Theatrical chronicles of a house on Bolshaya Nikitskaya, 19
In 1759-1761 Nastasia Mikhailovna Dashkova lived in the house on Bolshaya Nikitskaya, where “Helikon-Opera” is situated now. She often organized home concerts, in which Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova, her daughter-in-law, participated.
Ekaterina Dashkova wrote: “Many people said I possess an intellect and a flash of genius. I didn’t feel any lack of the first one, but I never laid any claims for the second, unless the art of music, as despite I didn’t have a teacher, vocal or instrumental, I understood the music so deeply that I could judge its beauty as a real virtuoso.”
Since 1768 the house belonged to Fedor Ivanovich Glebov, the senator and general en chef. After his death in 1799 Elizaveta Petrovna (born Streshneva), the widow, inherited the house. In 1803 Elizaveta Petrovna obtained the right for her and her sons to be named Glebov-Streshnevs. Taking the highest position in society, Fedor Ivanovich and Elizaveta Petrovna accepted the members of emperor’s family and highest society on Bolshaya Nikitskaya street. The guests of the house were the Empresses Maria Fedorovna, Elizaveta Alekseyevna, Alexandra Fedorovna, metropolitan Platon. For the very important people of Moscow Ekaterina Glebova-Streshneva gave four dinners per year.
The receptions were accompanied with the orchestra play, vocal performances. They took place in double-lighted hall with galleries for musicians. Judging from the description, the big, half-circle Italian window of the hall faced the yard. The pink-yellow walls were divided by 12 white pilasters with Corinthian capitals, the upper part was decorated with friezes from gray marble and moulded cornices. The initial décor of the hall was destroyed in the fire of 1812. Now the foyer of “Helikon-Opera” takes the restored part of the destroyed hall.
In the beginning of XIX century at the corner of Bolshaya Nikitskaya, 19 and Maly Kislovsky pereulok there was a building with big rotunda and two side wings. The building belonged to the merchant of the second guild G. N. Zarubin. It was rented by the Office of theatrical directorate of Moscow department.
The round hall of big rotunda was luxuriously decorated, the walls and the dome was painted by theatrical decorator Geromo Scotti. The location of the building was shown on the map of the residential area in 1801. The entrance to the round hall corresponded to the nowadays main entrance of the Mayakovski drama theatre.
In the diary of the famous theaatre-goer S. P. Zhikharev remained a record of 1805. “Soon, seems it is on 2nd December, in Zarubin’s round hall near Nikitskaya street there will be a concert of Balyo, rival of the famous Rode, who charmed the whole Moscow with his magic fiddlestick two years ago. Now the opinions changed and some experts give advantage to Balyo, in the play of which they find more rapidity, strength and energy, but Vsevolozhsky, Mosolovs and some dilettante of their kind contend that although Balyo is precisely a perfect violinist and is gifted with enormous strength, Rode surpasses him in clearness, tenderness and melodiousness of the play. “He plays so, - they say, - that you cry, your heart wants to jump out and you don’t feel the ground under your feet”. Yes! But I heard the same about Zharnovik and crazy Dits. Shall I believe it? I think there is nothing better than something that we like. And today we like one thing and tomorrow – the other. Poor we are! Poor I am, the student!”
Since 1864 the main heiress of the enormous fortune was the 23 years old Evgeniya Fedorovna Shakhovskaya (von Brevern in the girlhood). With the Highest order she and her husband Mikhail Valentinovich Shakhovskoy were “allowed to be named the prince and princess Shakovskys-Glebovs-Streshnevs”.
M. V. Shakhovskoy-Glebov-Streshnev served in Riga (Latvia), Estland (now Estonia), Tambov, Lipetsk (Russia). Only in the end of 1870-ies the married couple could finally settle in Moscow. E. F. Shakovskaya-Glebova-Streshneva started to re-build the family estate Pokrovskoye-Streshnevo near Moscow. To one of facades of the old house she added the half-round building of the domestic theatre. The decoration of the building was finished in 1883. As contemporaries remember “there was one box which was occupied by the princess herself every Sunday, when the performances were played, and dacha residents were in the stalls.”
