By Laman Ismayilova
After a long break, Azerbaijan's State Opera and Ballet Theater has finally opened its doors to opera and ballet enthusiasts.
The theater remained closed for a while amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The State Opera and Ballet Theater successfully prepared for its grand return in October.
In his interview with Azernews, the principal conductor of the Opera and Ballet Theater, Honored Artist Ayyub Guliyev, detailed the theater's main activities and future plans.
"We have already got ready for the theater's reopening. In September, Uzeyir Hajibayli's 'Leyli and Majnun' and Giuseppe Verdi's opera 'La Traviata' were presented at the theater as part of the 13th Uzeyir Hajibayli International Music Festival. Both productions were a great success. At that time, we felt how much the audience missed the opera house," said Ayyub Guliyev.
Opera and Ballet Theater's grand return
After a break, the theater delighted its audience with a premier. Alexander Borodin's "Polovtsian Dances" were presented in the theater for the first time.
Polovtsian Dances is a ballet fragment from the opera "Prince Igor". For almost 18 years, Borodin worked on his opera. However, he would present the work to the public as it remained incomplete following Borodin's death. The opera was completed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov.
"The preparation work was a difficult process since the theater was closed for a certain time due to the pandemic. The Opera and Ballet Theater opened with a premier- 'Polovtsian Dances' staged by Honored Artist Samir Samadov. Along with 'Polovtsian Dances', we also managed to show our mugham performances, classical productions, including Giuseppe Verdi's opera 'Aida', which is a masterpiece of the opera art," said Guliyev.
"Meanwhile, this year the opera marks its 150th anniversary since its premiere. The opera brought together People's Artists Avaz Abdullayev, Fidan Hajiyeva, Ali Asgarov, Akram Poladov, Honored Artist Azar Rzazade. The main part of the opera was performed by the soloist of the Belarusian Bolshoi Theater Tatiana Tretyak," he added.
"We also didn't forget about the Azerbaijani classics, which have a special place in our repertoire. In October, we staged Fikrat Amirov's 'Sevil' and 'One Thousand and One Nights'. The theater also pleased its little guests with the production 'Great Storyteller' to the music of Franz Schubert. At the same time, the audience enjoyed Astor Piazzolla's 'Tango of Love' ballet," the conductor said.
Restoration at theater
Built in 1910, the theater's building is considered one of the most beautiful ones in Baku.
The first reconstruction was carried out in 1938, and then in 1982. However, due to a fierce fire at the beginning of 1985, the work was completed only in 1987.
The Opera and Ballet Theater is being restored by the Austrian company "Erich Pummer".
"Full-scale restoration work began in August. The process of restoring the facade of the building is in progress. The theater's hall, foyer, balcony, and the hall will also be renovated. This is a truly grand event that we have been looking forward to for a long time," said Guliyev.
Cloth Peddler in China
Uzeyir Hajibayli's operetta "The Cloth Peddler" (Arshin Mal Alan) was successfully presented at China's Tianjin Grand Theater on September 16.
The event was timed to Azerbaijani National Music Day celebrated annually on September 18.
"The Cloth Peddler is one of the favorite performances not only in Azerbaijan but also in the U.S, Europe and Asia. In May, the Azerbaijani embassy in China invited me to take part in the event. Then I met Silk Road Cultural Association President Claudia Young. With the support of the embassy and the Azerbaijani Culture Ministry, a semi-stage version of the operetta was presented in China. The soloists, orchestra, and choir of the Tianjin Grand Theater performed in the operetta. The full-length performance will be premiered in the near future," said Guliyev.
As a coordinator, Ayyub Guliyev made everything possible to assist the preparations. Thanks to the joint work of the conductor, talented musicians and many others, the event was spectacular.
Speaking about that night, Guliyev praised the talent, diligence and sincerity of everyone who participated in the project.
The operetta was previously shown in China in 1959 and in 2010. Interestingly, one of the soloists who previously performed in the operetta staged in China long ago was also invited to this year's production.
