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Choir of State Bolshoi Theatre of Russia (Choir)

While forming part of the Opera Company, the Bolshoi Theatre Chorus is a creative entity in its own right and occupies a page of its own in Bolshoi history. In the 80’s of the 19th century, Ulrich Avranek was appointed Chief Chorus Master and second conductor of the Theatre’s orchestra. Under his leadership, the Chorus attained a very high performance level and became known throughout Russia. Many composers wrote music specially for it. In conductor Nikolai Golovanov’s memoirs, he recalls that: “the splendid chorus of the Moscow Imperial Opera… had a great success in the capital, all of Moscow attended its galas and concerts”. At the beginning of the last century, the Bolshoi Theatre Chorus took part in Sergei Diaghilev’s Russian Seasons in Paris. As the art of staging opera developed, the Chorus became an active participant in all the Theatre’s opera productions. First-class musicians, the Bolshoi Theatre conductors and chorus masters Nikolai Golovanov, Alexander Melik-Pashayev, Mikhail Shorin, Alexander Khazanov, Alexander Rybnov, Igor Agafonnikov and others developed the artistic traditions of choral singing and enhanced the beauty, power and expressiveness of its sound. During a Bolshoi Theatre Opera Company tour of France, a Paris newspaper remarked on the very high level of the Chorus’s performance skills: “that, the public should force the chorus to give an encore during the course of a performance has never been witnessed before at the Palais Garnier or, indeed, at any of the world’s opera-houses”.

Today, the Chorus has 150 members. There is no opera in the Bolshoi Theatre repertoire in which it does not take part, in addition to which there are chorus parts in the ballets Nutcracker and Spartacus. It has a vast concert repertoire, including works for chorus by Sergei Taneyev, Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninov, Sergei Prokofiev, .and religious music. Its performances abroad are always popular: in 2003, the Bolshoi Theatre Chorus showed itself to be in fine form during its tours, after a fairly long interval, of Spain and Portugal, under the leadership of Alexander Vedernikov. The press commented as follows: “…The Chorus is magnificent, musical with astonishingly powerful sound…”; “We draw your attention to the Bells cantata, a spectacular work, … which demonstrates the grandeur of Russian music: the chorus! We were presented with an example of superlative singing: intonation, voices, power, sound. We were lucky enough to hear a performance of this work which is little known here, a marvelous performance not only by the Chorus, but by the Orchestra too…” Since 2003, the Chorus has been led by Merited Artist of Russia Valery Borisov.

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