Ballet through the years: The Bolshoi Theater’s archives are now digitized

Old posters of Bolshoi Theater.

Old posters of Bolshoi Theater.

The famous dance company’s legendary collection is available online.

Over 48,000 posters and 100,000 rare photos from the archives of the Bolshoi Theater will be soon available online, thanks to the crowdsourcing project "Discover the History of the Bolshoi Theater." The theater, along with the ABBYY software company, recruited thousands of volunteers who helped to digitize this collection of heritage for the legendary theater. Volunteers are still needed for further work with these archives. www.openbolshoi.ru

"There are 240 years of Bolshoi Theater history, and from these posters the names of the greats are still looking out at us: Atlantov, Vishnevskaya, Chaliapin, Nezhdanova, Nesterenko, Ulanova, Plisetskaya, Vasiliev, Katya Maximova..." says Vladimir Urin, General Director of the Bolshoi Theater.

RBTH has selected the most interesting posters from the Bolshoi Ballet’s foreign tours, featuring performances in Germany in 1967, 1969 and 1973, a tour to Italy in 1984, and another to France in 1995. There are also selections from the archives of Japanese, Arabic, Spanish and U.S. tour posters, featuring legendary ballets and operas.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

The Bolshoi Ballet performed in the U.S. for the first time in 1959. As the poster states, it was a historic event.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

After nearly a decade without a tour to the U.S., the Bolshoi Ballet returned in 1975. A company of 220 dancers performed in Jones Hall, Texas from June 10-15, 1975.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

A festival of Soviet music was held in Boston in 1988 as part of a Soviet-American cultural exchange program.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

The Bolshoi Ballet performed in Cuba on Nov. 29, 1966. The tour was organized by the Cuban National Council of Culture and Arts.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

The Bolshoi Ballet traveled to Paris to dance on the stages of the Palais de Sports and Palais Garnier. The theater performed five different programs featuring whole ballets as well as legendary excerpts from Swan Lake, Giselle, Chopiniana, Don Quixote, Cinderella and Raymonda. Sometimes, multiple performances were given in a day.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

On July 7-8, 1984, the Bolshoi Ballet performed at the historic site of the Altar of Hieron in Syracuse, Italy. The show featured the legendary dancers Vladimir Vasiliev and Ekaterina Maximova.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

This year, the Bolshoi is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its first tour to Japan. This poster is an advertisement for when Don Quixote and Swan Lake were performed in Kanazawa, Japan.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

Maya Plisetskaya and other top dancers performed Carmen Suite by Georges Bizet and debuted Ballet School with music from Alexander Glazunov, Anatoly Lyatov, and Dmitri Shostakovich in Nagoya, Japan.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

Ninety top performers presented Giselle by Adolphe Adam in Kagoshima, Japan.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

Maya Plisetskaya and other top ballet dancers reenacted Carmen Suite by Bizet and Ballet School with music by Glazunov, Lyadov and Shostakovich in Niigata, Japan.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

The Bolshoi Ballet performed Swan Lake and Don Quixote, in addition to hosting a gala event, at the National Theater of Munich during Ballet Week, May-June, 1967.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

The Bolshoi performed three operas Boris Godunov, The Unknown Soldier, and Eugene Onegin at the Berlin State Opera House in September 1969.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

The first performance of Anna Karenina by Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet happened at the Bavarian State Opera House in 1973.

Photo: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYYPhoto: Bolshoi Theater, ABBYY

The Bolshoi Ballet toured Arab countries in 1971.

Read more: 5 things you probably didn’t know about the Bolshoi Theater

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