Domestic theatre in Pokrovskoye-Streshnevo inspired E. F. Shakhovskaya-Glebova-Streshneva to buy the property in the corner of Bolshaya Nikitskaya and Maly Kislovsky pereulok, where in the beginning of the XIX century there was a “Zarubin’s round hall”, which was lost in the fire of 1812.
All the buildings of the ex-Zarubin’s estate (exclusive the little part at the cross of the street and the lane) were destroyed. In 1885-1886 the building of a private theatre in “Russian style” according to a project of K. V. Terskoy was built on the free ground. Now there is Mayakovsky drama theatre. In 1887 the covered passage was constructed between the theatre and the main house of the estate, and the two buildings were conveniently connected. Unfortunately, the passage was destroyed later.
In February of 1885 E. F. Shakhovskaya-Glebova-Streshneva began to build the new parade hall on the first floor of the main house. The project of the hall, decorated by twenty columns of Corinthian order, was performed by architect K. V. Terskoy. Later the hall was called the White Columned (Belokolonny) Hall. The area of 400 square meters, square in plan, was meant for public meetings, charity concerts and other enterprises, organized by Shakhovsky-Glebov-Streshnevs. The married couple was famous benefactors. Not having their own children thay took care of orphan’s homes, summer children colonies, maintained field hospitals and asylums for old warriors.
105 years later the White Columned Hall became the main stage of “Helikon-Opera”.
Theatre in the corner of Bolshaya Nikitskaya and Maly Kislovsky pereulok was build by Shakhovski-Glebov-Streshnevs to give for rent to entrepreneur and actor Georg Paradise. Senate’s order from 24th March 1882 cancelled the monopoly of Emperor’s theatres in Saint-Petersburg and Moscow. The theatres that work on commercial basis were allowed. Theatre on Nikitskaya street became one of the first theatres, which was really private. It was called “Paradise” after the name of entrepreneur.
The bearer of such a sonorous name Georg Paradise was born in 1846 in Frankfurt am Main in the family of a rich merchant. Graduated from commercial college in Danzig, but against the will of his parents he engaged himself to scenic art in 1862. In 1880 Georg Paradise was invited to German Petersburg Emperor’s theatre. In two years he came to Moscow together with some of the actors of the German troupe, they showed performances on Franco-Russian Exhibition and in summer German club in Petrovsky park. He risked to stay in Moscow for winter in Solodovnikov passage theatre, creating his own troupe. The performances brought a 70 000 roubles of benefit. Finally settled in Moscow, Georg Paradise got acquainted with the devotee of German opera E. F. Shakhovskaya-Glebova-Streshneva. He inspired the princess to finance the cosntruction of a theatre building in the corner of Bolshaya Nikitskaya and Maly Kislovsky pereulok. After the building was constructed Paradise concluded a treaty for 12 years. But since then the entrepreneur lost success. The new troupe was poorly selected, theatre was very often empty. The sublease didn’t improve the situation.
Shakhovsky-Glebov-Streshnevs soon lost their interest to the house in Nikitskaya. They started to live in Italy, bought San Donato estate in Toscana from Demidovs, traveled through Europe, then settled in Hessian resorts in Germany, where von Breverns, the ancestors of Eugenia Fedorovna, were from. In 1892 M. V. Shakhovskoy-Glebov-Streshnev died in Aachen city in Germany. After the death of her husband the widow left the house in Nikitskaya street forever and lived either in Pokrovskoye-Streshnevo, or in Europe. All buildings of the Moscow property was given for rent. The weddings and “house balls” were held in the main rooms of the first floor of the house. The centre of such holidays was the hall with twenty columns.
In 1892 Georg Paradise was declared a bankrupt; his personal assets were sold at auction. After he lost everything, he continued the organizational theatre activities in different directions, but never took halls for long rent anymore.
In 1893 Moscow merchant Yakov Vasilievich Schukin became the tenant of the theatre for a small period of time, later he created his own theatre in “Hermitage” garden. After Y. Schukin the theater was rented by some Schultz. Since 1900 the theatre of E. F. Shakhovskaya-Glebova-Streshneva was called “International”, since many foreign artists performed on its stage.
