I agree with Birdsall. If you are a ballet lover, then the inside of the historic Mariinsky theater is not to be missed especially now the theater is going to be renovated. (Given the current cast of characters running things there, it's hard to trust that the renovation will be worthy of the theater. Though one can hope.)
When I say "not to be missed": The historic Mariinsky is not exactly spectacular--no Palais Garnier grand staircase as in Paris--and I suppose it is aging and...uh...you certainly should pick your seats carefully and other caveats that often apply to 19th-century theaters ... but it is just so completely and utterly enchanting, that if you can get to see a performance there during your trip, (even a ballet you aren't crazy about or, indeed, even a lesser opera performance), then I think you should.
Since I do find travel kind of stressful myself and I have limited stores of energy, I understand that one might decide to stick with Moscow, which should be plenty great--I still haven't been to the Bolshoi and hope I get to go someday!!--but though it's hard to explain, the historic Mariinsky is just something very, very special.
The Bolshoi Opera is a lot stronger than the Mariinsky Opera overall. From your Bolshoi pre-sale dates earlier in the thread, I'm assuming you mean the early October run of "La Traviata" (1-5 October). I don't know how long in advance the casting for opera is posted. (The latest posting is for the last summer "Tosca," with the smashing Maria Gavrilova.) For the July run of Traviatas, they will alternate two casts, which is likely for the October run. The casting is posted on the opera's page:
Under "La Traviata" click "Cast." The earliest current performance cast will appear on the page. To see later casts, click the link to the date in the little menu to the right. (The link for 1 October is up, but only the conductor is listed so far.)
If you can wait to buy tickets until the casting is posted, you can search for the singers on YouTube and see whose voices appeal to you most. If they're singing Violetta, Alfredo Germont, and Giorgio Germont at the Bolshoi, it is almost certain that they've had experience with the role and a 99% chance you'll find at least a selection of theirs from "La Traviata" on YouTube. You'll have to adjust your sound expectations, since a lot of the YouTube videos are either bootlegs or degraded versions taken from professional recordings and broadcasts, but you should be able to get an idea of what they sound like. For example, one of the summer Violetta's uses more vibrato and sounds more dramatic, while the other has a lighter voice with little vibrato.
My favorite scene in "La Traviata" is the one between Violetta and Papa Germont, the baritone. The tenor has more music, but this scene is the heart of the opera. I don't even like Renee Fleming, but when the Royal Opera did an HD broadcast of "La Traviata" with Fleming and Thomas Hampson, this scene made me blubber. The director for the Bolshoi production, Francesca Zambello, is very renowned and very strong.
Here's a bootleg of one July cast's Violetta, Oxana Shilova, and the other July cast's Giorgio Germont, Igor Golovatenko:
I wouldn't suggest trying to sit up close or at ground level for opera. Sound travels up. I saw "Eugene Onegin" in the Historic Theater before the renovation, in the second tier up side boxes, and the sound was great. I haven't been there post-renovation, though.
If you are getting a 3 year visa you can always wait and go to St. Petersburg another trip. But La Sylphide at the historic theatre would be charming. It is nothing to sneeze at. I will see that this coming trip in July and can't wait.
The Little Humpbacked Horse has terrible sets but it is actually a nice ballet, in my opinion. It is fairly modern but based in the classical vocabulary and the music is enjoyable. I saw it twice last summer (Osmolkina/Zyuzin one night and Kolegova/Sergeyev the other night) at M-2. It is no Swan Lake or Bayadere but it is a cute, charming ballet. You will go home with a smile on your face.
But I would opt for La Sylphide at the historic theatre if you can't get back soon. That way you will have had the experience of that theatre!
Yes, folks, it's after midnight Moscow time, and tickets to Swan Lake, plus Boris Godunov and Eugene Onegin, are now on sale. Swan Lake is well on its way to selling out, astronomical prices notwithstanding. So the key is to keep track of those "pre-sale" dates.
I look forward to hearing about the trip & performances --
Thank you Drew! I have now purchased my Bolshoi tickets and, yes, I will definitely report back.
Now I am going to describe my ticket-buying experience, just in case it's helpful for anyone else, particularly in regard to figuring out the timing.
The pre-sale date for the performances I wanted to see was July 5 (today). I didn't understand what the "pre-sale" entailed, but I decided to be optimistic and see if I could participate. At midnight Moscow time July 5 (10 p.m. July 4 my time), I began checking the web site. I tried several times over the course of a few hours, but the tickets were never available. Then I gave up and went to bed.
I checked again this morning around 11:30 my time (1:30 p.m. Moscow time). Then I forgot about it for a while. I think I assumed I'd have to wait until evening. When I tried again at 4 p.m. my time, I was shocked to see the pretty blue "Buy ticket" button next to "my" performances! I leapt into action. I bought tickets for three performances, two in the new theater (both ballets) and one in the historic theater (opera).
Selecting a seat for the opera was pretty easy. However, I'm quite choosy about where I sit for ballets, and a good chunk of seats were gone already. It wasn't a terrible situation, but I had a little trouble deciding, partly because I have never been to the theater, and partly because my "first choice" areas where I would normally sit (in any theater) weren't free. I used the following photos to help me choose, and I am excited about the seats I ended up picking.