Sep 11

The National Opera of Ukraine (Teatrul de Opera)

Visiting another country is a great way to learn more about the cultural and historical development of that specific location. Tourists who go abroad are generally interested in visiting as many places as possible and this definitely includes cultural institutions where the traditions, principles and customs of a state are revealed.

The National Opera should definitely be included within your tour around Kiev if this is the destination of your vacation. The history behind the Opera in Kiev is complex and it is the edifice where the artistic life of Ukraine has been developed.

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The Opera House dates from the 19th century (1867) when the Kiev Opera Group was formed.  The opera came into being due to the efforts of Ferdinand Berger who had managed to bring to Ukraine several talented artists who were to perform at the Opera House. Thus, singers, musicians and conductors took the stage of the City Theatre, which used to house the National Opera at the time of its formation. This edifice dated from the mid-19th century and was constructed after the plans developed by the architect I. Shtrom. While the name attached to the institution was that of City Theatre, it was generally referred to as the Russian Opera.

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Initially, the performances organized were of Russian origin (e.g. Ruslan and Lyudmila by Mikhail Glinka) and of European nature (e.g. The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart or Verdi’s opera pieces).

Near the turn of the century (1896), the edifice which housed the National Opera was consumed by flames. The fire burst from a candle which was left burning after the Eugene Onegin performance. Nothing was left behind except ash and smoke. Everything from musical partitions to costumes and stage props was destroyed. In the coming years after the fire, the Kiev Opera Group held its performances on various stages without actually having a place of its own.

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In was in the 20th century that the City Council decided to construct a new edifice which was to serve the purpose of housing the National Opera. A competition which exceeded the national boundaries was organized in order to find the architect to sketch the new edifice. The project came to architect Victor Schröter who had incorporated various architectural trends in the design of the Opera House. Thus, the façade of the building was created according to the Neo-Renaissance architectural design, whereas the interior bore a more classical look – this style was named Viennese Modern. While the entire edifice is beautifully adorned with elements pertaining to various architectural trends, the most notable element is the stage of the Opera House which was the largest stage located on the European continent and which was constructed while following the most modern standards in engineering.

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Throughout its existence, the Opera House has attracted a number of extremely talented performers. The institution began to flourish in the early years of the 20th century, with famous singers such as O. Petlyash, P. Tsecevich, K. Voronets, M. Medvedev coming to perform for the population of Kiev. But not solely Russian and Ukrainian singers and musicians came to the National Opera, but also Westerners.

After WWI, Kiev witnessed a massive growth and as a consequence the Opera became known throughout Soviet Union, but its fame grew even outside the USSR, being recognized throughout the world for the cultural value it bore.

During WWII, the Opera House was removed from Kiev only to return to the capital city in 1944.

Between 1983 and 1988, the edifice underwent a massive renovation work with the purpose of enlarging the Opera House so as to include many more rehearsal and dressing rooms. Other changes included widening the orchestra pit and broadening the stage. The new building exceeded the dimensions of the former by 20.000 square meters, its collosal size being the in accordance with the importance and value of the cultural institution.

Aug 23

The Bolshoi Theatre (Teatrul Bolshoi)

It is literally impossible to be unaware of the great Muscovite theatre, the Bolshoi Theatre. It is renowned throughout the world so it is only natural to schedule a tour at this great edifice on your visit to Russia.

The architect behind the project, Joseph Bove, has designed the edifice in the neoclassical style and at present, the artistically crafted theatre can be seen on the 100-rubble banknote.

The main building had been subjected to several renovation processes since its appearance, but the constant work conducted on the edifice goes to show that the Moscow administration has recognized the importance of the edifice and the significant role it plays in the cultural life of the city, and of the entire nation for that matter. So it is of no surprise that the theatre has become a landmark of Russia.

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The most recent restoration work was initiated in 2005 and it took 6 years to be completed. The work undertaken by the contractor consisted of restoring the high acoustical quality of the edifice which had been lost when the soviet regime was instituted and Russia was traversed by an outburst of social and political change. It was during this refurbishing work that the Bolshoi Theatre regained its majestic decorative architecture.

The company which administered the theatre came into being in the 18th century (1776), but the performances were not hosted in a grand edifice, which could proudly bear the name of theatre. In turn, the cultural events were held in a private house. It was not until 1780 that the company acquired the Petrovka Theatre and extended its area of interest so as to include plays and operas.

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But this location was bound to change in 25 years’ time as the theatre caught fire and was severely damaged, in as much as it had to be rebuilt from the ground. The new edifice was constructed in 1824 in Theatre Square, under the supervision of Andrei Mikhailov, the architect to develop the plan for the new theatre.

The name attached to the theatre was meant to reflect the importance of the purpose it held in the Russian community. For one, it should be mentioned that theatres were seen as being the epitome of cultural life, especially those which housed opera and ballet performances. Thus the name given was of “Grand Theatre” which in Russian translates as the Bolshoi Theatre.  The reason for which this occurred was that the two types of artistic performances were regarded as being noble, exceeding the plays (comedies, tragedies or dramas) in the degree of artistry used in putting the enactments on stage.

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The Bolshoi Theatre, the national theatre of Russia, has always been regarded as an icon of Russia and it is no wonder that it had preserved this status throughout time. It is within its walls that the cultural life of Russia was formed and carried out, having maintained the traditions of Russia alive.

But most important, the theatre strives to offer continuity in the sense that all the changes that occur, from a cultural point of view, are outlined within the performances held at Bolshoi. This means that while the classical pieces are still performed on regular basis, being masterfully executed by true artists, contemporary pieces are also presented. Only the best productions will take the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre so if you have the opportunity to visit, and even more importantly, to attend to the opera or the ballet acts put together both for connoisseurs and common audiences, you should not miss out on it. The fact remains that the artistry with which the people on stage present themselves will definitely impress even those who are not knowledgeable of this art. The fact remains that beautiful things will always entice the eye.

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If we have captured your attention and you are already taking into consideration the idea of visiting Moscow and this specific tourist attraction, then you will be pleased to hear that some of the tickets to the performances (20%) are reduced so as to be accessible to everyone. Another aspect of general interest is that the Bolshoi Theatre contains 2 stages: the main one and the new one.  As you have probably already guessed, tickets for the performances held on the main stage are more expensive than those from the new stage. This structure of the theatre gives the company the opportunity to address several matters, allowing it to hold performances concomitantly and thus offer some variety to its audience.

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There is only one way in which the theatre can be described and that is as a “living and breathing organism.” Why? Because its evolution goes hand in hand with the evolution of the society, and not just the Russian society. The artists and the pieces presented at Bolshoi Theatre have different origins and the reason is simple: the company is dedicated to culture in general, and to Russian art in particular, pinpointing the cultural evolution of the world.