Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre
|Tbilisi Academic Opera and Ballet Theater|
Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater Hall
|Design and construction|
|Owner||Municipality of Tbilisi|
|Architect||Antonio Scudieri, Schreter.|
Tbilisi State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre is situated on Rustaveli Avenue, in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia. It is the oldest opera house in Georgia. The Tbilisi Opera has hosted opera stars such as Montserrat Caballé and José Carreras. It was the venue for the gala concert in celebration of the inauguration of President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili. and has held many ballet performances.
Foundation of the Theater
The foundation of the Tbilisi State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet was the consequence of the political and cultural processes in the country after its annexation by the Russian Empire. The Chief Governor of the Caucasus, appointed in Georgia in 1844, the general, field marshal and diplomat Mikhail Vorontsov, put in train many cultural enterprises. Amongst the most important was introduction of interest in opera. The first opera performance was on September 20, 1845. Performances took place twice a week, and mainly comprised vaudevilles and comedies. Vorontsov also invited artists from the Imperial Theatre. Later, some performances were also given in the Georgian language.
On the initiative of Vorontsov on 15 April 1847 there were laid the foundations of the building of the opera theatre, which took 4 years under the guidance of the Italian Architect, Antonio Scudieri bering completed in 1851. The theatre was built on the central square of the city of Tbilisi (the modern Liberty Square, the territory next to the municipality). Given the varied musical practices and traditions in Tbilisi, the opera theater became an important heart of the cultural life of the country. It was the first opera theater in all Transcaucasia, holding 800 spectators, and notable by its façade and interior, comparable to European theaters of the time
Opening and the first performances
On 12 April 1851 the theatre was opened with a grand banquet, which was attended by the high circles of the society of Tbilisi. Several months later in the popular Parisian newspaper, ‘Illustrations’ (issue of 25 October 1851), there was printed a large article by Edmond de Bares with two pictures of the interior of the theatre. The author wrote: ‘This is the only theatre in the city, the interior of which is totally Moorish in style, and is doubtless one of the most elegant, beautiful and fascinating theatrical constructions, conceived by man’. In spring of 1851 an Italian opera group was invited to Tbilisi under the conductorship of Barbieri, who performed twelve opera performances during three months. As a consequence the orchestra was enriched with new instruments and musical scores. Foreign orchestra performers came to Tbilisi and some settled there. On 9 November 1851 the first theatrical season was opened in Tbilisi with ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ by Gaetano Donizetti. After the spectacle, which had a great success, the hosts lead Barbieri and the company to the left bank of Kura River for a public feast, where people celebrated on boats for the whole night.
Fire of 1874
On 11 October 1874 the Tbilisi opera and ballet theater was devastated by fire. Hardly any scenery or costume survived. The musical library was completely destroyed as well. The company operate for some time form teporary premises.
Unrest and destabilization in Georgia in the 1990s affected Tbilisi opera theater, as it did many others in the country. The government could not provide sufficient resources for theater to function: this prevented the creation of new scenery or costumes, the recruitment of artists, and maintenance of the already vulnerable building.Following the Rose Revolution, however, the newly elected government improved the situation in opera as part of its cultural reforms.