Odessa Theatre of Opera and Ballet

The first City Theatre

A masterpiece of world-class architecture and city pride, Odessa Opera House can compete in beauty with the best European opera houses. By rating of the "Forbes" magazine, the building is included in the list of 11 most interesting sights in Eastern Europe (and it is the only theatre in the list).

The first City Theatre, built on Duke de Richelieu initiative, and designed by French architect Thoma de Tomon, was opened on this place in 1810. The first city theatre was high, built in the classical antique style, with the portico, columns and the triangular fronton, the entrance was from the side of Italian street (now it is Pushkinskaya street).

The very idea of building the Opera House was quite unusual for a still small young city, which had only celebrated its 16th birthday, but this was a good idea after all - the theatre immediately became the centre of the cultural life and contributed a great deal to Odessa's development as a civilized European city. The observers of the middle of the XIX century noted with surprise that even the cab drivers were whistling opera tunes.

All the reprersentatives of the aristocratic elite - the Vorontsovs, the Pototskys, the Naryshkins were frequenters to the theater, combining the arts and socilalizing. The Russian theatre groups of Fortunatov and Shakhovskiy were performing in the theatre, and different Italian artists going on their way to St Petersburg gave test performances in Odessa, and if Odessan audience received them well, they knew they would be a success in the capital city as well.

It is in this theatre that the special performance of "The Government Inspector" was given in honor of Nickolay Gogol who came to Odessa; Pushkin used to visit this theatre and even dedicated to it some of his verse:

The blue evening is becoming dark,
It is time for us to go to the Opera:
The delightful Rossini is there
the favourite of Europe, the Orpheus..

Unfortunately, the first theatre building was completely destroyed by fire at the beginning of 1873 (the fire was caused by gas lighting of the clock located at the main entrance).


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Panorama: Opera House

in front of


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the main stairs


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Panorama: Opera House

decoration of the stairs


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Panorama: Opera House

interior

"This is the best theatre in the world!"

Several years later the world contest on designing the new theatre was announced, the winners were Viennese architects Ferdinand Felner and German Gelmer; they had designed theatres in other European cities too - Vienna, Dresden, Budapest. The construction was carried out under the supervision of the chief architect of Odessa Alexander Bernardazzi. The new theatre was opened on October 1st,1887; now it was the magnificent building of the shape of a horseshoe in the style of Viennese baroque with the dome crowning the theatre. On top of the facade there is a statuary representing the Muse Melpomene, the patron of the arts, sitting on a chariot harnessed by two enraged panters. Below, astride the entrance, there are another two statuaries, symbolizing opera and ballet - the Muse of dance Therpsichore and Orpheus playing the lyre for the centaur. The top circles of the facade are decorated with balconies and stanzas with columns. In the niches there are four busts of Russian classics - Griboedov (drama), Pushkin (poetry), Gogol (comedy) and Glinka (music).

The daintily decorated facade was dazzling the public with its splendor; the eyewitnesses said that when Felner arrived at the opening he exclaimed: "This is the best theatre in the world!" The odessites agreed with him, and not only they; the Odessa theatre is considered to be one of the best in the world, among other wonderful theatres of Milan, Rome, Vienna and Paris.

The interior of the theater, made in the style of French rococo, impresses you with its luxury. In the lobby, on the stairs and in hallways leading to the lodge, one can see stucco with ample gold, numerous mirrors, magnificent sculptures, original lamps and chandeliers, brass inlays. On the ceiling of the auditorium there are 4 pictures by Viennese painter Leffler, on the theme of the works by Shakespeare: "Hamlet", "Midsummer Night's Dream", "Winter's Tale", "Twelfth Nigh". The huge chandelier in the center of the ceiling is decorated with exquisite details, ant it weighs about 2 tons. The stage is 500 m2, and the unique acoustics allows to deliver even a whisper to every corner of the hall. In front of the proscenium there is an orchestra pit.

In 1893 P.I.Tchaikovsky gave concerts in the new theater, he also attended the rehearsals and the premiere of his opera The Queen of Spades. This scene remembers performances of Fyodor Chaliapin, Salomeya Krushelnitskaya, Sergei Lemishev, Isadora Duncan, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Maya Plisetskaya.

The theatre survived several reconstructions. After the war, in 1956, about 6 millions of liquid glass were suffused into the basement to reinforce it. And in 1965-1967 there was a complete reconstruction of the theatre, both inside and outside, during which 9 kilos of pure braid gold were used. The latest capital restoration was finished in 2007, this time the basement was reinforced with stilts, all the technical systems were modernized and the complete restoration of the facade was carried out. Teatralnaya (Theatre) square was reconstructed too, and the fountain started functioning, which made it again a popular place for taking pictures - among tourists and just-married couples.


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Panorama: Opera House

audience hall


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Panorama: Opera House

tier lounge


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gallery


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Panorama: Opera House

the orchestra pit

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