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Det Kongelige Teater
Alexandrinsky Theatre
The National Theatre of Scotland
Národní Divadlo

Alexandrinsky Theatre

Dates: 26 / 10 - 27 / 10 / 11

The Alexandrinsky Theatre is the oldest state theatre in Russia and one of the oldest national theatres in Europe. It was founded on August 30, 1756 St. Petersburg by the Decree of Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of the creator of the cultural politics of the Russian Empire, Peter The Great, in. One of imperial theatres, it was supervised directly by Russian emperors. Initially located in the Golovkin House (1756-1759; today the home to the Academy of Arts), the Theatre changed its venue several times: The Winter Palace (1759-1783), The Great Theatre (1783-1811, 1828-1832; today, St. Petersburg Conservatory) and Little Theatre (1811-1828; a non-existent building). Finally, in 1832 it received its permanent home–a magnificent, classicist residence built by a project of the great architect Carlo Rossi in the very centre of Nevsky Prospekt. The theatre was then named ‘the Alexandrinsky Theater’ in honour of Alexandra Fedorovna, the spouse of Emperor Nikolay the First. Soon, it became the emblem of the Imperial Capital of Russia and the monarchic power. Since 1937, its official name has been ‘The Russian State Pushkin Academy Drama Theatre’, however, for the past two decades, its previous name has been commonly used.

At the Alexandrinsky Theatre took place the premieres of all masterpieces of the Russian drama classics: plays by Alexander Griboyedov, Nikolai Gogol, Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Lev Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov. A number of renowned actors performed on its stage, such as Vasily Karatygin, Vera Komissarzhevskaya, Nikolai Cherkasov, Yekaterina Korchagina-Aleksandrovskaya, Bruno Freindlich, Nina Urgant. The Theatre was home to greatest directors: Grigori Kozintsev, Vladimir Kozhich. Georgy Tovstonogov, Nikolai Akimov. A great number of outstanding artist cooperated with the Theatre, e.g. painters Konstantin Korovin, Alexander Benois; composers Alexander Glazunov, Dmitri Shostakovich.

In the decade previous to the October Revolution, the decisive influence on the artistic shape of the Alexandrinsky Theatre lay in the hands of Vsevolod Meyerhold, one of the chief architects of the Great Reform. Here, Meyerhold directed twenty theatre and opera performances, e.g. Tristan and Isolde by Richard Wagner, Don Juan by Molière, Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky, Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw and Masquarade by Mikhail Lermontov.

In the early 1920s, Soviet literature began to appear on the stage of the Theatre. The most significant production was a philosophical drama Faust and the City by Anatoli Lunacharsky. In 1926, Nikolai Petrov, the Theatre’s principal director and its General and Artistic Manager between 1928-1933, laid down the program regarding journalist and propaganda goals of the Theatre. The prominent example of the new style was the production of Fear by Alexander Afinogenov. The successors to Petrov, Boris Shushkevich and Sergei Radlov, despite certain resistance from the Theatre, successfully transferred the experience they had gathered at the Moscow Artists Theater Ensemble (MChAT), onto the stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre. Thus, in the 1930, its repertory included both psychological dramas as well propaganda productions depicting the life of Lenin.

Between 1939 and 1966, the manager of the Theatre was Leonid Vivien. In 1938, he invited Meyerhold, who at that time did not cooperate with any theatre on permanent basis, to prepare a revival of Masquarade. The promising cooperation (the famous unfinished production of Hamlet) was dramatically interrupted the same year by Meyerhod’s arrest. During the Second World War, the Theatre Company moved to Nowosybirsk, from where it returned in 1944. After the death of Vivien, the subsequent managers of the Theatre were Igor Gorbatschow, Georgy Sashchenko and, from 2003, Valery Fokin.

The premiere performance of The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol directed by Valery Fokin on October 5, 2002 inaugurated a five-year artistic research program The New Life of Tradition organized by the Alexandrinsky Theatre and The Meyerhold Centre (CIM) with the support of the Ministry of Culture. The goal of the project was to give new artistic shape to the classic theatre literature. The catalysts to the program were two important anniversaries: 300th Anniversary of St. Petersburg (2003) and 250th anniversary of the Alexandrinsky Theatre (2006). The Russian theatre masterpieces presented in the framework of the program included Aleksander Sukhovo-Kobylin’s Tarelkin's Death directed by Matthias Langhoff (2003) and Anthon Chekhov’s The Seagull directed by Krystian Lupa (2007). The culmination of the anniversary festivities was the international Alexandrinsky Festival. The National Theatre in Warsaw, which for several years has been engaged in an artistic collaboration with the Alexandrinsky Theatre, was among honorable guests.

On the occasion of the anniversary, the magnificent building of the Theatre (long included on the List of UNESCO World Heritage Site) underwent a major renovation. The historical image of the building’s interiors was restored and the Theatre became one of the most technically perfect theater venues in the world. Today, the Theatre has two stages with the seating capacity of 946 and 80 for the Main Stage and Smaller Stage, respectively.

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This project is supported by the Ministry of Culture
and National Heritage and The City of Warsaw
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