Theatres and concert halls

Gogol Centre, which occupies the premises of the erstwhile Gogol Theatre, is a product of Moscow's "cultural revolution." This theatre in the back of Kursky Railway Terminal got a new creative director in 2012 – Kirill Serebrennikov, whose productions ran successfully on Moscow's top stages. The vigorous remodelling transformed the pitiful, peeling Stalin Empire building into a trendy loft with a convertible auditorium. The exposed brickwork of the new interiors is a reminder that this used to be a railway depot. The roomy lobby, which is open all day and evening, offers free Wi-Fi, a book stall, mediatheque and two cafés. The drastic repertoire rejuvenation has dragged the theatre out of the wings and placed it smack at the cultural centre-stage in just three seasons. It is now a "happening," relevant multicultural magnet, attracting droves of young people. Most recently, Gogol Centre has played the main stages of the world's two most prestigious theatre festivals, in Vienna and Avignon, in 2015.  
Maxim Shemetov/TASS

Russia's most prestigious concert venue for classical music, the Grand Hall of the Conservatory was opened in 1901 in the building adjacent to the Moscow Conservatory. The house, which used to seat nearly 2,500, now seats fewer people, but still an impressive 1737, after the recent remodelling. The historic French organ, the Grand Hall's treasure, was a gift to the Moscow Conservatory from the known patron of the arts Sergei von Derwies on the occasion of the Hall's opening.  In the 1920s and 1930s, they showed films here, as well as symphony concerts. USSR national chess championships were held here in the 1940s. The finals of the P. I. Tchaikovsky International Music Competition have been held at the Conservatory's Grand Hall since 1958. The Grand Hall's hallmark is its bronze Tchaikovsky monument by Vera Mukhina, installed in 1954 in the park outside the main entrance.

Nikolai Galkin/TASS

We wonder if they ever take their "sold out" sign off. But we know why it is possible they never do: the reasons are the theatre's spotless reputation, its star-studded cast (many of the actors are known from films and TV series), its hand-picked classical repertoire (from Shakespeare and Pushkin to Proust and Ionesco), and a performing style that is all its own, craftily blending the Russian "deep" theatre tradition with the debonair charm of a home variety revue. The troupe traces its history back to the cusp of the 1980s/1990s, when crowds of fans stormed the ticket office of the GITIS theatre academy, where the pupils of Pyotr Fomenko, then a cult figure but formerly an underground theatre director in the 1960s, gave their earliest performances in an impossibly packed auditorium. Moscow authorities approved the new theatre under pressure from the "art" lobby in 1993, and gave it the abandoned Kiev Movie Theatre building in 1997. The troupe moved into its current building in 2008, which looks very chic on the outside, and is fitted with all the modern equipment inside. The house is nice and comfortable. The lavish marble lobby offers a great view of the Moskva River and the towers of City.

This theatre in the basement of a residential building in Chistye Prudy neighbourhood dates back to the late 1970s, the dawn of the "studio movement." It was the idea of Oleg Tabakov, then a Sovremennik Theatre actor with a dream of his own theatre. Tabakov recruited his company from among his pupils at GITIS. Muscovites quickly fell in love with the minuscule theatre, christening it "Tabakerka" (Snuff-box). Over the years, all Tabakerka actors attained stardom. Many of them, while remaining faithful to Tabakerka, also play at MKhT, where their boss Oleg Tabakov has remained the creative director since 2000. All these great actors - Evdokiya Germanova, Andrey Smolyakov, Vladimir Mashkov, Yevgeny Mironov, and Sergey Bezrukov – started their careers at Tabakerka. The best-known stage directors discovered at Tabakerka are Mindaugas Karbauskis, currently stage director-in-chief of Mayakovsky Theatre, and Konstatin Bogomolov, the enfant terrible of Moscow's theatrical scene, currently an object of rivalry between the MKhT and the Lencom. In 2016 a new stage of Tabakerka was opened to the public in a multi-storey complex at Sadovoye Koltso (Garden Ring) and Ulitsa Gilyarovskogo (Gilyarovskogo Street), where the theatre celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Satirikon's history began in 1939 when Arkady Raikin, the great stand-up comic, founded the Leningrad Theatre of Miniatures. Raikin's son Konstantin talked his elderly father into moving to Moscow in the early 1980s. In the capital, authorities gave Raikin Senior the building of Tajikistan Cinema at Maryina Roshcha Distrcit. Raikin renamed it Satirikon. Following the protracted renovation of the Tajikistan, the theatre reopened on its new stage in Moscow in 1987, but this time sans the founder. Raikin Junior, who inherited Satirikon, acts and occasionally directs there. His core staff are his pupils, but Raikin Junior himself has to act if he wants his play to make money. His solo acts are actually the most successful. Some of Satirikon fans are also die-hard followers of Saint Petersburg director Yuri Butusov, who is stage director and creative director at Saint Petersburg's Lensoviet Theatre. Butusov collaborates with Konstantin Raikin's company on a steady basis. Butusov's productions, usually creative interpretations of famous classics, clash with Satirikon's rather motley and light-minded core repertoire, but this only galvanizes the audience.   

