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Theaters in Kiev > Kiev National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet

 Kiev National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet  

Ballet "Giselle" by Adolphe Adam

Audience Hall in Kiev National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet

Address: 50, Vladimirskaya Street, Kiev.

Tel: +38 (044) 2791169, 2347165.

Kiev Opera House was constructed by outstanding architect Victor Schroeter at the intersection of two busy roads in 1901. At that time there was the largest opera stage in tsarist Russia. The diminutions were like that - the width of stage was 34,3 m, the depth of stage was 17,2 m, the height of stage was 22,7 m. The theater was equipped with the latest technology of that time. There was no need for any renovation for 80 years.

The history of permanent opera company in Kiev was started in 1867. The original Opera House was burned down in 1896. Then the present building was constructed. In September 1911 a tragic event happened there. During the performance in Opera House Prime Minister of former Russian Empire Peter Stolypin was killed. The fate of Russia was changed with that shot. The world history was changed too. That is why the theater has been given a certain fatalistic aura. That kind of aura is a must for any outstanding opera stage of the world.

Starting with 1930s the opera librettos have been translated into Ukrainian. Operas like "Taras Bulba" and "Karmelyuk" composed by Ukrainian composers have been included in the repertoire. In 1934 theater troupe was moved from Kharkov to Kiev. Many famous singers, conductors, directors, artists, choreographers of the time came to Kiev from Kharkov. In 1939 the Opera and Ballet Theater was named after T. Shevchenko. Many outstanding artists such as conductors N. Rachlin, K. Simeonov, S. Turchak, vocalists B. Hmyrja, A. Azrikan, Z. Gaidai, M. Litvinenko-Wohlgemuth, O. Petrusenko, L. Rudenko were the stars of the Opera and Ballet Theater.

In the second half of the 1980s the theater building was reconstructed. Some administrative offices were adjusted there. The depth of the stage was increased to 20 m and the height of the stage was increased from 23 to 27 meters. That helped accelerating the change of scenery not only during the intermission between acts, but also during the actual performance. Now the total area of the stage is 824 square meters. The stage is equipped with the modern mechanisms, electronics and lighting. During the renovation a new organ was made by Rieger-Clos Czech company. The orchestra pit was renovated too. Now 100 musicians can be seated in the orchestra pit.

More than fifty operas and ballets are included in the theater repertoire. You enjoy the masterpieces of Rossini, Donizetti, Gounod, D. Cimarosa, Khachaturian, M. Skorulsky, Puccini, M. Ravel, Bizet and Minkus. The audience is enchanted with the music composed by Lysenko and Gulak-Artemovsky, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and Liatoshynsky, Mussorgsky and Prokofiev.

In 1992-2000 the ballet troupe of the National Opera of Ukraine was headed by renowned choreographer Anatoly Shekera (1935 - 2000). His name is linked with the achievements of Ukrainian ballet during the last three decades of the twentieth century. In addition to classical performances such as "Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker" by Tchaikovsky, "Raymonda" by Glazunov, "Coppelia" by Leo Delibes Shekera staged many contemporary works. They are "Lilies" by Dankevich, "Spartacus" by Khachaturian, "Olga" by Stankovich and «Legends of Love" by Melikov. In 1971 Shekera staged "Romeo and Juliet" for the first time. More 30 years later "Romeo and Juliet" is still included in the repertoire. This performance is awarded with the UNESCO medal as the best interpretation of the Shakespeare’s work.

The General Manager
and Art Director of the theatre
Petr Chuprina

The General Manager and Art Director of the theatre


The most exciting impressions and recollections of residents and guests of the capital of Ukraine are connected with this incredibly beautiful building in the historical center of Kiev. The National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine named after Taras Shevchenko is situated at the crossroads of the two central Kiev highways — B. Khmelnitskogo and Vladimirskaya streets, in the building that is a monument of architecture of the 19th century. Such places of interest as St. Sophia`s Cathedral and the Golden Gate are situated not far from Kiev Opera and Ballet Theatre.

Temple of culture

Today the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Taras Shevchenko owns ballet and opera troupes, as well as a symphonic orchestra. Its artistic reputation has been invariably high for several decades. The theatre successfully goes on tours to different countries. Repertoire of the theatre includes creations of Lysenko, Chaikovskiy, Borodin, Verdi, Puccini, Adan, Leonсavallo, Rimskiy — Korsakov, Mussorgsky and many other world-known composers. Such artists as Maria Litvinenko-Volgemut, Ivan Patorzhynskiy, Mikhailo Gryshko, Dmitriy Gnatyuk, Yevgenia Miroshnichenko, Anatoliy Solovyanenko, Viktoria Lukyanets, Galina Tuftina, Anatoliy Mokrenko, Elena Potapova, Valeriy Kovtun performed on the stage of Kiev Opera and Ballet Theatre at different periods of the 20th century.

The theatre illuminated by evening lights

Our theatre is one of the most beautiful buildings of neo Renaissance constructions of Kiev architectural suite, combining sounding of many epochs and centuries — from golden-domed temples of Kievan Rus to the rhythm of modern buildings of the beginning of the 20th century. Music of outstanding composers sounds here and magical action of world-known ballets is performed on the stage — the General Manager and Art Director of the theatre, People`s Artist of Ukraine, corresponding member of the Art Academy of Ukraine Petr CHUPRINA says. — The National Opera of Ukraine… This world-known opera and ballet theatre is the pride of Ukrainian musical culture. It is the temple, where reverent ritual of true and genuine art is carried out, where hearts and souls of artists and spectators join in one united impulse. The great magic of dance and music brings us all to the world of loft matters, gives us joy of harmony and spiritual growth, which cannot be compared to anything else. Almost every evening the curtain of the theatre is raised to take our spectators to the miraculous world, created by our talented masters — composers and conductors, stage directors and designers, performers… No matter what performance you watch at our theatre, you will feel the energy of talents, inspiration, mastery and devotion to high art. The National Opera has survived many stages of its creative biography — from a provincial city theatre to the first stage of the country, was recognized not only in Kiev and Ukraine, but all over the world. Our opera and ballet shows were admired by spectators of France and Canada, Italy and Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, Denmark and Egypt, Lebanon and Hungary, Japan and Brazil, the USA and Portugal, India and Spain… We keep integrating into European and world culture, demonstrating high level of Ukrainian opera and ballet art, incredible talents of our performers, bright traditions, the base of which is formed by the greatest achievements of the humanity in the sphere of musical culture, humanistic ideals, which have become determinative in the civilizing process.

Like seven notes of musical scale…

The First Kiev City Theatre, which could seat 470 spectators, was the predecessor of creation of the National Kiev Opera. Performances were conducted in Russian and Polish there. From time to time opera and ballet performances were given at the theatre, famous artists demonstrated their talents: Schepkin, Mochalov, Oldridge, Mlotkovskaya, Zhyvokini. In the middle of the 19th century Italian opera troupes came to Kiev on short tours. They encouraged appearance of new opera admirers. But St. Petersburg authorities neglected all requests from the province, considering opera art attribute of exclusively metropolitan cities, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. A rather sad accident preceded appearance of the National Opera of Ukraine. In February 1896 a fire burst out in one of actors` dressing rooms after a morning performance. It instantly spread to the whole building of the City Theatre, built in 1856. Several hours later, only carbonized fragments of walls were left out of the building, constructed by the architect I. Shtorm. It wasn`t an extraordinary accident at that time. For example, 22 buildings of theatres were damaged by fires in Europe and America during two years (1889–1891).

The way the theatre used to look. From a card of 1901 The theatre nowadays

Since Kiev was already an industrial and cultural center of Russian Empire, the public and creative intellectuals raised the question of construction of a new building for the Opera Theatre. As the result of arguments and discussions it was decided to announce an international tender for creation of the project for the building of Kiev Opera. Architects from Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France, Italy participated in the tender. The winner was announced on February 25, 1897. It was the famous Russian architect Victor Schroter. Construction of the new Opera and Ballet Theatre, which involved over 300 workers, started in 1898. Unfortunately, Victor Schroter couldn`t see the result of his work. He died several months before the ceremonial consecration of the theatre. Seven elegant arches divide the semi-oval façade, like seven musical notes, adding extra height to the construction. Moulded depictions of theatrical masks, symbolizing activity of the two muses — Melpomene (tragedy) and Talia (Comedy) — can be seen between the arches. Over the central entrance there is a bas-relief and a monogram, depicted on the cartouche, supported by two winged women. Specialists identify them with geniuses, protector-spirits, encouraging people in their noble intentions.

