Serving the Lord in Russia

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Nutcracker" in the Bolshoi Theatre

Seeing Peter Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" ballet, in December, in the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow has been on my bucket list for a long time.  And that dream came to pass as Stephen and I had the opportunity to see the ballet this past weekend.  It was amazing! 

The Bolshoi Theatre has been closed for the past 6 years for renovation and just reopened on October 28, 2011 at the cost of 21 billion rubles ($680 million).  The renovation included restoring acoustics to the original quality (which had been lost during the Soviet Era), restoring the original Imperial decor of the Bolshoi, and repair of the foundation and brickwork.  Inside the theatre, the entire space was stripped from the bottom up; the 19th -century wooden fixtures, silver stage curtain, and French-made red velvet banquettes were removed for repair in specialist workshops.  Outside, on the top of the facade, the double-headed eagle of the original Russian coat of arms was installed in the place where the Soviet hammer and sickle had been mounted for decades.  Tickets were almost impossible to get but a dear member here was able to get two tickets for us to purchase.  The theatre is stunning!  It was more beautiful than I had imagined.  The following pictures don't do it justice but it will give you an idea of how beautiful it is.

The old Bolshoi Theatre in the early 19th-century.

The theatre was founded by Catherine the Great in 1776, and its current home was built in 1825 after fire gutted a previous site.  At that time, all Russian theatres were imperial property.  The Bolshoi Theatre's original name was the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow.  Another fire in 1853 caused extensive damage and the theatre was reopened in 1856 after reconstruction.  During World War II the theatre was damaged by a bomb, but it was immediately repaired.  More damaging were the changes implemented by the Bolshoi's Soviet overlords, who also used the theatre to officially confirm the creation of the Soviet Union, host party congresses and announce important events like the death of Vladimir Lenin.  Like so many tsarist-era buildings, the Bolshoi was stripped of its gold in the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution.  The loss of sound-reflecting decoration harmed the theatre's acoustics, which were further degraded by a decision to fill the hollow underneath the orchestra with cement.

Bolshoi Theatre in 1883.

Bolshoi Theatre in 1932, during the Soviet times.

Bolshoi Theatre in December 2011.

Stephen in front of the theatre before the performance. 

Corinne in front of the theatre before the performance.

Performance in the Bolshoi Theatre (1856).

Newly renovated Bolshoi Theatre in October 2011.

The "Royal" box seats.

Can you find Stephen?

How grateful we are for the opportunity we had to enjoy this famous theatre, ballet company, and ballet.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Grateful Thanksgiving

What a wonderful Thanksgiving we enjoyed last week!  All our missionaries gathered in the apartment of the senior couple who is in their district.  We were able to purchase a turkey and a can of pumpkin for each senior couple who was hosting Thanksgiving dinner and everyone was delighted.  Whole turkeys are not comman here because Russian ovens are very small and you can't fit a large turkey in their oven.  But, I was able to find four-kilo turkeys (that's about nine pounds) and they worked great.  For our cans of pumpkin I had asked several women who were able to go to Salt Lake for General Conference to bring back a small can for us.  So, we enjoyed the traditional turkey and pumpkin pie for our dinners.   All our districts reported having a wonderful feast and time together.  We have been greatly blessed this year as missionaries in Moscow. 

We were blessed to have our Universityetski and Podolsk District missionaries and the senior couple missionaries from those two branches with us at the mission home for Thanksgiving.  Also, President and Sister Schwitzer (our Area President), and President and Sister Woolley (Moscow West Mission president and wife) were able to join us.  We had lots of food and fun.

Cute missionaires!  They made me laugh.  Before dinner they weighed themselves and wanted to see who could gain the most weight after dinner.  I think one of our elders gained 6 lbs.  Is that really possible?

Presidents Schwitzer and Sorenson carving the turkey.

Sisters Schwitzer and Palmer making the gravy and mashed potatoes.

About to enjoy the feast.

Elder Raymond and Sister Cook helping with clean-up.

Elders Wittemore, Campbell and Spoerri helping with clean-up.

Our happy Thanksgiving in Moscow!

My newest treasure is a 17 lb. handcarved - handpainted wooden turkey.  The American Women's Organization in Moscow had their annual Arts and Craft Festival a couple of weeks ago and I was able to purchase "Tom" at one of the silent auctions they had.  He is stunning!  Keep in mind that 1) Russia doesn't celebate Thanksgiving, and 2) turkeys are not a common thing here.  A Russian artist made and donated this turkey for the event.  Proceeds from the silent auctions went to the Moscow Pediataric Cancer Hospital.  What a find!