The School of Dramic Art (SDA) was founded by Anatoly Vasiliev, a reform minded theatre director and teacher with a cult following, in 1987. SDA, conceived as an experimental laboratory, was initially based in a large private apartment at Povarskaya Ulitsa (Povarskaya Street). The abandoned building of the former Ural Movie Theatre, remodelled specially for Vasiliev, became the company's new headquarters in 2001, and Moscow got its first-ever multiplex drama theatre (Vasiliev had personally contributed to the design). The city had sponsored the construction. Then Vasiliev left Russia, and his brainchild regressed from "experimental lab" to a regular repertoire-based theatre with a few mini-companies. Only one company, Dmitry Krymov's Laboratory, has been successful, winning many professional awards, constantly touring internationally, playing high-profile festivals. Dmitry Krymov, a stage designer who became director in the early 2000s, wanted his Laboratory to exemplify a new theatre trend for Russia: Artist's Theatre. The company's appeal lies in its blend of many performing arts: drama, puppetry, musical, circus and art performance.

Nikolai Galkin/TASS

Moscow's second most influential musical company after the Bolshoi, the theatre was born in 1941 as Konstantin Stanislavsky's Opera Studio merged with the MKhAT Musical Studio led by Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. Both studios had formed in the 1920s to assist the Bolshoi in its reform of the outdated opera conducting principles. The theatre occupies the former Counts Saltykov mansion, built in the 18th century and rebuilt several times since. The building at Ulitsa Bolshaya Dimitrovka (Bolshaya Dimitrovka Street) saw its latest major renovation after the 2003 fire. In keeping with its original intent, the theatre has consistently remained the foremost proving ground for musical experiments. It was here that many famous works of Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev premiered, and it was here that Russia saw its first western modern dance performances. The Musical Theatre's opera and ballet companies are deemed to be equally matched with their Bolshoi peers. This creative parity between Moscow's two premier musical theatres has remained in place for over a decade. Musical theatre fans are usually as excited about the opening nights at the theatre on Dimitrovka, as they are about Bolshoi premieres. 

Stanislavsky Drama Theatre went through a major reconstruction in 2015, and its repertoire was drastically reformatted. The moribund company was given a new lease on life when a dynamic new creative director, Boris Yukhananov, took over. Yukhananov had previously led an experimental lab at the School of Drama Arts, headed by Anatoly Vasiliev. With the renovation and the repertoire overhaul came a new name, hinting at the fact that this was a cinema before 1917, and cinemas used to be called "electric theatres" back in those days. The name Stanislavsky, which the theatre has inherited from its prior life, indicates that this once was the opera studio of the MKhT founder. The second phase of reconstruction is supposed to give the Electrotheatre a few more buildings inside its courtyard. After that Yukhananov promises to open a training lab and a "world centre for stage directing" in the new multiplex. In the meantime, the Electrotheatre continues to surprise its audiences with the works of international celebrities: Theodoros Therzopoulos, Romeo Castelucci, Heiner Goebbels, and others.

Nikolai Galkin/TASS

In the early 1900s, French entrepreneur Charles Aumont's Bouffe Miniatures Theatre, famous for its burlesque acts, stood where the P. I. Tchaikovsky Concert Hall is now. It was later replaced by Ignaty Zon's "easy genre" theatre. Following the 1917 Revolution and subsequent nationalization, the company led by the great theatre reformer Vsevolod Meyerhold moved into the building. A remodelling was undertaken specially for Meyerhold in the early 1930s. The team of architects working on the ambitious remodelling project was led by Alexey Shchusev. In Meyerhold's vision, the auditorium would be shaped like an ancient Greek amphitheatre. The spherical dome ceiling would come apart in good weather, and the arena stage would be lowered or lifted as the props changed. However, Meyerhold's theatre was closed down in 1938, and the director's very name would remain banned for decades. The unfinished building became property of the Moscow Philharmonic. Following the new reconstruction, the amphitheatre shape of the 1535-seat auditorium and the spherical ceiling, like a planetarium, would be the only reminders of Meyerhold. The building, equipped with a grand organ, became a classy venue for classical music concerts. The Tchaikovsky Hall has also served as the rehearsal and concert space of the celebrated Igor Moiseev Folk Dance Ensemble since 1940. The above-ground lobby of Mayakovskaya Metro Station, designated as a valuable architectural landmark, is built into the corner of the building. 

