(Svetlana Samodelova’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 11/17.)

Each costume or prop for all the operas and ballets performed at the Bolshoi Theater, from Boris Godunov's coat through Princess Turandot's dress to Carmen's fan, is a work of art in and of itself. But, as one can find out by visiting the Bolshoi's prop workshops, they also serve as keys to the mysteries and superstitions surrounding Russia's prime theater.

How to ‘juice up’ a costume and why there is a 'no pictures' rule

“Sometimes, a costume's parts do not reflect light in the right way and are thus barely visible to those sitting in the last few rows of the pit. So we have to ‘juice it up’ – that is, revise the initial, minimal details of the costume and add folds and shadows using special paint. This is a part of our operating procedure, so to speak,” says Natalya Aldoshina, head of the women's clothes department at the Bolshoi.

Each member of the theater staff knows taking pictures of costumes before the opening night is a no-no, since they are protected by copyright.


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