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History of opera in Saratov

Opera first appeared in Saratov in  1803 in a theatre owned by Grigori Gladkov, a rich landlord from Penza. By  1806, the company could boast of as many as  21 opera productions, including the early Russian comic opera Miller the Sourserer and Dodger by M.Sokolovski and A.Ablesimov which was run the first half of the 19th century through, Rusalka (The Mermaid) by S.Davydov and N.Krasnosselsky, La Serva-Padrona by G.Pergolesi. The company consisted of Gladkov-owned peasants and some hired artists, too.

In  1875, the first professional opera company was launched in Saratov organized by the prominent stage personality Petr Medvedev. The season began with Glinka's Life for the Tsar and Ruslan and Ludmilla, Dargomyzhski's Rusalka, Serov's Rogneda, Verstovski's Ascold's Grave. The leading singers were, Eibozhenko (contralto), D.Usatov (baritone), M.Medvedev (tenor). In  1887, the company was directed by I.Palitsyn the conductor, succeeded later on by brilliant Russian conductors A.Pazovski, A.Pavlov-Arbenin, V.Suk, A.Satanovski. An ample repertoire of the time was topped with Aida by Verdi, Tannhauser by Wagner, I Pagliacci by Leonkavallo, Tcharodeika (The Witch) by Tchaikovsky.

A. Петров

A.Petrov. The first performer of Ivan Susanin

A photo from the archive

During World war II, the company enjoyed the services of the Bolshoi: N.Shpiller and M.Maksakova. A valuable contribution to opera art was made by Chief Conductor N.Shkarovski, whose effort in no small measure facilitated the company's first guest performance in Moscow in  1956.

The production of Rigoletto became the event of the season of  1959 starring Yuri Popov and Galina Kovaleva who were subsequently awarded the title of People's Artist of the USSR. In  1977, the company was once again to perform on stage of the Bolshoi with 15 productions, whereamong Boris Godunov by Moussorgski and Verdi's Aida enjoyed the highest acclaim. Shotly thereafter, the Saratov Opera and Ballet was promoted to the status of «academic theatre». At the time, quite a number of outstanding singers were members of the company, among them, People's Artists of the USSR O.Bardina and L.Smetannikov, People's Artists of Russia A.Rudes and N.Dovgaleva, Merited Artists of Russia O.Kalinina and E.Luder.

At various periods of time, the company engaged the services of stage directors A.Pochikovski, D.Kosakovski, V.Shkarovski, Y.Petrov, S.Stein, A.Sergeyev, D.Isaichev.

Since 1975, Peole's Artist of Russia, National Award winner Yuri Kochnev has been Chief Conductor, and since 1991, Artistic Director of, Saratov Opera and Ballet. Over that period, more than 50 productions have been released under his guidance, among them, Ivan Susanin by Glinka, Tannhauser by Wagner, The Queen of Spades by Tchaikovski, The Rise and Fall of Mahogany City by Kurt Weil, Sadko by Rimski-Korsakov.

Сцена из спектакля «Лебединое озеро»

«Ivan Susanin». M.Glinka
A photo from the archive

A photo from the archive

It was on maestro Kochnev's initiative that Sobinov Festival of Music started off in  1986 to have been held annually ever since presenting a wide variety of genres, where a priority belongs to opera, oratorio, and symphony. A special event within the set-up  of the festival is the Contest of Voice Competitions' Winners.

A great many productions proved a success with the audience and were highly estimated by critics. In  1998, The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by Shostakovich won Yuri Kochnev the Golden Mask National Festival's Special Prize for «a masterful and inspired rendition of Shostakovich». Diplomas of the Golden Mask Festival were awarded to productions of Eugene Onegin ( 2000), Rigoletto ( 2002), Tosca ( 2004). In  2008, the opera Marguerite composed by V.Kobekin of Ekaterinburg was awarded a Golden Mask under the nomination of «The best music».

The professional standards of the company enables for the implementation of daring creative projects. Our leading singers have successfully performed not only in Russia, but also internationally: People's Artists of Russia V.Baranova, S.Kostina, N.Bryatko, V.Verin, V.Grigoriev, Merited Artists of Russia O.Kochneva, A.Bagmat, R.Granich, V.Demidov.

Beside other operas, the repertoire also comprises quite a few productions for children based on music by contemporary composers: Pussy-cat's  House by P.Waldgardt (staged in  1994), The Red Hunting Hat by V.Gokiely ( 1996), The Pike So Ordered by ( 1997) and Farther Frost ( 2003) by V.Agafonnikov, the misical Treasure Island by S.Banevich ( 2008).


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