Nikolai Galkin/TASS

One of the most recent theatres in Moscow, Theatre Art Studio (STI) was founded in 2005 by Sergey Zhenovach, Dean of Directing Department at RATI (GITIS), and the troupe consists of his pupils. The repertoire is mostly classics, primarily Russian, from Gogol, Leskov and Chekhov, to Erdman, Bulgakov and Platonov. The historic building, in which STI is housed, once was a theatre for the workers of the gold threading factory, which belonged to the merchants Alekseyev, who were related to Konstantin Stanislavsky. Stanislavsky, the founder of the celebrated MKhT (Moskovsky Khudozhestvennyi Teatr), had personally reviewed and approved the design of the factory theatre, built in 1904. The building was remodelled specially for STI in 2008. Quotes from the decorative style of the historic MKhT building are discernible in the interior decorations. STI productions have won the Golden Mask Awards repeatedly. The theatre mostly caters to well-read intellectuals, who are averse to experimental theatre and the language of "new drama."

Nikolai Galkin/TASS

The Theatre of Nations is based in the building of the former Korsh Theatre, a private company, built in 1885. After the Korsh Theatre, a famous Moscow theatrical enterprise, was dissolved in 1933, the magnificent faux Russian mansion was given to the MKhAT for a second stage. The State Theatre of Nations, founded in 1991, received the building in a decrepit condition, in which it would remain for a long time. The building reopened after renovation in 2011, and now houses one of Moscow's most successful theatre companies. The theatre's original concept was to give up a steady company line-up. The only actor on staff at the Theatre of Nations is its creative director Yevgeny Mironov. Working in this format, the theatre has earned acclaim as a successful producer-side project. The Theatre of Nations owes its box-office success to big-name foreign guest directors, such as Alvis Hermanis, Robert Lepage, Thomas Ostermeier, Eimuntas Nekrošius and Robert Wilson, as well as cutting-edge Russian directors Andrey Moguchy, Kirill Serebrennikov, Dmitry Volkostrelov, and Filipp Grigorian. The star actors on the cast – Yevgeny Mironov, Chulpan Khamatova, Marina Neyelova, Liya Akhedzhakova, and others – also bring in the crowds.   

This academic theatre with a century-long history began as a studio attached to Moscow Art Theatre (MKhT). It bears the name of its founder Yevgeny Vakhtangov, who was an actor, director and teacher at MKhT. For decades, the company's signature was Carlo Gozzi's Princess Turandot, staged by Vakhtangov in 1922, and acclaimed as one of the best theatre productions of all times. Yevgeny Vakhtangov Theatre has successfully capitalized on its brand and its reputation as the keeper of Vakhtangov's tradition. Since the Lithuanian director Rimas Tuminas took over, the theatre has played to a full house almost every night. The company's regular tours in London, Paris and New York have cemented its claim to fame as Russia's biggest commercial success story among drama theatres. The core of the company's repertoire is made up of "serious" classics, but the light-hearted genres – comedy, vaudeville and operetta – are not excluded. Since recently, the company has been experimenting with modern dance. 

The Bolshoi's history began in 1776, when Catherine II allowed Prince Pyotr Urusov to open a theatre in Moscow, but Urusov's Petrovsky Theatre (so named due to its location at Ulitsa Petrovka (Petrovka Street)) was not meant to be. The building burned down before the theatre could open. The effort was resumed by an Englishman, Michael Maddocks. His theatre stood for 25 years, but then also burned down in 1805. Following the 1812 war with Napoleon, the theatre was included in the general restoration plan for Moscow. However, the new building (1825) designed by Joseph Bové, was again destroyed by fire in 1853. The theatre was hastily reconstructed for the coronation of Alexander II (1856, architect: Albert Kavos). The building would subsequently see a few more renovations, but only minor external changes were made. The most recent and most serious renovation was from 2005 to 2011. The company continued to give performances at its New Stage next door, specially built in 2002 to keep the theatre in business during the renovation.

The Bolshoi's appeal as a landmark only increased after the six-year renovation. Ballet and opera lovers have been joined by regular people, who are curious to see the crystal chandelier and gold-plated interiors, or ride a transparent high-speed elevator. Despite the Bolshoi's historic landmark status, the company's decision-makers have no desire to turn it into a museum of classical drama. The theatre has chosen the course of up-to-date interpretation of the classics and collaboration with overseas companies, relevant playwrights and innovative directors. 

