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.

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.

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.

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.

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.