Article by Tanya Levy (MGBH)

Bolshoi Theater strikes us with its opulence and grandeur.  Today, with the help of the most professional teams in the world involved in its renovation, it looks more solid than ever, but its history is comprised of a serious of unfortunate events paired with perseverance to preserve this national monument that became a hallmark of Russian cultural life.



Built by Price Peter Urusov (OBM), Bolshoi, or Petrovsky, Theater opened its doors on December 30th, 1780, with the help of theatrical entrepreneur Michael Maddox (OBM), whom Prince Urusov invited as a business partner. Its opening performance consisted of a solemn prologue The Wanderers by Alexander Ablesimov (OBM) and a big pantomime ballet The Magic School, produced by Leopold Paradis (OBM) to music by Joseph Starzer (OBM). Later on, the Theater repertoire consisted for the most part of Russian and Italian comic operas with ballet interludes, and separate ballets. (1)

Bolshoi Theater in Early 19th Century, painting by A. Arnu.


After becoming a sole owner of the theater and having taken too many loans from the government, Michael Maddox was forced to transfer the ownership of the Theater to the hands of the Government Loan Office.

In the fall of 1805 the Theater building burned down, and the Company had to perform in other private theaters. In 1808, it started to perform at the New Arbat Theater, designed by Carlo Rossi (2). During the 1812 war against Napoleon, this building burned down as well.

The new Petrovsky Theater was redesigned by Alexei Mikhailov (OBM) and Joseph Bove (OBM). On January 6th, 1825, the Theater, accommodating over 2,000 people, re-opened its doors.   As it was much bigger than the original theater, it was often referred to as the Big (Bolshoi) Petrovsky Theater. The opening night performance was so successful that it had to be repeated the next evening for the people who weren’t able to get in.

Thirty years later, on March 11th, 1853, the fire broke down in the Theater and continued for three days (3), destroying everything but its walls and columns. A renowned architect Alberto Cavos (OBM) won a privilege to re-design and rebuild the Theater.   On August 20th, 1856, Bolshoi Theater re-opened its doors to the public for the third time with a performance of Vincenzo Bellini (OBM) I Puritani.

Bolshoi Theater in 1883.


 In 1917, the Bolshevik government entertained the idea of clothing the Theater, but spared it later.  On 7 December 1919 the house was renamed the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre.  In 1921, after the Soviet Revolution, the government commission examining the condition of the Theater, found it to be catastrophic(4) and started emergency repairs under the supervision of the architect Ivan Rerberg. Beethoven Hall opened on February 18th, 1921.  In 1938, the stage was majorly reconstructed.   In August of 1941, the Theater was closed for complete reconstruction.

On October 22nd, 1941, a German bomb was dropped on the Bolshoi Theater building. Despite the wartime hardship and the severe cold, restoration work on the Theater was initiated in winter 1942 (5). In 1943, the Theater re-opened its doors to the public.

Forty-six years later, after yearly cosmetic repairs, in 1987, the Theater has undergone another major reconstruction to build a second stage that would open in 2002.   In 2005, its Historic Stage was shut down for reconstruction and refurbishment, which turned into a world-level project.

In 2010, the Lobby, the White Foyer, the Choral, Exhibition, Round and Beethoven halls were renovated. “Muscovites were able to admire the restored facades and the renovated symbol of the Bolshoi Theater – the famous Apollo quadriga, created by the sculptor Peter Klodt (OBM). (6)



The modern version of Bolshoi Theater boasts not only its opulent look, but also its supreme acoustics and state of the art machinery.   The main stage consists of seven two-tier rising and descending platforms. The platforms can easily change their positions with the stage having an ability to become horizontal, raked or stepped. The depth of stage space can be achieved by connecting the stage and backstage areas.




State-of-the art lighting at Bolshoi Theater. Photo by D. Dubinsky, 2014.


New upper stage equipment, remotely controlled by  computer, makes it possible to derive maximum use from lighting, sound and visual effects. Cutting edge rigs have been installed for the deployment of lanterns, special effects apparatus and acoustics (7).


The orchestra pit seats up to 130 musicians and is one of the largest in the world.

The installation of state of the art stage equipment was a unique world-scale project. The reconstruction has doubled the Theatre’s total floor space. Thanks to the expansion of the Theatre’s existing underground spaces (under stage house) and to the construction of new underground space under Theatre Square, this has been achieved without any change to the Theatre’s external appearance.

