The Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre
Theater Square with its shady chestnut alleys, well-groomed flowerbeds and cooling fountains has been for a long time one of the favorite rest places of Tashkent’s residents. In the center of the square stands the building of the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. Its appearance elegantly blends the design philosophy of a classical theater building and traditions of oriental architecture. Huge slightly pointed main entrance arches on massive abutments remind you of the shady ayvan-terraces of Asian madrasah-schools. High portal with a stalactite cornice is topped with little turrets that are similar to those decorating upper parts of Bukhara minarets. The elaborate design of the building, the combination of shade and light in the loggias covered by deep arches, the decorative engravings on polished Gazgan marble against brickwork – all these give an unforgettable impression… Thus it is not without reason that the picture of the theater is sometimes used as a “visiting card” of Tashkent.
The history of this Uzbekistan’s oldest opera theater began with setting up a national ethnic ensemble in 1926. The first musical and drama performances having been a great success, the ensemble was awarded the status of the State Uzbek Theater. Soon professional vocalists with high acting technique joined the theatre troupe. In 1939, after the premiere of the first Uzbek opera ‘Blizzard’ by the young composers M. Ashrafiy and S. Vasilenko, the construction of the new theater building started. The world-famous architect, academician A. V. Shusev was commissioned to design and supervise the construction. A. V. Shusev was the author of the well-known Moskva hotel, Komsomolskaya metro station, Kazanskiy Railway Station.
The construction site was designated to be in the center of the city, at the place of Voskresenskiy Bazaar, which had been operating there since the end of the 19th century. The construction was in full swing when World War II began. The work was temporarily stopped and it resumed in 1945, with Japanese prisoners of war being used as labour force.
In 1947 the new building of the Alisher Navoi State Academic Bolshoi Theater opened its fretted doors to the audience. The 1500-seat theatre house has high acoustic qualities; from its ceiling there hangs a huge crystal chandelier. The well-known artist Chinghiz Akhmarov covered the walls of the foyer with paintings that depict scenes from Alisher Navoi’s poetry. Yet the most festive are six lobbies decorated with gunch-stucco carvings. The best republic’s masters, representing various traditional Uzbek schools, carried out decorative works under the leadership of the famous gunchkor-artist Usto Shirin Murodov. In “Khiva” lobby simple girih geometrical patterns and rosettes intermix with intricately intertwining spirals of plant shoots. “Samarkand” lobby is decorated with two-layer openwork panels made in islimi style. The decorations in “Ferghana” lobby amaze the visitors with refinement and patterns variety. For decoration of “Termez” lobby there were used the ancient gunch-stucco carving patterns which used to embellish the 12th-century palace of Termez ruler. «Bukhara» lobby, decorated by Usto Shirin Murodov himself, fascinates by completeness and harmony of its open-work panels against mirror surface.
During the years of its existence the theater has staged around 400 new productions. The high professional skills of the opera singers and ballet dancers allow to stage world-famous classical operas and ballets. In the theater house they play the music by Verdi, Bizet, Puccini, Adam, Chaikovsky... The theater also presents Uzbek operas and ballets including such popular among the local audience performances as opera “Dilorom” by M. Ashrafi and the ballet “Tamiris” by U. Musaev. The stage of the theatre is often put into disposal of foreign touring theatre troupes and artists.
Within several decades around Theater Square there were built the monumental building of Shark Publishing Concern, the department store, the State Bank, the Tashkent-Palace hotel. But the main building in the area is still the Alisher Navoi Theater. Every evening a crowd of smart-looking opera and ballet admirers can be seen at its main entrance, whereas bright posters announce the new performances.