Opera expands borders of influence

Belarus’ Culture Minister, Pavel Latushko, breaks sensational news of plans for second opera theatre — in Gomel — during opening of Teatralny Koufar Festival

By Valery Pimenov

The theatrical community is hugely excited by the news, wondering whether it will truly come to pass. “The creation of a branch of the Bolshoi Theatre is only, as yet, being discussed but it’s evident that one opera theatre is not enough for such a country as Belarus. There should be at least two,” stressed Mr. Latushko.

The idea has been hanging thick in the air in Gomel since reconstruction of the Palace of Culture of Railway Workers was completed this spring. Gomel is known for its love of theatre, boasting a drama, youth and puppet theatre already, so an opera house would surely receive great support.

Bolshoi Theatre employees share their views:

Nina Sharubina, soprano, Honoured Artiste of Belarus:
Bravo, bravissimo! Undoubtedly, one opera theatre is not enough for our country. Many strong-voiced young singers from the Gomel Region have attended the Academy of Music’s Vocal Department, so I don’t see any obstacle to the creation of a new troupe from Gomel itself. I’m confident that a strong and professional company could establish there. If good living conditions and salaries are provided, there won’t be any problem in keeping them in the regional centre.

Mikhail Pandzhavidze, chief director of the Bolshoi Theatre:
The idea of creating a new company is only just, although I have some doubts regarding staff. We recently auditioned graduates and students from the Academy of Music and there were very few of sufficient level.  If an alternative theatre appears, it would be a breakthrough for our company. In Russia, soloists from the Bolshoi Theatre are taken from provincial opera theatres countrywide; it’s wonderful when such companies exist.

Vladimir Gromov, baritone, a diploma winner of an international competition:
I’m not prepared to move to Gomel to live and work. However, sessional work in an alternative theatre is normal practice. It would be a pleasure for me to perform on Gomel’s opera stage, if the opportunity appears. I don’t think it will be easy to establish a troupe for the new theatre, although we enrol talented newcomers from the Academy of Music annually. I’ve no doubt that the audience in Gomel will be receptive. I’ve performed there several times and Gomel residents are very keen. Before performances, we often see buses from regional centres near our Bolshoi Theatre, showing audiences’ interest in the operatic genre. It’s great.

The National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre is to open a branch in Mogilev, at the Palace of Culture of the Region, with performances staged two or three times monthly.

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