Thus the Theatre has acquired badly needed new space, including an underground concert and rehearsal room, which has inherited its name from the Beethoven Hall, under the Theatre lobby.

Beethoven Hall of Bolshoi Theater


This hall is a multi-functional space, which can be used in different ways.  It consists of five main platforms: the central platform is the stage itself, two platforms to the right and left of it can be used either to increase the size of the stage or as audience space. The two remaining platforms form the main space of the auditorium. All of the platforms can be raised to foyer level to create a space for holding formal, receptions. Apart from this concert hall and its auxiliary premises, the rest of the underground space under Theatre Square accommodates a large number of technical, service and staff rooms.


Khomyakov House at Bolshoi Theater


The Bolshoi Theatre reconstruction project also included the renovation of the Khomyakov (OBM) House, a protected architectural monument of the first half of the nineteenth century situated immediately behind the Bolshoi, which has been transformed into a service wing. Due to numerous 20th century reconstructions, the historical interiors of the Khomyakov House have been totally lost.  While its main walls have been preserved, the interior layout has been redesigned to meet the Theatre’s present-day requirements. Thus the Khomaykov House, which is linked to the main Bolshoi Theater building by an underground tunnel, is a key element in the gigantic Bolshoi Theatre complex.



Although Bolshoi Theater was originally built to host opera and ballet performances, it also has a rich history of hosting piano concerts by such prominent pianists as Svyatoslav Richter (OBM), Emil Gilels (OBM), Dmitry Shostakovich (OBM), Alexander Goldenveizer (OBM), Maria Yudina (OBM), Lev Oborin (OBM), Grigory Ginsburg (OBM), and Yevgeniy Raikov (OBM).

Dmitry Shostakovich and the Bolshoi Quartet


Today the Beethoven Hall continues to host piano recitals and events.  It has become one of the main locations for the Vladimir Spivakov’s (MGBH) International Festival “Meet the Friends” as well as a series “Faces of the Bolshoi Theater” featuring collaborative piano performances.




(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Ibid.

(6) Ibid.

(7) Ibid.


by Alex Davydovich (MBGH)


Built relatively recently, the Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown Los Angeles, CA opened its doors on September 24th, 2003. It catches the eye not only with its sail-like exterior, but also with the beautiful and breezy interior.  It’s no surprise as the hall was designed by the two very talented men – the architect Frank Gehry (MGBH) and a master acoustician Matsuhiso Toyota (MGBH).  It seats 2,265 people and serves, among other purposes, as the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.  The walls and ceiling of the hall are finished with Douglas-fir and Alaskan yellow cedar while the floor is finished with oak.  The round auditorium features a sailing ship motif that the architect Frank Gehry likens to Noah’s Ark.  Columbia Showcase & Cabinet Co. Inc., based in Sun Valley, CA, produced all of the ceiling panels, wall panels, and architectural woodwork for the main auditorium and lobbies. (1) The Hall’s reverberation time is approximately 2.2 seconds unoccupied and 2.0 seconds occupied. (3).

The Library of Congress/Ira Gershwin Gallery, housed inside Walt Disney Concert Hall, was designed by Hodgetts and Fung Design Associates and made possible by a generous gift from the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trust for the Benefit of the Library of Congress.  The gallery is situated on the second floor of Walt Disney Concert Hall and rotates its collection bi-annually. (3)

With the initial donation of $50 million made by the widow of Walt Disney, Lilian Disney, in 1987, the County of Los Angeles added $110 million and sold bonds in order to build the garage.   The Disney family later added $34.5 million with another $25 million from the Walt Disney Company.


Disney Hall consists of the Main Performance Hall and two smaller performance spaces.

Walt Disney Main Performance Hall


BP Hall is an intimate space with chairs, wood floors, walls, and ceilings that hosts pre-concert talks, musical performances, receptions, and private events for up to 500 guests.

BP Hall at Walt Disney Performance Hall

The Walt Disney Concert Hall Founders Room features a signature Frank Gehry sculptured plaster ceiling which rises 50 feet to reveal a skylight. This 4,800-sq. ft. dining room includes custom lighting, millwork, private dining patio with travertine stone, and landscaping of the exterior patio area.  The exclusive Founders room hosts pre- and post-concert parties for major donors.


