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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Bolshoi gets cash boost
The Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
The Bolshoi Theatre is in desperate need of repair
The Russian Government is to pump $180m (123m) into restoring the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre after a decade of artistic decline and financial troubles.

The Bolshoi, in Moscow, has been described by President Vladimir Putin as "the symbol of Russian culture".

Four and a half years of rebuilding work would start in 2003, the theatre's general director Anatoli Iksanov told the Itar-Tass news agency.

The Bolshoi is famous for its ballet company, but has struggled to maintain its international reputation in recent years.

Criticism

Mr Iksanov said performances would continue while work was being done, and the theatre would only be closed for a few months during the summer.

Since the collapse of communism, the Bolshoi has seen its government funding fall, and in recent years there has also been criticism of its artistic direction.

The building itself - a landmark in central Moscow - is in desperate need of repair, with a leaking roof and subsiding foundations.

It celebrated its 225th anniversary in 2001, but has seen a number of recent changes at the top.

Mauled

Putin sacked artistic director Vladimir Vasilyev in what was criticised as a "Soviet-style" presidential decree in August 2000.

Veteran conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky, 70, was appointed to replace him in a shock move the following month.

But he left nine months later after critics mauled the Bolshoi's production of Sergei Prokoviev's opera The Player.

The Bolshoi's ballet company has also seen a challenge for the title of the best in Russia from the Kirov in St Petersburg, which has undergone a successful reinvention.

See also:

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