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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bolshoi Plans $400M Refurbishment

Bolshoi Theater officials unveiled an ambitious $400 million renovation plan Tuesday that they say they expect the federal budget to fund, and a deputy prime minister says the government is prepared to pick up the tab.

"The Bolshoi Theater is a heritage of global culture, not just of ours," Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko said at a news conference where the renovation program was announced.

Matviyenko expressed hope that the government would come up with the money, but added that a planned deadline of September 2002 to finish the renovations might have to be revised.

The 142-year-old Bolshoi, Russia's leading theater, last underwent repair work in the 1940s. Today its foundations are sagging and the ugly back of the building that faces Ulitsa Petrovka is in need of a face lift.

In 1993, UNESCO, the main United Nations agency for arts and culture, put the Bolshoi on its list of the world's most important endangered cultural objects.

Tuesday, officials said UNESCO will continue to help with fund-raising for renovations and might bring in $5 million or $10 million in outside donations. But ultimately the program unveiled will cost dozens of times that, and the expectation among Bolshoi officials is that the federal government, despite its chronic lack of cash, will pick up the tab.

A tender to choose a building renovation proposal will be announced soon. Although the funding is federal, the Moscow city government will be administering the renovation work.

The overall cost of the Bolshoi Theater complex project is tentatively estimated at $400 million, and the theater's artistic director, Vladimir Vasilyev, said the actual amount might be even higher.

About $200 million will ultimately go toward the renovation of minor premises belonging to the theater - the theater's administration building, workshops, a museum and warehouses. In October, the Bolshoi got $45 million from the federal government for that work, Matviyenko said, and that work has begun and will be completed shortly.

Another $200 million will be used to renovate the theater's main hall. Repairs are due to begin next year, said Vladimir Kokonin, the Bolshoi's executive director. In addition to shoring up foundations and prettifying the back of the building, Kokonin said the work would improve technical conditions backstage and restore the theater's unique interior.

By the time that construction starts, an adjacent 1,000-seat theater-affiliate of the Bolshoi will be completed. Performances will be transferred without interruption to the new stage for the duration of the construction work on the main theater, artistic director Vasilyev said.

Acoustics at the new theater-affiliate were found to be as good as in the main Bolshoi hall in a study conducted jointly by the theater management and UNESCO, Kokonin said.

Vasilyev stressed that the Bolshoi would remain open during the renovations. He said the existence of the new venue would let the Bolshoi begin the new season on time in September 1999.