RODERIC DUNNETT enjoys the
Ukrainian State Opera Company of Odessa's 'La Traviata'
The Odessa Opera House is among the architectural gems of not just the
modern Ukraine, but the whole former Soviet Union. The modern city dates
from the last decade of the 18th century -- the time of Catherine the Great
-- and its opera house,
opened in 1809, rebuilt (after an 1873 fire) to a design by a Viennese
partnership, and relaunched in 1887 with extracts from Boris Godunov,
has features in common, both external (notably its Italian Baroque facade)
and internal (the interior is modelled on the French ancien regime
style of Louis XVI), with some of the great houses of Western Europe : Munich,
Vienna, Rome and Budapest. Scenes from Shakespeare and the Greek and Russian
playwrights confirm the Ukrainians' aspiration from the start to reflect
the full force of historic European culture. It is, quite simply, a gem.
The composer-conductors Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov
and Arensky all appeared there, as did some of the finest singers of their
era, including Caruso and Chaliapin. Odessa's productions over the
years have included a host of new Ukrainian operas, including premières
of Boris Lyatoshins'ky (1894-1968), whose Wozzeck-influenced
and Expressionistic The Golden Ring (Zolotyy obruch), one
of the most important works of post-revolution Soviet new wave, was staged
there in 1930; Mykola Lysenko (1842-1912), whose dozen or so serious, historical
and comic operas included Taras Bulba, after Gogol; the short-lived
Volodymyr Femelidi (1905-33, whose only completed opera, Rozlom ('The
Split'), about the revolutionary Kronstadt sailors of 1917, was first
produced there in 1929; Caesar and Cleopatra remained unfinished
at his death); and Valentyn Kostenko.
Copyright © 27 June 2002
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK
ELLEN KENT AND OPERA INTERNATIONAL
RODERIC DUNNETT'S REVIEW IN 'THE INDEPENDENT'
VERDI'S LIFE AND TIMES