It was no accident that the Bolshoi marked the reopening of its historic stage with Mikhail Glinka's Ruslan and Liudmila, staged by Dmitry Cherniakov, an exponent of the new generation of opera directors. The production left nothing of the old theatrical clichés, from the naïve custom of representing Old Russia in golden head-bands and silk caftans to the childish perception of the plot as a fairy tale of the evil magician and the purloined bride. The director's jettisoning of the faux Russian operatic kitsch and theatrical absurdities found no understanding among the adherents of the traditional approach, who protested with vehemence. Some of the Bolshoi's other productions also met with strong resentment on the part of those accustomed to the archaic opera style, most notably, Rosenthal's Children (directed by Eimuntas Nekrošius, music by Leonid Desyatnikov), Kirill Serebrennikov's Golden Cockerel, Dmitry Cherniakov's Eugene Onegin, and others. In a bid to reconcile the conservative audience with the theatre's penchant for novelty, the Bolshoi has drawn some clearly articulated dividing lines in its repertoire policy. The New Stage is dedicated to experiments of every description. The Historic Stage will remain the undisturbed realm of the immortal ballet classics (Swan Lake, Giselle, The Nutcracker), Soviet heroic retro epics (Yuri Grigorovich's Spartacus and The Legend of Love), western plot-based neoclassics (John Neumeier's The Lady of the Camellias), operatic "preserves" (Boris Godunov of the 1948 vintage), and modern costumed plays close enough to canonical opera (Carmen staged by Alexey Borodin, Queen of Spades staged by Lev Dodin, Lorent Campellone's La Traviata, Yulia Pevzner's King's Bride, Adrian Noble's Don Carlo). The Bolshoi's ticket pricing reflects the new deal: tickets for the Historic Stage, the home of "people's favourites," cost a multiple of what New Stage tickets cost.

One of the oldest theatres in Russia, the Maly was founded in the 18th century, when Catherine II was Empress. The Maly has inhabited the same historic building in Teatralnaya Ploschad (Teatralnaya Square), next door to the Bolshoi, for 190 years. The Maly, which had discovered Alexander Ostrovsky's plays for the world in the 19th century, earned itself the soubriquet "Ostrovsky House." The Maly's main stage is currently in remodelling, but its second stage at Bolshaya Ordynka, where the Maly company temporarily plays, is also a remarkable building. This mansion in Ostrovsky's favourite Zamoskvorechye – trans-Moskva – was one of the first cinemas to open in Moscow. It was rebuilt for a privately owned theatre in 1914, nationalized post-1917, and finally given to the Maly Theatre in 1943. In contrast with the posh building in Teatralnaya Ploschad, the modest second stage has retained the aura of old Moscow, a town of merchants, about it. The Maly's mission as a "memorial theatre" reflects on its repertoire, which should be taken selectively, watching out for star actors or guest directors, such as Sergey Zhenovach (Woe from Wit, Truth is Good, But Happiness is Better, The Imaginary Invalid)  or Adolf Shapiro (Children of the Sun).

Wheelchair accessible

Nikolai Galkin/TASS

This faux-Russian style building was constructed in 1886 for the Paradise, a private theatre company. The facade was designed by Fyodor Shechtel, who would later design the MKhT building. Before 1917, the Paradise often lent its stage to guest acts. Sarah Bernhardt, Eleonora Duse, Mounet-Sully, the Coquelins, and other foreign celebrities played there. In 1917 the building was nationalized and became the Theatre of the Revolution, founded by Vsevolod Meyerhold. Legendary stage directors Alexey Popov, Nikolay Okhlopkov and Andrey Goncharov worked here. The company has always been famous for its strong, star-filled line-up. It still is. People go to the Mayakovsky Theatre, or simply Mayak, to see the superb acting of Igor Kostolevsky, Mikhail Filippov, Yevgenia Simonova, Svetlana Nemolyayeva, and others. Lithuanian director Mindaugas Karbauskis has steered the company since 2011. A GITIS alumnus and Piotr Fomenko's pupil, Karbauskis continues his teacher's cause with skill and tact, building a solid, balanced actor's theatre in the time-honoured Russian tradition of "deep" acting.