Symphony concert in Poland
In October, Guliyev took part in a marvelous symphony concert in Poland.
The concert was dedicated to the 880th anniversary of the birth of Azerbaijani genius poet and thinker Nizami Ganjavi.
"The year 2021 has been declared the year of Nizami Ganjavi in Azerbaijan. This significant date is celebrated by many cultural figures with a series of events. When I was invited to perform at the Polish city of Kalisz, I proposed to devote a part of the concert to Nizami's legacy. The audience highly appreciated the concert that featured excerpts from Fikrat Amirov's ballet 'Nizami', Gara Garayev's 'Seven Beauties', Ernest Bloch's suite, Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Andante Cantabile and Symphony No. 6. For the first time in history, excerpts from the Azerbaijani ballets 'Nizami' and 'Seven Beauties' were presented in Poland," said Guliyev.
Before the concert, the famous Polish musicologist Witold Paprocki told the audience in detail about music pieces included in the concert program.
Azerbaijani ambassador to Poland Nargiz Gurbanova spoke about Azerbaijan's rich music and culture.
The Kalisz Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and acclaimed violist, associate professor of the Music Academy in Gdansk Christoph Tymendorf performed at the concert under the baton of Ayyub Guliyev.
International Festival of Vocalists
The Second Azerbaijan International Festival of Vocalists was held in Baku on October 15-20. Ayyub Guliyev took part in the festival's opening and closing ceremonies.
The Festival of Vocalists aims to develop and promote classical music in Azerbaijan. The project also focuses on the formation of good musical taste among young people.
Unlike the first festival, this year the project has an international status.
Initiated by the director of the Heydar Aliyev Palace, Honored Artist Ramil Gasimov, the festival has expanded its borders and gathered world-famous musicians.
The Festival of Vocalists opened with a concert of baroque music. During the concert, the audience enjoyed fascinating baroque music performed by People's Artists Samir Jafarova, Gulnaz Ismayilova, Honored Artists Ramil Gasimov, Farida Mamedova, Inara Babayeva, Sabina Asadova, and Ilham Nazarov.
Speaking about the concert, the conductor praised the virtuosity of musicians.
World Opera Day
The festival's closing ceremony was even more spectacular and marked World Opera Day, celebrated annually on October 25.
Culture Minister Anar Karimov, Opera Vision director Luke O'Shaughness attended the event.
Speaking about World Opera Day, Guliyev expressed his pleasure to participate in such a large-scale cultural event.
"For the first time in history, the World Opera Day was celebrated in Azerbaijan. This day is held under the auspices of Opera Europe and Opera Vision. I proposed to organize a similar project in our country. This year Azerbaijan was the first country that marks World Opera Day. Moreover, it became the first country in the region to celebrate Opera Day. Millions of people could watch the gala concert and left positive feedback," the conductor said.
Cultural program for November
The State Opera and Ballet Theater revealed its program for November.
The principal conductor of the State Opera and Ballet Theater told Azernews about the theater's upcoming productions.
The State Opera and Ballet Theater will celebrate Azerbaijan's victory gained in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War.
Ramiz Mustafayev's opera "Vagif" will be presented to the audience on November 8 (Victory Day).
"The staging of the opera is very symbolic since Vagif is the personification of the Karabakh intelligentsia. This character is inextricably linked with the Karabakh culture. Honored Artist Ramil Gasimov will perform in the opera," said Guliyev.
Sardar Farajev's ballet "Javadkhan" will be presented to the audience on November 10.
The State Opera and Ballet Theater is also getting ready for Nizami Ganjavi Week scheduled for November 14-20.
Gara Garayev's "Seven Beauties" will be staged on November 16. Moreover, Fikrat Amirov's ballet "Nizami" will be shown at the theater on November 20.
At the end of the month, opera fans will see Uzeyir Hajibayli's "Koroghlu" on November 27 and Pietro Mascagni's "Rural Honor" on November 28.
In conclusion, Ayyub Guliyev stressed that the theater will surprise opera and ballet fans with new productions.
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