HISTORY OF THE EKATERINBURG OPERA AND BALLET THEATRE
The Ekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre is one of the oldest opera theatres in Russia, a bearer of the Russian and international musical traditions, seeking to comprehend and incorporate the classical heritage in the context of changing cultural demands of the Russian society and to encourage further development of the music theatre in Russia.
In a few years, in 2012, the Theatre is going to celebrate its centenary which will be the first most remarkable jubilee in its history. This will be an event not only of local importance, but a landmark in the Russian musical theatre life as well.
The history of the Ekaterinburg Theatre had actually begun long before the first stone was laid in the foundation of its magnificent building. In the 1870s the stage of the first city theatre hosted first-class metropolitan opera companies. Having received excellent spectator schooling, in 1874 local opera fans formed a musical society, the only of its kind in Russia, where splendid opera productions were staged and the most difficult scores were brought to life. Their affectionate love and reverence for opera made the city authorities conceive the idea of building a local opera house, and in 1912 the New City Theatre opened its first season with the opera Life for the Tzar by Mikhail Glinka (music director Barbini, stage director Altshuller). The first ballet production, Drigo’s The Magic Flute (choreographer Troyanovsky), dates back to 1914, although it was not until 1931 that the name “The Opera and Ballet Theatre” appeared.
Rich traditions of private touring companies and musical societies helped the Theatre to gain confidence and its glorious name. A decade later the Ekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk) Theatre was beginning to get a mention among other provincial theatres. Starting from the mid-1920s, the Ekaterinburg Opera Theatre has acquired its reputation and fame of being one of the best in the country, primarily due to the constant presence of gifted musicians and performers on the company’s staff.
Throughout the years outstanding masters have worked here. Many singers, including Sergei Lemeshev, Ivan Kozlovsky, Irina Arkhipova, Boris Shtokolov, Yuri Gulyaev and others, who later made the glory of the Russian stage, started in Ekaterinburg. The tradition to give away the best masters to metropolitan and world theatres has always been the lot of any provincial company. Among the recent “honorable losses” are conductors Ririll Tikhonov, one of the founders of “Helicon-Opera”; Yevgeny Kolobov, art director of “New Opera”; Alexander Tittel, chief stage director of Moscow’s Stalislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre; world stars Vladimir Ognovenko and Galina Gorchakova, the Bolshoi soloist Andrei Grigoriev; the “Helicon-Opera” soloist Andrei Vylegzhanin; the singer Elena Voznesenskaya, the “Russian Ballet” soloist Marina Bogdanova and many, many others…
Glamour and excitement to the Ekaterinburg Theatre has been brought by the talented music director and conductor Yevgeny Kolobov and later by the creative team of the conductor Yevgeny Brazhnik and the stage director Alexander Tittel, whose memorable productions include the operas Peter I by Andrei Petrov, Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Prophet by Kobekin and Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann.
The Theatre was the first provincial company to be granted the USSR State Prize (then it was called Stalinsky Prize) for staging Otello by Verdi in 1946 (music director Margulyan, stage director Brill, chorus master Preobrazhensky; singers Kiselevskaya, Azrikan). The series of artistic experiments led to the second State Prize in 1987 for staging the opera The Prophet by the Ural composer Vladimir Kobyakin (music director Brazhnik, stage director Tittel; singers Bobrovitskaya, Tyumentsev).
The only way for the Ekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre to maintain these traditions and stand for its name is to facilitate steady and fast artistic growth based on all the development factors: internal and external, traditional and modern, national and international. The history of music theatre development worldwide has proved that steady and rapid development of the theatre company has to be warranted by the high quality productions that are comparable to the highest international standards. This requires new ideas and new approaches to creative work as well as new technological level on the production side.
The theatre bears responsibility of preserving the traditions of the national opera and ballet of Russia, and further advancing these traditions in line with the artistic demand of the society at its current stage of development. The ‘golden fund’ of national music culture has to be present in the company’s repertoire at any given time, while the repertoire itself has to change continuously using the latest achievements of the source studies, musicology and theatre history.
The Ekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre has recently proved that it is capable of challenging itself artistically, and meeting such challenges. Recent successes have been the operas Eugene Onegin, Mazepa and Iolanta by Tchaikovsky, The Tzar’s Bride by Rimsky-Korsakov, Prince Igor by Borodin, The Magic Flute by Mozart, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Rigoletto and Falstaff by Verdi, Madama Butterfly and La Bohème by Puccini, La Fille du Régiment by Donizetti, Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Rossini, Rusalka by Dvořák and the ballets Swan Lake and The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky, Sheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov, Creation of the World by Petrov, One Thousand and One Night by Amirov, Don Quixote by Minkus and The Great Waltz by Strauss.
Productions premiered at the Ekaterinburg Opera and Ballet Theatre in 2006-2009:
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov THE SNOW MAIDEN (Music Director: Vello Pyahn; Stage Director: Alexei Stepanyuk; Stage Designer: Igor Ivanov; Chorus Master: Elvira Gaifullina; Choreographer: Galina Kaloshina
Giuseppe Verdi LA TRAVIATA (Music Director: Alexei Lyudmilin; Stage Director: Alexei Stepanyuk; Set Designer: Ravil Akhmetzyanov; Costume Designer: Natalia Stepanova)
Adolphe Adam LE CORSAIRE (Choreography and staging: Jean-Guillaume Bart; Music Director: Michael Güttler; Stage Designer: Yelena Khailova)
Giacomo Puccini TOSCA (Music Director: Michael Güttler; Stage Director: Irkin Gabitov; Stage Designer: Mikhail Kurilko-Ryumin)
Modest Mussorgsky KHOVANSHCHINA (Music Director: Sergey Stadler; Stage Director: Boris Morozov; Stage Designer: Stanislav Fesko; Chorus Master: Valery Kopanev)
Giacomo Puccini MADAMA BUTTERFLY (Music Director: Mikhail Granovsky; Stage Director: Alexey Stepanuyk; Stage Designer: Dmitry Cherbadzhi; Chorus Master: Valery Kopanev)
Sergey Prokofiev THE STONE FLOWER (Music Director: Sergey Stadler; Choreographer: Andrey Petrov; Set designer: Stanislav Benediktov; Costume designer: Olga Polyanskaya)
Pyotr Tchaikovsky THE QUEEN OF SPADES (Music Director: Michael Granovsky; Stage Director: Alexey Stepanyuk; Set Designer: Igor Ivanov)
Adolphe Adam GISELLE (Music Director: Alexey Liudmilin; Choreographer: Lyudmila Semenyaka; Set Designer: Stanislav Benediktov)
W.-A.Mozart LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (Music Director: Fabio Mastrangelo; Stage Director: Irkin Gabitov; Set Designer: Vyacheslav Okunev)
Polad Bulbul ogly LOVE AND DEATH (Music Director: Fabio Mastrangelo; Choreographer: Nadezhda Malygina; Set Designer: Igor Ivanov)
In 2007-2008 the Theatre toured to Portugal with La Traviata (2007) and Madama Butterfly (2008), to Thailand with Eugene Onegin and La Traviata in 2007, to South Africa with Thaikkovsky's Iolanta and to Italy with a programme of one-act ballets. In September 2009 the Theatre appeared at the XI International Festival of Music and Dance in Bangkok where it presented La Traviata, Tosca and Madama Butterfly.