This posh, humongous 46-metre (151-foot) tall high-rise, built on the bank of the Moskva River in the early 2000s, is now one of the largest philharmonic establishments in the world. In addition to its three concert halls, each custom-designed and fitted with sophisticated equipment, the 46,000 square metre (150,919 square foot) MIPAC boasts a Musical Terrace, which is used as an extra auditorium, as well as housing a restaurant, art gallery, recording studio, audiovisual showroom, flower salon, musical instruments shop, and what not. The biggest hall, Svetlanovsky, has a modern grand organ and seating for as many as 1699.  The 556-seat Chamber Hall has a small, movable organ. The third, Teatralny Hall, is a transformer. The stage and the auditorium can be reconfigured for different purposes, seating 400 to 524, depending on the event.  MIPAC is the home base of two orchestras, led by celebrated conductor Vladimir Spivakov: the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia and the National "Virtuosos of Moscow" Chamber Symphony Orchestra. The "Russian Philharmonic" Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sergey Tararin, is also domiciled here.

Novaya Opera (New Opera) was founded in 1991 by Yevgeny Kolobov, then head conductor of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre. Moscow authorities gave Kolobov this historic building, once the home of the Mirror Theatre, for his Novaya Opera project. Built in the Hermitage Garden in 1910, the Mirror Theatre was an unheated building, usable only in summer, and was never repaired in Soviet time, slowly falling apart. The building was nearly useless when Kolobov got it. Now, following an ambitious reconstruction, the theatre dazzles with its lavish interiors. There is hardly anything left of the early 1990s amusement establishment for common people. Novaya Opera was conceived as a "conductor's" theatre, and the company has remained faithful to that concept after Kolobov's death. Accordingly, it is customary to judge Novaya Opera productions on their musical merits, without asking too much of the directing. The audience is all bourgeois here, a match for the affluent interiors.

Nikolai Galkin/TASS

This small experimental theatre without a steady company boasts advanced technical capabilities, an all-purpose convertible auditorium, sophisticated machinery, a cornucopia of great ideas, and the name of a great theatre innovator on the facade. The Theatre has proved worthy of its name, backing the most controversial directing experiments. It also runs a series of educational programmes for young theatre lovers, hosts foreign companies on tour and lends its stage to international theatre festivals. The modern concrete and glass building, in which the theatre opened in 1991, could not look less like a theatre. It has two cafés, staying open at all hours, where celebrity sightings are frequent.

Nikolai Galkin/TASS

Fyodor Shechtel's art deco masterpiece, commissioned by Moscow Art Theatre (MAT) founders Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, was built in 1902.  The right-hand entrance, leading to the New Stage, is decorated with the Wave bas-relief by the famed sculptor Anna Golubkina. The MAT building is an important tourist landmark. In fact, the whole pedestrian area of Kamergersky Pereulok (Kamergersky Lane) is. The theatre has been led by Oleg Tabakov, once an iconic Soviet actor and now a no-less-successful theatre director, since 2000. The creative director constantly adds new talent to an already stellar MAT company, which has actors of all ages on its line-up. Tabakov also invites the most successful directors to help him update and rejuvenate the repertoire. Tabakov's choices are often criticized by the more conservative members of the public, but MAT premieres always sell out the house, and it costs as much to see one as it costs to see a western pop star in concert.

Nikolay Galkin/ТАSS
The theatre is currently managed by Teresa Durova, the daughter of well-known animal trainers from a famous circus family. As a child, Durova often performed with her parents. Aged 21, she left the circus to study at the Stage and Circus Directing Faculty of the Russian University of Theatre Arts (GITIS). The history of Teresa Durova's theatre dates back to 1991, when she organized the first International Clowns Festival in Moscow. The theatre has a broad and diverse repertoire catering mainly to young children. Most productions are based on well-known children's literary classics such as "Winnie the Pooh" ("Vinni Pukh"), "The Tinderbox" ("Ognivo") and "The Twelve Months" ("Dvenadtsat Mesyatsev"). Most performances are theatrical plays, although they always have a connection with circus acts such as clowns, pantomime, acrobatics and magic tricks. This is not high theatre; yet the clowns' performances are more complex and subtle than those in a circus. The Teatrium owes most of its fame to the foreign acts it showcases during festivals and other events. Since 2006, it has also been home to the Gavroche large and fascinating international annual children's theatre festival. As the main organiser of this event, the Teatrium attempts to cover diverse geographical areas when compiling the programme. In 2007, the festival saw a wide variety of French plays, in 2008 it included a wealth of Italian performances, and in 2009 the focus was on Sweden. Besides covering a full spectrum of old and new dramatic forms, the festival includes special projects for children with learning difficulties. The Swedish Silent Theatre, for instance, performs plays for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, and the XZART junior theatre from France allows children with Down's syndrome to enjoy theatre.