Talking about unquestionable benefits of the building, we cannot neglect the critical remarks, expressed by our predecessors about design of “Schroter`s brainchild”. On September 15, 1901, the day of ceremonial opening of the theatre the “Kievlyanin” newspaper wrote: “The appearance of the theatre is very unattractive: the ugly construction stands in the middle of the square, like a huge awkward turtle. Unsightly decoration of the building makes even worse impression… The decoration of the auditorium is notable for its simplicity and poorness…” But this is the opinion of a very captious critic — most residents of Kiev adhered to the quite opposite point of view.

Ballet on the stage

The architect created his project very sensitively. Considering that the new Opera Theatre will be placed in the historical center of Kiev, Victor Schroter took care that this neo-Renaissance construction would harmoniously fit into the architectural-natural landscape and wouldn`t discord with the buildings, surrounding it. The building of the theatre wasn`t just beautiful from the outside, but also convenient for spectators and workers of the theatre. The stage of the new Kiev Opera Theatre was the biggest in Russia. Its width was 34, 4 meters, height — 22, 7 meters and depth — 17, 2 meters. The building of the Opera Theatre was steam- heated. A system of air conditioning functioned; stage equipment met the highest technical standards.

The sad page

Such sad story as attempt on life of Russian Prime-Minister Petr Stolypin is connected with Kiev Opera Theatre. At the end of August 1911 the Emperor Nikolay 2 with his family and close persons, including prime-minister Stolypin, stayed in Kiev. On September 1, 1911, the Emperor, his daughters and the ministers, including Stolypin, attended the performance “Fairytale about Tsar Saltan”. During the second intermission of the performance Stolypin was talking to the minister of the court Baron Frederiks and a land magnate graph Pototskiy by the barrier of the pit. Suddenly Dmitry Bogrov approached Petr Stolypin and made two shots from the Browning: the first bullet hit his hand, the second one — his abdomen, injuring the liver. St. Vladimir`s Cross, which was hit and crushed by the bullet and changed its direction away from his heart, saved Stolypin`s life. After the wound, Stolypin heavily sit in the armchair and said clearly and distinctly, so that it was heard far from him: “I`m happy to die for the Tsar”.

Kiev City Opera Theatre made a great impression on people at that time. The stalls, the dress circle and the rest four circles of the auditorium could seat 1318 spectators at a time. Velvet and bronze prevailed in the decoration of the interior. Sophisticated chairs, chandeliers and illuminating lamps were brought from Austria. The total area of the premises of the theatre was 40210 square meters and the cubic capacity — almost 100000 meters. In the 1930th Kiev Opera Theatre was planned to be rebuilt and given more proletarian look, according to new ideological tendencies. But this project was never accomplished for certain reasons.

The grand hall Chandeliers in the hall

Chronicle of changes

In 1919 the theatre was nationalized and renamed as the State Opera Theatre Named after K. Liebknecht. Later, in 1926, it was named Kiev State Academic Ukrainian Opera Theatre (since performances at the theatre were conducted in Ukrainian). In 1934 Kiev obtained the status of the capital of the Ukrainian Republic and the theatre was renamed again. It was called the Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of the USSR this time. The theatre was named after Taras Shevchenko in 1939.

Let`s touch on history a little more. German officers liked to attend the theatre very much during the World War Two. The Soviet Command got to know about it. So the theatre was bombed several times. The troupe of the theatre was evacuated to Ufa at the beginning of the World War Two. In 1942-1944 it worked in Irkutsk jointly with Kharkov Opera and Ballet Theatre. The artists returned to Kiev in 1944. Once a Soviet bomb broke through the dome, fell in the stalls, but did not explode. Luckily, it was instantly defused. The public of that time, which had got used to war, kept listening to the music.

