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About the Company
MARIINSKY OPERA
Kirov Opera
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Empress Catherine II issued an imperial edict that "Russian Theatre should be not merely for comedies and tragedies, but also for operas". This decree of 12th June 1783 to the Russian company performing in the specially built Bolshoi (Stone) Theatre envisaged the "production of one or two serious operas and two new comic operas per year". This date is considered the starting point in the history of the Mariinsky Opera Company.

Italian opera held sway over St Petersburg´s Bolshoi Theatre, which opened on 24th September 1783 with Paisiello´s opera Il mondo della luna. Alongside those by foreign composers, Russian works gradually began to appear on the Petersburg stage, including Orpheus and The Coachmen at the Travellers´ Inn by Yevstigney Fomin, The Miller, the Wizard, the Liar and the Matchmaker by Mikhail Sokolovsky and The Carriage Accident by Vasily Pashkevich. These first frays into the world of opera played a great historic role, as this is where elements of the Russian musical and dramatic style were first heard, later to be developed in the works of the great opera composers of the 19th century. Russian opera singers such as Yelizaveta Sandunova, Anton Krutitsky, Vasily Samoylov and Pyotr Zlov dazzled alongside foreign soloists on the Petersburg stage. The emergence of the Russian school is linked to these names.

Mikhail Glinka´s opera A Life for the Tsar was premiered at St Petersburg´s Bolshoi Theatre on 27th November 1836; precisely six years later, on 27th November 1842, Glinka´s second opera Ruslan and Lyudmila was performed here for the first time. The first in a series of great Russian operas combining true art with genuine accessibility, they marked the birth of classical Russian opera. It was not by mere chance that A Life for the Tsar opened the Mariinsky Theatre on 2nd October 1860.

Edward Napravnik, who dedicated over half a century to the Mariinsky Theatre (1863-1916), played an immense role in developing Russian operatic theatre, training singers and establishing a brilliant orchestra. Napravnik built up a great company that could perform complicated concert programmes in addition to operas and ballets.

The operas The Stone Guest by Dargomyzhsky (1872), Judith (1863), Rogneda (1865) and Satan (1871) by Serov, most of Rimsky-Korsakov´s operas, Boris Godunov (1874) and Khovanshchina (1886) by Musorgsky, Prince Igor (1890) by Borodin, The Demon by Rubenstein, all of Tchaikovsky´s operas (Charodeika being conducted by the composer himself) and other magnificent Russian operatic works were all premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre.
The theatre´s repertoire also included the best operas by western European composers. Giuseppe Verdi wrote La forza del destino especially for the Mariinsky Theatre in 1862, where it was premiered in the presence of the composer.

The history of Richard Wagner´s operas in Russia is closely linked above all with the Mariinsky Theatre, where Wagner first became known to Russians not only as a composer but also as a conductor. In the 1860´s and 1870´s, the Mariinsky Opera Company introduced the public to the composer´s early reformative works and, at the turn of the century, staged Wagner´s grandiose tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen in full.

A great opera company emerged at the Mariinsky Theatre. The talents of Osip Petrov, who first sang the roles of Susanin, Ruslan, Farlaf, the Miller and Ivan the Terrible helped Russian operatic art to blossom. He performed on stage for almost half a century alongside Anna Vorobyova-Petrova, Maria Stepanova and Lev Leonov. These singers were succeeded by a younger generation of singers including Yulia Platonova, Mikhail Sariotti, Fyodor Komissarzhevsky, Ivan Melnikov, Fyodor Stravinsky, Yevgeny Mravin, Maria Slavina and Nikolai and Medea Figner. At the turn of the century, the Russian operatic stage was illuminated by the talents of the great Fyodor Chaliapin, who constantly aimed to embody artistic truth and portray strong human emotions on the stage.

 

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