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.