Initially, I wanted to write an article about theaters in Minsk, where you could enjoy the performance of local artists. Out of more than 40 theater venues in Minsk, the majority hosts shows in English only during the theater festivals. So, If you’re a tourist, looking to spend a high-class evening in Minsk, there’s only one option that can fulfill your craving all year round (apart from the summer break in August) – The National Academic Bolshoi Opera And Ballet Theaters of the Republic of Belarus, shortened by the locals to "Opera Theater".
Construction of the theater began in 1934, and it took Josef Langbard, the famous Belarusian architect of the time, five years to finish it. Josef developed the building in the Soviet Constructivism style, and you can see a resemblance in most of his projects, including the Governmental House, the Officers’ House, and the Academy of Sciences in Minsk. They all are massive white structures, made mostly from concrete, glass, and iron, decorated with different geometrical segments, flat roofs, and long narrow windows.
On the 10th of March, 1938 the theater was officially opened for public with the premier show of the “Swan Lake” ballet. From the very first day of existence, the theater cast aimed for the world-known masterpieces. Soon it was followed by other big hits like “Knyaz Igor”, “Evgeniy Onegin”, “Queen of Spades”, etc. The cast's enthusiasm can help us understand the unreadable length of the theater’s full name. The USSR Ministry of Culture used to practice a specific form of reward for cultural achievements and progress. After launching national ballet “The Nightingale”, and operas "In the Dense Forest of Palesse" and “The Flower of Fortune» in 1940, it was awarded the title “Bolshoi” ("Grand" in Belarusian).
Unfortunately, during the war, the building was bombed and devastated. Reconstruction of the theater started right after the liberation of Minsk in 1944. Josef Langbard added balconies and developed a new park around the building. More than 15 new shows were launched in the following years, and the theater was awarded the new title in 1964 – “Academic”. The next break that the theater got from shows was in 2006, after closing for renovation. Interiors and stage equipment were renewed, and it was decorated with the new statues.
There are more than 80 different shows in the theater’s program. Among the ones that won the “Best Performance” nomination for the National Theater Award, are operas “Bohema”, “Flying Dutchman”, and “The Magic Flute”. Even though they are shown in Russian, it won't spoil your experience. Even the native Russian speakers can’t always understand all the words, but they enjoy the singing, the costumes, and the stage. If you prefer ballet, you can often find the performances of well-known shows like “Swan Lake”, “Carmina Burana” and “Spartacus”. Other great shows to watch are “Little Death” and “Six Dances”, which have already become a sort of choreographic classics.
The theater is located at the Trinity Hill between three different metro stations – Nemiga, Oktyabrskaya, and Ploshad Pobedy. A walk from the last one goes by the river and through a park for 15 minutes, and you will be able to see the Victory Obelisk. If the weather is good, you can take some time to walk around the theater before the show and enjoy one of the biggest fountains in Minsk. Picture of the theater and the iconic fountain in front of it is so lovely, that it was even used on the old banknotes. The theater's interior gives a feeling of luxurious halls from the XIX century, unconsciously making you straighten your back and walk dramatically down its halls. Nobody will blame you for posing near beautiful statues and pictures, so make sure you bring a friend and a good camera.
Minsk theater scene is pretty vibrant and offers a lot of shows, but unfortunately, most of them only in Russian. If you’re staying there for long, and need your dose of high-class culture, you can try to check out the Theater HD Project – the cinematic projections of the international bestselling theater show recordings in several cinemas around Minsk. But, for a real authentic experience, there is nothing better than spending a high-class evening in the Opera Theater in Minsk.
Cover Picture © Credits to iStock/bruev
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