After the war the theatre creates new performances, broadening the classic repertoire, breathing new life into the best prewar performances. There are works of Ukrainian composers among them: operas “Honor” by Zhukovskiy (1946), “Young Guard” by Meytus (1947), “Bogdan Khmelnitskiy” by Dankevich (1951); ballets “Forest Song” by Skorulskiy (1946), “Rostislava” by Zhukovskiy (1955); Russian and Ukrainian classic — “Ivan Susanin” by Glinka (1948, the State Award of the USSR in 1949), “Prince Igor” by Borodin (1952), “Taras Bulba” by Lysenko (1955); ballets of composers of the Soviet republics — “Gayane” by Khachaturyan (1947), “Cinderella” (1949), “Romeo and Juliet” by Prokofyev (1955), “Youth” by Chulaka (1950), “Under the sky of Italy” by Yurovskiy (1952), “Shurale” by Yarullin (1955).

The spring of the national opera art

It should be mentioned that almost 150 years have passed since the day of organization of permanent seasons of Russian opera in Kiev. On September 27, 1867, the first performance of Kiev Opera Theatre was given — the romantic opera by A. Verstovskiy “Ascold`s Grave”. But 1926 became the year of birth of Ukrainian opera. It is hardly possible to underestimate the role of the theatre in the development of the national opera art. Such operas as “Prince Igor” by Borodin, “Sadko”, “Golden Cockerel” by Rimskiy-Korsakov, “Yevgeniy Onegin”, “Queen of spades” by P. Chaikovskiy, “Carmen” by Bizet were performed on its stage in Ukrainian for the first time. Staging of operas, created by Ukrainian composers-classics S. Gulak-Artemovskiy, N. Lysenko and others, were held here. Works of composers of foreign classic were included into the repertoire of the theatre along with Ukrainian ones.

The theatre initially had a different name. It was first called “Russian Opera”, since 1919 — “The State Opera Theatre”. In 1926 it obtained the status of academic. In 1934 it got a new name – Ukrainian Opera and Ballet Theatre. In 1944 it was entitled “National”. Today the official name of the theatre is the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after T.G. Shevchenko, but it is also called the National Opera Theatre of Ukraine. Although the name of the theatre was changed many times, the high artistic level of its troupe remained invariable.

Today the National Opera and Ballet Theatre named after T. Shevchenko is one of the most successful theatres of the country. The theatre`s popularity among spectators and numerous awards from different drama festivals are the best proof of it. The troupe goes on tours very often, so theatergoers of Spain, Italy, Poland, Hungary, the USA are familiar with the repertoire of this Ukrainian theatre very well. There are such personalities among the leading artists: S. Dobronravova, L. Yurchenko, V. Kochur, V. Stepova, V. Pivovarova, M. Shopsha, P. Mayboroda, V. Gryshko, I. Ponomarenko, O. Mikitenko, T. Shtonda, ballet dancers — T. Borovik, K. Kushnirova, I. Zadayannaya, M. Motkova, D. Matvienko, N. Labeznikova, L. Saraphanova and many other dancers, famous not only in Ukraine, but also abroad.

Capital reconstruction of the building of the theatre was carried out in 1983-1988. The restorers made substantial changes in the backstage area of the theatre premises. That enabled to increase the number of rehearsal and dressing rooms, a special choral class was equipped. The size of the stage was also increased up to 20 meters in depth and 27 meters in height. The total scene area became 834 square meters now. A new organ, produced by the Czech company “Rieger Kloss” on the theatre`s order, was placed instead of the old one during the restoration. The orchestra pit was also reequipped.

Now it can seat up to 100 musicians. The area of the theatre premises increased by 20000 square meters after the restoration. The number of dressing-rooms doubled, several new rehearsal halls appeared.

The Opera Theatre keeps delighting by its sophisticated interiors, grandeur and luxury. The foyer is decorated by huge Venetian mirrors; marble staircases are illuminated with luxurious porcelain lamps. Bronze, gilding and crystal are all over. The backstage area of the theatre has been changed greatly too: the size of the stage increased, the stage equipment was renewed, the pit was reconstructed (it seats 100 musicians now), a new organ, manufactured in Czech Republic on the theatre`s order, was bought.

It should be added that the National Opera and Ballet Theatre named after T. G. Shevchenko is situated in Kiev at the address: 50, Vladimirskaya Street.

Prepared by Aleksey Petrunya, journalist

Media center of “Prime Excursion Bureau”

February 2010

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