Bolshoi Theatre reopens after 6-year restoration

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The Bolshoi Theatre's restored auditorium is seen during a media tour in October.

Russia's Bolshoi Theatre reopened Friday after a six-year closure for a massive restoration of its historic building that was delayed by several years and four times over budget.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the audience that the Bolshoi was a "national treasure", before the curtain lifted for an invitation-only gala that was to include performances by top ballet and opera stars.

The historic building hosted its last performance in July 2005 and was then closed for urgent restoration works, without which it risked simply disintegrating with three-quarters of the building deemed to be decaying.

The restoration cost $700 million, overshooting the original budget over four times and missing its original reopening date of 2008 as the state of the building was found to be far worse than first believed.

"It was very serious work, it lasted six years, everyone felt this, the theatre, the company and everyone who loved it," said Medvedev.

"This is our national treasure. The construction workers felt this (the closure), ordinary people and also the government."

"Everything is the last word in technology," he said. "But the main thing is that the spirit of the Bolshoi Theatre has stayed and now we will witness this again."

The curtain parted to the sounds of chiming bells and flashing lights. Then performers in hard hats filled the stage, apparently representing construction workers, and burst into song in a chorus from Glinka's opera "Ivan Susanin."

Then ballet troupe then took to the stage to perform an excerpt from Prokofiev's Cinderella.

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