During Soviet times, art went hand in hand with ideology. It’s the Soviet government that dictated whether to erect or not the palaces of culture, establishments for practicing all kinds of entertaining activities. Meant to aid the “cultural pleasure” of Soviet workers, those appeared everywhere throughout the country. One of such palaces was planned for Ulan-Ude, too. A stately, grand building of the State Opera and Ballet Theatre designed for the first time back in 1935, today presents an unmissable gem of Ulan-Ude’s high culture.
The idea to establish the theatre was in the air since 1934. A Moscow-based architect Fedorov developed a project of the Hall of Socialistic Culture. However, state authorities did not approve it. He tried again two years later when the same authorities decreed to erect the Buryat-Mongolian National Theatre. This time, he succeeded.
Although the initial project was born within the walls of Mossovet or Moscow City Council, it was discussed in Buryatia, the Buryat Autonomous Soviet Socialistic Republic back then, too. The local government had only one request - to add the distinctive national flair both in the theatre’s interior and exterior. Construction works began in 1938.
The prolonged WW II had affected the construction. The works restarted only in 1945, by the merit of its mastermind Gombozhap Cydynzhapov, a Buryat-Soviet actor and theatre director. The grand opening was held on May, 1st in 1952, and the first performance took place later the same year on November 7th.
The State Opera and Ballet Theatre presents a stunningly beautiful piece of art, so the audience is entertained both by the one-off architecture and dynamic on-stage action. As a Stalinist-era building, it bears the features of majestic monumentalism but also includes national decorative elements. This phenomenon was in a way exceptional, as starting from 1955, on Khrushchev’s instruction, the Soviet Union was mainly flooded with “faceless” concrete buildings.
The interior décor of the theatre lobby demonstrates both traditional Buryat ornaments and stylized Buddhist motifs. On the second floor, guests can find a famous high relief “Friendship of Peoples”, a plaster-made sculpture that consists of fifteen human figures in full size.
The highlight is a gorgeous decorated ceiling in the main hall. Applying the same technique of wall painting as in the churches, artists used about 55 000 eggs to finish it. To separate the yolks from the whites, a prominent Moscow confectionery manufacture Babaevsky hired extra workers.
The great thing about art is that everyone can relate to it to a certain extent. Despite the language barriers, non-Russophone visitors also might enjoy the plays as operas are performed in its original languages, primarily in Italian, French, or German. Guests also might notice surtitles in Russian projected above the stage. Frequently in the repertoire is ballet, where the language is less needed. The theatre is opened throughout the year, except for the summertime when the staff is on tour. You can either purchase the ticket online or buy it directly at the theatre ticket office.
Do you plan your next cultural holiday in Siberia? Then mark the unmissable opera and ballet setting in your check-list for Ulan-Ude, and experience the city’s high culture when here.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.