beautiful Beethoven Hall, located at the entrance of the Historic building. The incredible acoustics bouncing off the Italian mouldings and silk wallpapered walls is something to be admired. This is a good option for those wanting to experience the Historic building without attending an Opera or Ballet performance.
The Boris Pokrovsky Chamber Stage is the final stage, located further away from the main Bolshoi building. It houses smaller operas and musical theatre performances. Tickets are significantly cheaper here and the performances still showcase incredible talent.
Dress Code: Gone are the days of ball gowns and three peice suits at the Bolshoi. While you're welcome to wear whatever you please, the usual dress code for performances at the Bolshoi is smart, conservative, cocktail attire. The only hard rule is no shorts for men. We saw an array of different dress styles, from ball gown right through to sneakers... but don't be that guy.
Children: Children under 5 are not permitted. Children over 5 may attend only the matinee performances, and children over 10 can attend evening performances.
Third Bell: Don't be late! Once the third bell has rung, you will not be able to enter the theatre.
Refreshments: There is a good selection of refreshments, food and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) in the lobbys and in most halls of the theatres. Prices are high though - $50 for a glass of rose (still did it though... cos Bolshoi).
Cloakrooms: There are cloakrooms in every theatre, al biet very busy, particularly in winter.
Whether you are into the Opera or Ballet or not, a visit to the Bolshoi is worthwhile. It's beautiful walls are drenched in history and showcases the words best talents. It won't dissapoint.