Walt Disney Hall Founder’s Room


A REDCAT Theater performance space holds avant-garde and experimental music, dance, theater, movies, and art.

Walt Disney Hall Map


Since its opening, such pianists as Lang Lang (MGBH), Pierre-Laurent Aimard (MGBH), Daniil Trifonov (MGBH), Armen Guzelimian (MGBH), Keith Jarrett (MGBH), Helene Grimaud (MGBH), Benjamin Grosvenor (MGBH), Garrick Ohlsson (MGBH), Alessio Bax (MGBH), Murray Perahia (MGBH), George Li (MGBH), Krystal Zimerman (MGBH), Scott, Dunn (MGBH), Alpin Hong (MGBH), Emanuel Ax (MGBH), Eduardo Delgado (MGBH), and Yundi (MGBH) graced the stage of the main hall with their performances.



Frank Gehry’s Sketch of Disney Hall



In an interview with Deborah Borda (MGBH), Frank Gehry shares his experience of working on Disney Hall.

DB: It’s fair to say that the Walt Disney Concert Hall has changed the way how a concert hall should involve people.  When I first saw the design, I was absolutely blown away hoping to be a part of it.  When you worked on it, did you design the hall inside out of from the outside in?”
FG: Inside out. When people look at the buildings I designed, they assume I designed from the outside in.  That I make a form and jam stuff in.  And I think a lot of my colleagues do that, maybe.  But I don’t.

DB: What’s the one thing that stands out in your memory the most about the opening concert?
FG: I can’t help to remember taking the bow with Esa-Pekka […Salonen, the Music Director of Los Angeles Philharmonic] and the confetti and all that stuff.  I never experienced that before. Architects don’t do that very often.

DB: But you must have also had a special pride. We had designed those programs together.  You were the artist. That’s why you were up on a stage. I don’t know if people know, but you are one of the most regular concert attenders I know. What do you think now looking back ten years later, is the most successful aspect of the hall? From your point of view.
FG: Well, I think the clarity of the sound has got to be number one.  And the relationship between audience and performer is right up there. It’s subtle.  So when the orchestra is full on, they feel a receptive audience, because the audience can hear them. They feel it. It’s like a theater. You feel how you are coming across.  And when the orchestra hears that, it makes them play better, believe it or not. I think.


Disney Hall Pipe Organ, “The French Fries”


Inside the main concert hall we can see a beautifully designed 6,134-pipe organ, sometimes referred to as “French Fries.” Composer Terry Reily called it “Hurricane Mama.”

The organ was built by the German organ builder Caspar Glatter-Götz (MGBH) under the tonal direction and voicing of Manuel Rosales.  It cost $ 3 million to build, which was a gift to the County of Los Angeles from Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.  How many instruments have a building attached to them?  The building not only didn’t exist, its design kept changing.  “There were many hurdles that had to be overcome.  And they were civic hurdles and architectural hurdles,” Deborah Borda (MGBH), the President and CEO of LA Philharmonics.  “We studied all organs that we could find in history and did a thorough analysis of what they looked like,” said Frank Gehry. “And it seemed like there were a lot of variations possible.”  Mr. Gehry went back and worth with Manuel Rosales on the shape of the tubes. “I was told to walk off this project. This would ruin my career. This was insane.  The organ would be a complete disaster. Nobody would pay any attention to it.  It took two and a half years to reach this design and well over forty different models.[…] The organ went through many hoops to please the artistic sense of Frank Gehry.  I had to make sure that whatever he designs, works ultimately as a musical instrument,” shares Manuel Rosales in an interview.  “Because in the room like this, you don’t put sculpture, it’s focusing on the music, so we thought there was a rationale for the organ to have some spunk,” shared Frank Gehry in his conversation with Deborah Borda.


The concert hall houses celebrity chef Joachim Splichal’s (MGBH) landmark fine dining restaurant Patina designed by Belzberg Architects.  Open for dinner and late-night supper, French-born and trained executive chef Tony Esnault’s exquisite dishes are made from the best ingredients available from local and regional farmers, ranchers and fishermen.  Chef Esnault also offers a special tasting menu at the private Chef’s Table for nine, which offers guests an unobstructed, behind-the-scenes view into kitchen dynamics.

