MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Anatoly Korolyov.) Russia's best-known theater, the Bolshoi, is closed for reconstruction.
If everything goes according to the plan, the reconstruction is supposed to be finished before March 2008, but there is so much to do that nobody knows for sure whether this deadline will be kept to.
According to the reconstruction project developed by architecture academic Vyacheslav Ilyichev, all supporting structures will be reinforced with solid piles sunk to a depth of 26 meters. All facades and interiors will be restored, and improved stage machinery installed. The safety system will be enhanced and additional amenities built for both the performers and the audience.
The stage itself will be overhauled. The orchestra pit will have more space and depth with special instrument cases. The pit itself will have a lifting mechanism, and will put the orchestra onto the stage for symphonic concerts.
Theater floors are a special concern for the architects. There will be different floors for the ballet and the opera. Ballerinas will finally stop complaining about holes and sound that turns the patter of the Psyches' feet into the clatter of horses' hoofs.
The obsolete fire curtain and its lifting mechanism - built way back in 1907 - will be replaced. Almost all scenic equipment will be updated as well. The stage will be redone so as to hold two sets of scenery at once, instead of one like now.
In summary, the theater will be virtually rebuilt. The general contractors requested 25 billion rubles, or almost a billion dollars, for the reconstruction. This sum caused a huge row and was criticized by the government. At one session, both Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin and Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref described it as fantastic. One square meter of the Bolshoi's total space would cost the Russian treasury $16,000. Even the construction of the new building for the New Opera in Paris cost $4,000 per one square meter.
A closed session of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade last week produced a new figure of nine billion rubles. In a bid for the reconstruction contract, Swiss company Mercata offered to do everything for this tiny amount. It's a big difference in comparison to 25 billion rubles.
Commenting on this abrupt change in scenario, Bolshoi director Anatoly Iksanov said at the session: "This is all bluff and dumping, an attempt to get involved and then to complain: 'It's not working out. We need more money, more and more.'"
This situation is true pandemonium. It is clear, however, that the new sum of nine billion rubles will gain broader support.
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