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Curtain about to rise on Bolshoi restoration -

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Moscow's world-famous Bolshoi Theatre is about to reopen its doors after a long and controversial
restoration project lasting six years amid allegations of embezzlement and fraud.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: It's famous as the home of some of the world's greatest ballet and opera and
tomorrow Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre will reopen its doors after a long and controversial restoration
project.

It dragged on for six years and was embroiled in allegations of embezzlement and fraud.

But there's nothing new about furore at the Bolshoi, as our Moscow correspondent Norman Hermont
reports.

NORMAN HERMONT, REPORTER: It's not quite ready for its close-up - yet - but Russia's renowned jewel
of the arts is poised to reclaim its former glory. There are still workers clambering all over
Moscow's legendary Bolshoi Theatre, even as rehearsals for the opening performance go on. Nearly
two centuries of magnificence has been restored by a project years overdue and hundreds of millions
of dollars over budget.

MIKHAIL SIDOROV, SPOKESMAN AND PROJECT CONTRACTOR (voiceover translation): 3,500 people were
working here, another 2,000 were in the restoration workshops. For most of them, it was the project
of a lifetime.

NORMAN HERMONT: It certainly seems that there's been no expense spared. The opulence of Tsarist
Russia is back, and the project manager is keen to point out all sorts of new technical innovations
- a stage that can be raised or lowered in newly-built levels underground.

It's another world from Soviet times, when the Bolshoi was used by the Communist Party for speeches
and the building's foundations slowly crumbled from neglect.

After six years, the scaffolding is gone, but the allegations of embezzlement and fraud surrounding
this project remain.

So far, the price tag has hit more than $730 million with the final bill still unknown.

SERGEY KHODNEV, ARTS CRITIC, KOMMERSANT NEWSPAPER: Nobody knows at the moment and I think that the
legacy and the scandals will linger many years afterwards, like it was in Milan with the La Scala
reconstruction for example.

NORMAN HERMONT: If the painfully slow and hugely expensive restoration of the Bolshoi is a scandal,
well the ballet theatre that bears its name is almost as famous for those as it is for its
performances, and this year has been no exception.

The Bolshoi once again made headlines for the wrong reasons. One of its renowned soloists, Gennady
Yanin, was forced to quit after erotic photos of him and another man appeared on the internet.

After Mr Yanin, who had become the ballet's director, stepped down, the pictures disappeared from
the net without a trace.

Long-time Bolshoi watchers say it's just the latest in a long line of controversies.

MAYA KRYLOVA, BALLET CRITIC (voiceover translation): This scandal did affect the troupe, but it
will soon be forgotten. I would like to stress that he was not accused of being gay, he was not
accused of anything. The scandal was just that his personal photos were placed in the internet.

NORMAN HERMONT: The Bolshoi never seems far from scandal. Take celebrity ballerina Anastasia
Volochkova for example. Ditched from the troupe for reportedly being too heavy, she rebounded as a
member of the Vladimir Putin-backed United Russia Party, but that link ended after a beach photo
shoot sparked objections. She remains one of Russia's best-known dancers, much to the dismay of
serious art critics.

MAYA KRYLOVA (voiceover translation): Madame Volochkova decided that she is the best, the most
outstanding ballerina in Russia and probably in the whole world and she started behaving like that,
not just in the theatre, but outside it too.

NORMAN HERMONT: Despite the scandals, the Bolshoi carries on. In the end, responsibility for the
restoration was transferred directly to the office of the president. It's not clear what that may
mean for any potential criminal charges or attempts to recover money that may have been embezzled
from the project, but it does mean it is now finally finished.

Norman Hermont, Lateline.