Posted: 25.05.2023 11:45:00

Bolshoi Theatre

Bright, brilliant, shocking and enchanting... Bolshoi... It’s all about it — about the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus, which boasts dozens of the highest level of productions over its 90-year history — both its own original Belarusian and classical foreign and Russian works. Every performance at Bolshoi, whether opera or ballet, becomes an event! The audience, however, never ceases to enjoy stories that do not lose their sharpness and relevance along with new brilliant productions — about the fatal beauty Carmen from the opera of the same name or about the ardent tragic love of the Crimean Khan Girey for the Polish princess Maria from Pushkin’s poem The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, translated into the language of dance.

Aleksandr Kulevsky

The President congratulated the staff of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre on the 90th anniversary of its founding.

The Bolshoi Theatre is a bright pearl of domestic and world classical culture, the Head of State noted. “Your legendary stage is a living embodiment of the immensely talented Belarusian people, their keen sense of beauty and sincere musical soul. Numerous opera and ballet stars were born here and made their first steps, famous choreographers and directors created their excellent performances, international celebrities were honoured to perform,” the congratulation says.
This professional bar, raised high by several generations, is maintained with dignity by the modern theatre team, the President emphasised. “I am convinced that you will continue to work selflessly for the sake of enrichment of our cultural heritage and prosperity of our dear Motherland,” the Belarusian leader stressed.
Aleksandr Lukashenko wished the personnel of the theatre creative inspiration, big premiers, sold-out performances in their native country and abroad, good health and wellbeing.

According to the press service of the President

Happy birthday!

Larisa Aleksandrovskaya during the
decade of Belarusian art in Moscow.
But let’s turn the pages of the calendar and travel back 90 years ago — on a warm sunny day on May 25th, 1933. It is this date that is considered the birthday of the Opera and Ballet Theatre, which boldly and forever separated from the first State Drama Theatre (which later became the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre, although it continued to share one stage with it for several more years, before the appearance of its own building.
Joyful, excited faces... Women with curls twisted in hairdressing salons — in elegant dresses, with clutch bags and pumps — arm in arm with companions in white starched shirts with ties, in tailcoats or strict monochromatic suits. Then, without exaggeration, the entire cream of the Belarusian intelligentsia gathered to show the first production of the new theatre.
There were so many emotions — joy, awe, excitement — they overwhelmed the hearts of the artists who were supposed to go on stage that evening and present the Carmen opera by Georges Bizet to the audience! 

‘A new centre of Belarusian socialist culture’

A scene from the Mikhas Podgorny
opera, timed to coincide with the
openingof the new building
of the Opera and Ballet Theatre. 1939.
The opening of the theatre was quite an event! Almost a whole page in the main Belarusian newspaper of that time called Rabochiy (published by the Central Committee of the CPB, from 1937 — Sovetskaya Belorussiya [Soviet Belarus], now — SB. Belarus Segodnya) was devoted to the emergence of ‘a new centre of Belarusian socialist culture’ — the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. Among the materials were also welcome addresses from the Academy of Sciences of the BSSR, the Central Board of the Union of Artists of the BSSR, the Art Sector of the People’s Commissariat of the RSFSR, the People’s Commissariat of Education of the RSFSR, as well as congratulations from colleagues.

Rivalry between Langbard and Lavrov

Today Bolshoi Theatre is located in a majestic building on the Parizhskaya Kommuna Square in the centre of Minsk. And in the 1930s, architects and styles fought for the right to build a structure on this site. Initially, the avant-garde artist Georges Lavrov won the competition for the construction of a high-status project. Then, the first stone of the future theatre was laid on Troitskaya Hill on the site of the old market and the rickety wooden houses adjacent to it in 1933. Lavrov’s plans were grandiose, but they were not destined to come true. 
But even according to the project of the architect Iosif Langbard, the building in the style of constructivism was built for a long time — almost five years — but not without nuances. Military parades were supposed to take place on the platform in front of the theatre, and the main facade could be decorated according to the symbols of that time — sculptures of a Red Army soldier and a worker.
During World War II, the auditorium of the theatre was destroyed by an air bomb, the German invaders turned the dilapidated building into stables, and the decoration was looted and taken to Germany. But still, the theatre survived, and in the post-war years many musicians and artists found shelter in the preserved office premises.
By 1948, the theatre was completely restored, and tiered balconies appeared in the auditorium. Around the building they laid out a park, also designed by Langbard.

‘Under the roof of your house’

The Carmen opera at the opening of the Opera and Ballet Theatre. 1933. The picture was used in the Zvyazda newspaper in 1933.
Oh, how did the opera and ballet dancers wait for the move to their own cozy and spacious house, where everyone would have a place in the dressing room, the costumes would be placed in the dressing room, and the scenery would be made in the art workshop...
It is symbolic: the opening of the new building, which took place on March 10th, 1939, was timed to coincide with the showing of the first national opera Mikhas Podgorny by composer Yevgeny Tikotsky to a libretto by poet Petrus Brovka. It became a truly folk-heroic musical drama in the production of the theatre. The audience experienced the pre-October Belarusian village in the process of the rise of the revolutionary movement. The heroes of the first Belarusian opera were the freedom-loving laborer Mikhas, whose role was played by tenor Vasily Lapin, and the peasant girl Marysya, represented by the incomparable Larisa Aleksandrovskaya.

At the decade of Belarusian art in Moscow

A year later, the first national production of Mikhas Podgorny, as well as the In the Forests of Polesie opera by the Honoured Artist of the BSSR Anatoly Bogatyrev, and Kvetka Shchastsia [The Flower of Happiness] opera by the honored art worker Aleksei Turenkov were shown with great success at the decade of Belarusian art in Moscow. The first Belarusian ballet The Nightingale by the honoured artist of the BSSR composer Mikhail Kroshner was also presented there. Classical movements, combined with some elements of folk dance, brought courage and novelty unusual for that time — they had a bright national character. 
At the end of the decade, Larisa Aleksandrovskaya was the first among Belarusian artists to be awarded the title of People’s Artist of the USSR. In addition, the recognition of the merits of the entire theatre team and its exclusivity was the assignment in 1940 to the theatre of the title ‘Bolshoi’.

The theatre is ready to surprise!

The building of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus. 1939.
All these years Bolshoi corresponded to a high level. And by the 90th anniversary, the theatre has accumulated a weighty creative backlog — dozens of brilliant classical and modern productions of operas and ballets, participation in international competitions. What is the touring life of artists! There are practically no places left on the globe, wherever the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus come to give concerts. Recall such innovative projects as the Evenings of the Bolshoi Theatre at the Radziwill Castle festival, the Ballet Summer festival, Big New Year’s Ball! Despite its advanced age, Bolshoi is youthful and full of the most unexpected ideas and bold plans. The theatre is ready to surprise today! As they say, let us wait and see, and then we will definitely show and tell you.

By Vladimir Likhodedov
Photos from the personal collection of Vladimir Likhodedov