Accommodating 240 seated guests, including a private dining room for up to thirty, Patina welcomes guests into a warm, inviting interior undulating with organic ceiling curves and ripples of carved walnut walls. Patina also features an impressive bar display where guests can unwind before dinner or enjoy a late-night cocktail on the patio. (4)


Walt Disney Hall Community Garden, the Famous “Rose for Lily” Frank Gehry Fountain

On the third level of the building, visitors will find the community garden that features outdoors performance space and beautiful Southern California landscaping. The community garden is open for public and can be a cozy refuse from the loud noises of the busy city life.  In the middle of the garden is a beautifully carved fountain in the shape of a rose, subsequently named, “A Rose for Lily” in honor of the main donor for the Disney Hall – Lilian Disney.

A concert hall, an educational space, a park, an office, and a cultural landmark – all rolled into one.  Walt Disney Hall represents the best of the city of Los Angeles and the performing arts, an LA’s Phil is proud to call it home. (5)





(1) – retrieved March 16th, 2017
(2) – retrieved March 16th, 2017
(3)–Concert-Halls/ – retrieved March 16th, 2017

(4) – retrieved March 16th, 2017

(5) – timing 7:00 – retrieved March 16th, 2017



by Michael Refvem (MGBH)

Since its opening night, blessed by performance of Peter Ilyich Chaikovsky (OBM), Carnegie Hall in Manhattan, New York has been one, if not the most, of the world’s prestigious classical performance venues.  Such pianists as Vladimir Horowitz (OBM), Sergei Rachmaninoff (OBM), and Arthur Rubinstein (OBM) played an important part in contributing to the grandeur of this place.  Many books have been written about the famous Carnegie Hall and events that happened there over the years.  In this article, we would like to review the history of this amazing venue, give tribute to its founder, and reveal a few secrets.

American Council of Piano Performers


And here [are] 2,700 odd people who had been sitting for an hour…waiting. And suddenly the house lights go out and the stage lights go on and PHYSICALLY, backstage, it felt like putting one’s hand in an electric socket. And I brought him downstairs and to the edge of the stage and he turned around and faced me. [He] said “I’m looking at you,” and I thought ‘what do I do now? … Oh! Ok!’ So I turned him around and put my hand in the lower part of his back and pushed him out onto the stage. Well… the wave, the sheer sound wave of all those people getting up and greeting him was physical.  You really were just physically hit by it… and then he gestured to the piano and started to sit down, and the silence was just as loud as the applause had been a moment ago.  – Schuyler Chapin (MDBH), The Art of Piano: Great Pianists of the 20th Century [1]

Such is the story of Vladimir Horowitz’ legendary return to the concert stage on May 9, 1965, after a 12 year sabbatical from public performance [2]. It is no surprise that this epic re-launch took place at Carnegie Hall, the most prestigious stage in the world. Few concert halls have lived up to the legacy and mystique of Carnegie Hall, a legacy built by the international stature of the great artists to perform there since its inception.


Vladimir Horowitz’ historic recital



[…] in the 1890’s, New York City’s midtown was centered around 14th to 20th streets – Carnegie Hall (established in 1891 as “The Music Hall”) sat between suburbs and farmland.


Today the neighborhood surrounding Carnegie Hall is one of Manhattan’s most exclusive. But in the 1890’s, New York City’s midtown was centered around 14th to 20th streets – Carnegie Hall (established in 1891 as “The Music Hall”) sat between suburbs and farmland [3].  And while the hall has been named after Andrew Carnegie (OBM) since 1893 [4], it may be more appropriate to refer to it as Mrs. Carnegie’s (OBM) hall.  It’s believed that Carnegie, then a newlywed, built the music hall as a wedding gift to his wife, Louise Whitfeld Carnegie, says Gino Francesconi (MGBH), director of Carnegie Hall archives. [5]


Carnegie Hall, 1895



Carnegie Hall opened with a five day music festival featuring composer Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky (OBM) conducting several of his works including the first Piano Concerto.  Carnegie Hall has seen thousands of performances throughout its history including notable premieres such as Antonín Dvořák’s (OBM) Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World) (1893), Gustav Mahler’s (OBM) Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”) (1908) and George Gershwin’s (OBM) Concerto in F (1925).   The hall has also been no stranger to popular music since 1938, when Benny Goodman (OBM) and his Orchestra made their debut. The Beatles also famously performed two concerts at Carnegie Hall in 1964. [6]


