Moscow is a great city to experience Russian culture, whether you’re looking for world-class ballet, unforgettable literature or inspiring symphonies. Here is a personal selection of three of the best artistic attractions.
Founded in 1866, this renowned music academy is not only a place for students and scholars. It is also a place where members of the public can come to evening classical concerts, where they can experience first-rate musicianship.
Russian audiences tend to be more effusive than westerners, so do not be surprised to hear people clapping spontaneously or calling “Bravo” when particularly moved. At the end of the concert, audience members might rush to the front to hand flowers up to the musicians on the stage.
While the conservatory has several buildings, the Great Hall is particularly worth visiting. It was opened in 1901 and has a statue of the composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky in front. The statue dates from 1954 and shows him sitting in a chair with an enraptured look on his face, his hands dancing as if dreaming up a new melody. Tchaikovsky was one of the original faculty of the conservatory, holding the post of professor of theory and harmony for more than a decade. Since 1940, the conservatory has been named after him.
Ulitsa Bolshaya Nikitinskaya 13/6
Metro stop: Arbatskaya
Statue of Nikolai Gogol
There are many statues of writers and artists in Moscow, but this brooding depiction of Gogol is particularly striking. Neurotic, fervently religious, darkly humorous, Gogol is one of the most popular Russian authors. There’s a quote (sometimes attributed to Fyodor Dostoevsky) that all subsequent Russian writers crawled from beneath his overcoat. But though Gogol’s haunting stories of downtrodden peasants and deranged clerks – such as The Overcoat and Diary of a Madman – exerted a huge influence on later authors, no one has written quite like him.
This monument, created in 1909 by Nikolai Andreev, shows Gogol awkwardly huddled in a cape, staring out from under his long forelock, while some of his characters are etched out in bronze friezes surrounding the plinth. It stands in the courtyard of an 18th century mansion where Gogol lived his last few years, from 1848 to 1852 – during which, among other things, he burned the second part of his unfinished novel, Dead Souls. The statue used to stand in a more prominent spot in Moscow, but was moved in 1951 because it did not fit with Stalin’s ideas of optimistic socialist realism.
Nikitsky Bulvar 7
Metro stop: Arbatskaya
This is the classic place to catch an opulent ballet or opera performance. The theater has its own ballet and opera companies that train and perform here. The building dates from 1824 and has seen the premieres of famous compositions including Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Today’s repertoire also includes works by Russian greats like Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, as well as foreign composers such as Mozart.
Though the Bolshoi’s performers tour internationally, the company’s prime mission is to make masterpieces available to the local audience. Its home schedule is a higher priority than touring, and its ticket prices are intentionally kept fairly low.
The beautiful building was designed by Andrei Mikhailov and has been undergoing extensive renovation in the last few years, while continuing to host performances. The objective is to upgrade the equipment to modern standards while preserving the classic style and atmosphere of the theater.
Ploshchad Teatralnaya 1
Metro stop: Teatralnaya
Written by David Hill for EuropeUpClose.com