Probably the most famous ballet company in the world is the Bolshoi Theater Company in Moscow, Russia. The company was founded in 1776, and the current building was built in 1824 after the original theater was destroyed by fire. Famous ballets that premiered here are Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake , Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker . Also performed here was Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet , as well as Adolphe Adam’s Giselle .
Tchaikovsky was born in Russia. He began piano lessons at age 5 and within three years could read music as well as his teacher. He had some music lessons throughout his young life, but vocationally trained as a lawyer. He loved music, so his father consulted a well-known piano teacher about a possible musical career. The teacher (Kundinger) said there was nothing to suggest that Tchaikovsky would be a potential composer or even a fine performer. That’s why he studied law. Eventually, luckily for us, Tchaikovsky turned to music and is now known as one of the greatest composers of all time. Some of his works are Sleeping Beauty , The Nutcracker , and Swan Lake . He was the visiting composer/conductor for the opening of Carnegie Hall in New York in 1890. (For those of you who don’t recognize the name Carnegie Hall, it is the most famous music hall in the United States.)
Prokofiev was born in Ukraine (of the Russian Empire). He also displayed unusual musical abilities by the age of five. His first piano composition was written down by his mother because he was too young to write. This composition included only white piano keys because when he was young he didn’t like to touch black keys! He was composing his first opera at the age of nine. He ended up being one of the greatest composers of the 20 th century. Some of his famous works are Romeo and Juliet , Cinderella , The Ugly Duckling and Peter and the Wolf .
Dostoevsky wrote such famous works as Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov . In his books he explores human psychology as well as the political, social and spiritual aspects of Russian society of the 1800s. (This guy’s deep—not a quick, easy read!!) He became famous as a writer at the age of 24. Czar Nicholas I was harsh on any type of underground organization he felt was a threat to his autocracy. Dostoevsky, being a political/social writer, was arrested and imprisoned in 1849. At first he was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted and instead he spent 4 years at hard labor in Siberia. Afterwards he was forced to serve in the military. These experiences changed his political and religious convictions and he started writing more about Russian values than western political and social thought. Many people in the literary and art culture worldwide consider Dostoevsky the founder of 20 th century existentialism (a philosophical thought that there is no God and man is totally responsible for his own behavior). One of his big changes after prison is that he became religious—Eastern Orthodox.
Tolstoy is widely regarded as one of the greatest novelists of all time. Two of his most famous works are War and Peace and Anna Karenina . Both these books are a realistic description of 19 th century Russian life. This genre was called realist fiction. Tolstoy was a philosopher, notable especially for his ideas on nonviolent resistance. Two famous 20 th century leaders who were influenced by Tolstoy were Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi (gained non-violent independence for India from Great Britain) and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Faberge was an artist and a goldsmith. Tsar Alexander III and his son, Nicholas II, commissioned Faberge to make eggs made of precious metals imbedded with gemstones. The first egg was made in 1885 as an Easter surprise for Tsar Alexander’s wife, Maria. On the outside it looked like a simple egg of white enameled gold, but it opened up to reveal a golden yolk. The yolk itself had a golden hen inside it, which in turn had a tiny crown with a ruby hanging inside. Maria was so delighted with the gift that the Tsar commissioned Faberge to make an egg for Easter each year. Fifty seven eggs were produced in all. The first eggs cost the equivalent of 2 to 4 thousand dollars. The most expensive egg cost just under $12,000 dollars (25,000 Russian rubles). In 1949 one egg (the same one that originally cost $12,000) sold for only $4,760. But in 1994 that same egg sold for 5.5 million dollars (bought by an American businessman). One egg, named “The Coronation Egg” sold in 2004 for about 20 million dollars. The following slides are pictures of some of the Faberge Eggs.