Can The Bolshoi Adapt to the Times?

The Soviet opera troupe, now on a U.S. visit, is struggling to survive glasnost

When Moscow's Bolshoi Opera paid its first visit to the U.S. in 1975, it amply lived up to its name, which is Russian for big. The company offered majestic productions of such epics as Prokofiev's War and Peace and Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, plus that Russian national favorite, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. That was the monolithic age of Brezhnev, after all, and the Bolshoi had long been the Kremlin's chief cultural weapon; the party bureaucracy decreed the choices of repertory, casting, even stage sets. The results were as strong as a tank, and just as subtle. Still, American audiences were impressed by the...

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