Saturday, November 28, 2009

In the Opera.

It is always interesting to go to the Opera and Ballet Theatre – the building itself, small unexpected additions to the classic, people watching, chatting with people – it is an experience. Today they performed “Traviata”. It was quite nice overall and the guest singer from Ukraine did have a very strong voice, borderline ultrasonic at times, but who impressed me the most was Azerbaijanian mezzo soprano, Sabina Asadova. Her voice is all depth and velvet, and she certainly has the presence on stage, which was a bit unfortunate for the leading lady. It will be interesting to see Ms. Asadova in some other production where she will have a bigger part.

Sitting and looking around the theatre made me want to tell you about this building. I like the story of its construction because it started not with a well thought out plan but with hurt feelings and desire of revenge.

Somewhere around 1910 one of the famous folk singers of Baku purchased a beautiful house for himself and decided to throw a housewarming party to celebrate this occasion. And it was the occasion to celebrate because this building (it houses SOCAR headquarters nowadays) considered to be one of the most beautiful ones in Baku at that time. Guests came from near and far, champagne was flowing, the music was playing, and laughter echoed in the night. But, two Bakuvian millionaires Daniel Mailov and his brother didn’t receive the invitation. Affronted by such an insult they brooded over revenge. Concluding that a duel wasn’t an option and being the businessmen as they were, they decided to build something just to outdo the offender. But what should they built?

Meanwhile a famous opera singer Antonina Nezhdanova came to visit Baku. She gave several concerts at various clubs, all with a great success. After finishing her tour she was invited to return to Baku but swiftly declined naming as a reason the lack of an opera house in the city. Daniel Mailov who was fond of Nezhadnaova’s wonderful soprano, immediately realized what he was meant to build. The Opera Theater, what else? Being a decisive man, he immediately invited the singer to return to the City of Wind in a year for the opening of the Opera House.

To construct a building in less than a year was quite a daring project especially since it had to confirm with many safety regulations. (A wise practice that should be reenstated here.) One of the millionaires of Baku, Zeynalabdin Taghiyev, who happened not long before these events to sponsor the construction of another theatre (present day Musical Comedy Theatre) doubted that time allotted to the project would be enough. Knowing men’s competitive nature it should not come as a surprise that Taghiyev and Mailov brothers made a bet – if Mailovs didn’t build the theatre on time, it would be given to Taghiyev as a gift; if the theatre was to be finished by 1911, the latter would have to cover all the building expenses. The Opera Theatre was finished in less than 10 months.

The theatre was opened in February of 1911 and Nezhdanova performed at the opening ceremony. Guests came from near and far, champagne was flowing, the music was playing, and laughter echoed in the night; all Bakuvian elite was present except ....– can you guess who didn’t receive the invitation?

And here, ladies and gents, some views of the theatre.


And Inside

No comments: