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Bloggers expose Bolshoi scandal

by Natalia Antonova at 17/11/2011 19:22

The recent tickets controversy at the newly renovated Bolshoi Theater speaks to a host of problems – logistical problems, mainly – yet one of the other obvious issues has to do with the fact that the Bolshoi has been so slow to join the age of Internet technology.

Right after the Bolshoi Theater’s main stage reopened following an expensive restoration, ticket scalpers began storming its gates. A popular LiveJournal post by an anonymous user calling herself angryrussia detailed how it was nearly impossible for an ordinary person to score tickets to, say, the “Ruslan and Lyudmila” opera – buying online was not an option, and lines to the box office were dominated by well-organized groups of “enterprising businessmen” who made profits off illegally reselling Bolshoi tickets.

According to the blogger, the scalpers were able to cut off access to the box office for hours – and the theater administration apparently did nothing to stop them.

Angryrussia asked the obvious question: “Why are these guys in hoods creating a ticket mafia 100 meters away from the State Duma – and nobody is doing anything about it?” She answers her own question when she muses: “Why do foreign theaters do everything so that I, a foreigner, can easily and comfortably visit them – and something like this is impossible in my own country? Or would something like this be seen as unprofitable by the theater administration – because the ticket mafia gives them a cut of its earnings? Oops, did I just say this out loud?”

The bloggers’ revelations are certainly an embarrassment to the Bolshoi – or would be, if the theater administration took the trouble to communicate with audience members via the Internet. The Bolshoi certainly has its own home page – it’s pretty and well-designed, though the English-language version is not easily accessed – but I somehow doubt that its administration takes such controversy seriously. Administrators know that Important People don’t need to stand in line for tickets to begin with, and it’s the Important People who matter right now, as opposed to ordinary Muscovites who would like to visit their city’s best-known theater without too much hassle and humiliation.

The trouble with the Internet is that it democratizes society. Everyone can have a platform – and users who are witty and savvy enough can easily gather a massive following. Angryrussia’s post wasn’t just angry, it was also clever, and came illustrated with pictures of sketchy-looking ticket scalpers hanging out right outside the doors of the Bolshoi. This was far from the rarefied image that the Bolshoi aims to project – and it was reblogged and tweeted and shared on Facebook and other social networking platforms.

As Internet penetration continues to grow in Russia, more people will take to cyberspace to hold organizers accountable for such snafus – and establishments like the Bolshoi will not be able to remain “above” such incidents for long. Perhaps it’s already taking note – online sales recently appeared (boxoffice.bolshoi. org) along with advance ticket sales by email (sales@bolshoi.ru).

I happen to like the Bolshoi Theater and do not, like some, consider it overrated. I already look forward to taking my son there – once he’s old enough to not drool all over the upholstery, that is. The Bolshoi is conservative, but it’s got both vision and standards, and hey, even if the “Ruslan and Lyudmila” opera strikes you as “inappropriate” because there is nudity in it (oh no! Stop the presses!), then at least you can count on the friendly bartenders at the buffet to get you buzzed without breaking the bank (trust me – just ask them for advice on how to drink at the Bolshoi without going broke, and they will be most helpful).

All of this makes me hope that soon enough, users like angryrussia will have less to be angry about.

Read other articles of the print issue "The Moscow News #89"
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