Tel.: 00 38 048 780 15 09
According to Forbes Magazine 2008, the Odessa National Opera and Ballet Theater is one of the 11 most interesting sights in Eastern Europe, and it is the only theater in the list. The pages of this theater’s amazing history are full of names and events out of which emerge much of the cultural history of Odessa. First, it is necessary to pay tribute to Duke de Richelieu, first governor-general of Novorossiysk Territory, who gained a permit to build a theater in Odessa only a few years after its establishment, truly and wisely believing that a theater influences an attraction to the people and citizens and increases the benefit for the city. The first majestic City Theater was erected in 1809, designed by the famous Petersburg architect Toma de Tomon. The construction was managed by local architect F. Frapolli. The building, the main entrance of which faced the sea, was reminiscent of an antique temple and considered one of the best theatrical constructions in the Russian Empire. Especially loved by Odessites, the thirteen month stay of the poet Pushkin in our city, allowed them to call this first City Theater “Pushkin’s”. Alas, the building almost completely burned down in 1873 because of a gas lamp fire. The new building appeared 14 years later; a totally different theater in a different style. Refer to ‘Old Odessa’ – a remarkable book by a journalist and local history specialist, Aleksandr Mykhailovich de Ribas – and you will see the caring attitude of Odessites to such an important event as the future of the new theater. World tender included 43 projects, and the competition was no joke.
A project by rather young though experienced and well-known Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Herman Helmer won (the construction was built under the direction of famous Odessa architect A. Bernardatsi). Apart from its aesthetic merits, preference was also given to their project due to its innovative ideas of fire safety.The magnificent, solemn opening of the new theater on October 1, 1887 has been described many times. For the well-known critic V. Belinskiy writing the following in a letter to A. Gertsen, the theater was enough to make “Odessa… the third capital of Russia definitely. A charming city…”. The building of the theater looked lofty from Rishelyevskaya Street, and now, after more than one hundred and twenty years, we are still proud of this Odessa treasure. The facade of the theater is decorated with a two-level portico with a quadriga of the tragedy muse, Melpomene, and sculptures of Orpheus and Terpsichore that symbolize opera and ballet. There are two sculptural groups at the foot of the entrance to the central portico that allegorically represent comedy and tragedy. The semicircular part of the building has four niches at the top with busts of Pushkin, Griboyedov, Gogol and Glinka representing poetry, drama, comedy and music. Figures of playful cupids around the front façade increase the elegance, while the crowning dome gives a completed look to the structure. The splendor and luxury of the interior is striking. Baroque details carry us into a wonderful world and were ‘intended for the creation of spiritual ecstasy’ (as is noted in one article about the theater). Generously gilded moulding, magnificent sculptures, and a great number of mirrors all pull a person out of ordinariness and into the enchanting world of music and theater.
Plafonds of the auditorium are decorated with four pictures of Viennese painter, N. Lefler, on the themes of Shakespeare’s works “Hamlet”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “The Winter’s Tale”, and “Twelfth Night”. Meanwhile, the huge festive chandelier suspended above the auditorium weighs about two tons. However, art lovers admire not just the building but also the fame of our theater which is woven of a great number of talented artists and musicians. Their list is so long that it is inevitable to miss someone if trying to write it all down. Many books and articles have been written about Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater, but perhaps the most complete chronicle of its creative life is reflected in the selfless labor of V. S. Maksimenko and his books “A Temple and Eternal Museum of Art” (1999) and “Two Ages of Odessa City Theater” (2005). It is true that literally from the first years of the theater’s origin its history was filled with interesting events. Indeed, the Russian opening night of ‘ravishing’ Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville” took place on the stage of the Odessa City Theater. Such coryphaei of drama as M. Shchepkin, P. Mochalov and N. Miloslavskiy were its guest performers. Also known is a visit by the famous dramatist A. Ostrovskiy and the outstanding artist A. Martynov. Six brilliant concerts by Franz Lizt in Odessa also contributed significance and it is well known that the musician donated his fee from one concert to a local orphanage. The importance of the visit and performances of Tchaikovsky in 1893 for the reputation of the can scarcely be overestimated. The composer performed concerts, visited the last rehearsals, and the opening night of his opera ‘The Queen of Spades’ and was awarded a laurel wreath with the inscription saying ‘Mortals to the immortal’ from the artists of Ukrainian drama that were on tour in Odessa. The Odessa stage also remembers the performances of famous singers like G. Anselmi, T. Ruffo, M. Battistini, S. Krushelnitskaya, A. Nezhdanova, S. Lemesheva, Y. Chavdar, A. Solovyanenko, Y. Miroshnichenko, B. Rudenko, B. Gmyri, M. Bieshu, Y. Obraztsova, D. Khvorostovskiy, M. Caballe and many others, as well as the festival of young soloists of USSR opera and ballet – winners of various domestic and foreign contests, which was held here in 1978. Several International festivals of operatic art, including the ‘Golden Crown’ were held in the theater at the end of 90-s and, after all those years, the Odessa Theater has shown itself to be a good starting place for many singers that have become the stars, not only of domestic stages, but also of European and world opera. The history pages written by ballet masters are no less glorious as those of the musicians and composers. The names of K. Goleyzovskiy, I. Moiseyev, P. Virskiy, V. Smirnov-Golovanov, A. Ryndina, I, Mikhaylichenko, M. Petukhov, S. Voltaire, N. Barysheva and more are connected with Odessa, and the performances of internationally famed artists such as I. Duncan, Y. Semenova, G. Ulanova, M. Liepa, M. Plisetskaya occurred frequently on this stage.