April 14, 2013
There were no planned activities for our group today, so it was an opportunity to explore Moscow and its many attractions. Since it was Sunday, I decided to attend a Russian Orthodox Mass at the Ascension Cathedral that was a short walk from our hotel.
Our guide from yesterday had shared that the great Russian Poet was married in this Cathedral. The service was very interesting since there are no pews. The worshipers stand throughout the service or often walk from one part of the sanctuary to another to place lighted candles. The mass was performed by four priests, one of whom bore a striking resemblence to the American chef Mario Batali. He had the red hair complete with pony tail, but no orange clogs. The service lasted well over two hours.
Following the service, I made my way to to the Tretyakov Art Gallery. This amazing Gallery has the largest collection of Russian Art in the world, and was recommended to me by Mel Weissman, a retired History Professor at CCM who had two Fulbrights to Russia. It did not disappoint.
The collection itself is quite remarkable.
My day was capped off by attending an opera at the Bolshoi Theatre. This world-renowned theatre has recently undergone a 1 Billion dollar renovation, and it is simply spectacular.
I had the opportunity to see Ruslan and Lyudmila by Glinka. This four hour plus opera is based on an epic poem by Pushkin. The production was very unique in that it mixed the original 15th Century legend with a very upscale modern touch in Acts 2, 3, and 4.
All in all, this was an amazing day and night of religion, tradition, and culture.