William Tuthill (OBM) was the chief architect of the hall, and his design decisions reflect the tastes of the day.  The building is in the Italian Renaissance revival style with simple masonry arches integral to stability (before the days of structural steel), but also features an Edwardian sensibility with its gold leaf patterns and red velvet upholstery on the seats.  Sadly, these aesthetics lost their charm decades later.  And in the mid-1950’s when the hall was looking for new ownership, it was slated for demolition. Carnegie Hall had been offered for sale to the New York Philharmonic, but the symphony already had plans to relocate to Lincoln Center, which was being constructed nearby. Under pressure, a group led by violinist Isaac Stern (OBM) famously saved Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball. [7]



Beauty shots of Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage
Beauty shots of Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage



When most people talk about Carnegie Hall, they are usually referring to the Stern (OBM) Auditorium dedicated in honor of the great violinist in 1997 (2,804 seats) [8]. The accompanying recital spaces, Zankel (OBM) Recital Hall (599 seats) and Weill (OBM) Recital Hall (268 seats) are no less elegant. Zankel Recital Hall opened in 2003, after being converted from being a cinema and features cutting edge design that can be reconfigured to several different arrangements [9].


Carnegie Hall, Zankel Hall, Polshek Partnership Architects
Carnegie Hall, Zankel Hall, Polshek Partnership Architects



Weill Recital Hall, the smallest of the three halls, is where several emerging concert artists make important debuts to the international music community and has been in use continuously since 1891 [10].


Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall
Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall



Unless you’ve gotten a bird’s eye view of Carnegie Hall, you probably didn’t know about the new rooftop garden terrace. It was added during the recent Studio Towers Renovation Project along with the Resnick Education Wing, all of which opened in the fall of 2014.  The remodel provides space to host receptions before and after concerts as well as foster the developing talents of New York City music students. [11]


The Carnegie Hall Rooftop Garden


Acoustically speaking, Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium is well known for it’s seemingly miraculous properties, but after a renovation in 1986, concert-goers swore that the sound was a bit off.


Acoustically speaking, Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium is well known for it’s seemingly miraculous properties, but after a renovation in 1986, concert-goers swore that the sound was a bit off. And they were right! The culprit? A slab of concrete found underneath the stage nearly a decade later. “They opened the stage floor, found the cement, took it away and the sound came back,” said Francesconi. [12] Having seen a number of performances there myself, I can attest to the hall’s unique ability to accommodate performances of all types. Perfect for an entire symphony orchestra, the hall is equally suited for an intimate solo recital or chamber music setting.


[…] after a renovation in 1986, concert-goers swore that the sound was a bit off. And they were right! The culprit? A slab of concrete found underneath the stage nearly a decade later.


Looking back, it seems inconceivable to think that Carnegie Hall was ever at risk of being lost forever, but thanks to its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and New York City Landmark in 1967, this fabled venue will continue to present some of the world’s greatest musicians for generations to come. [13]






[1] Sturrock, Donald (1999). The Art of Piano: Great Pianists of the 20th Century (Documentary). Quote by Schulyer Chapin dictated by the author. Start at 26 minutes and 13 seconds.

[2] Schultz, Rick (January 04, 2007) Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall: What the fuss was all about. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 16, 2016.

[3] 1893 The Music Hall becomes Carnegie Hall. The Carnegie Hall Corporation. Retrieved December 16, 2016.

[4] Spencer, Luke (June 09, 2015). The Most Incredible Parts of Carnegie Hall Are Offstage. Atlas Obscura. Retrieved December 16, 2016.

[5] ibid 4, History of the Hall. Retrieved December 16, 2016.

[6] Conry, Tara (April 27, 2015). Secrets of Carnegie Hall. AM New York. Retrieved December 16, 2016.

[7] The New York Preservation Archive Project.

[8] ibid 6

[9] ibid 4, Isaac Stern and the Saving of the Hall. Retrieved December 16, 2016.


[10] REF: ibid 4, Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall. Retrieved December 16, 2016.


[11] REF: ibid 4, Judith and Burton Resnick Education Wing. Retrieved December 16, 2016.

[12] REF: ibid 7

[13] REF: ibid 10



About the Author:

Michael Refvem enjoys a multifaceted career as recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist. He recently moved to Montréal, where he enjoys walks in the old town and Mount Royal in his spare time.