In 1890-ies the organizer of the tours of foreign artists was georg Paradise himself. He managed to invite to Moscow almost all famous drama actors – “brilliant interpreters of classic repertoire”. Among them the tour of the famous troupe of the Duke of Meiningen with Berlin actor Ludwig Barnei.
Actors-reformers influenced young Konstantin Stanislavsky a lot. After the words of the famous critic V. A. Nelidov, “Meiningen people saved the theatre of Augean stables of the surroundings and at the same time made the surroundings help the performing. They revived the history, charmed you with the fantasy. And it would be unfair, if the history do not mark them as perfect actors”.
Several times in the theatre on Bolshaya Nikitskaya the leading Munich actor Ernest Possart, the unforgettable performer of Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”, Yago in “Othello”, Goethe’s Mephistopheles in “Faust”. The art and elegancy on Nikitskaya stage were demonstrated by French actors Antoine Josset, Coquelin brothers, Dumeni and Munet Sully. Italian actor Ernesto Rossi had permanent success. . A. Nelidov recalled: “the glitter of his talent couldn’t be obscured by such an enormous minus as was the troupe, with which he usually toured”. Muscovites forgave him awful decorations and costumes. When he was 60, upon request of his Russian friends the actor agreed to perform Romeo, but warned that he would play without make-up and wig, because make-up wouldn’t help him and he would not give Romeo’s performing, but reading and showing of the role in costume”. Rossi gave not Romeo’s love, but passion, beautiful young passion, that can be described by hardly translated Russian word “bezzavetnost’”… Rossi’s Romeo was the hymn of the charm of passion, propaganda (if this word is necessary) against lifeless asceticism, Tourgenev’s style imitations, masochism and so on… It was often heard after the performance: “It’s not Italian artist, it’s an Italian magician”. Maybe! But it was the “wonderful” art focus, the focus of revival in the soul of a spectator of something that everyone could survive at least once in his life.
Among the most famous guest actors of the International theatre there was Sara Bernard (France), Eleonora Duse (Italy), the troupe of Viennese operetta.
There are three evidences of the play of Konstantin Stanislavsky in the theatre. In 1887 he played as an amateur in V. Krylov’s comedy “Pleyanov’s case”. In 1895 he was a partner of P. A. Strepetova in “Bitter fate”. And finally on the 1st May 1899 there was a performance of “The Gull” (“Chayka”) for the only spectator – Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. The writer couldn’t come to triumphal premiere of the play because of his disease and asked the troupe to repeat the performance. Chekhov called the production “wonderful”, but criticized the actress who played the main role. Konstantin Stanislavski himself played Trigorin in “Chayka”.
After the fire in Solodovnikovsky theatre, in January 1898, Private opera of Savva Ivanovich Mamontov, the first non-governmental opera enterprise, moved to International theatre and gave performances until 22nd November 1898. It had permanent troupe and reached high artistic level. Repertoire was based on such operas like “Sadko”, “The Maid of Pskov”, “Chovanschina” by M. P. Moussorgsky and operas of other famous composers. Young F. I. Shalyapin and N. I. Zabela-Vrubel were the leading soloists. N. I. Zabela-Vrubel achieved the great success after performing in N. M. Rimsky-Korsakov operas. The composer was specially writing them for singer's charming and touchy voice. The famous painter M. V. Vrubel, a husband of N. I. Zabela-Vrubel, always visited these performances. Once the singer asked him if he wasn’t bored to listen to “The Sea Princess” for so many times? "No", he answered, "I can endlessly listen for the orchestra, especially for “The Sea”. Every time I find a new delight in it and I see some new fantastic colours."
E. Y. Tsvetkova had a lyrical dramatic soprano, A. E. Rostovtseva and V. N. Petrova-Zvantseva were bright mezzos, N. A. Shevelev and M. V. Bocharov were remarkable baritones among the troupe of the theatre. K. A. Korovin, M. V. Vrubel, V. M. Vasnetsov, V. D. Polenov and other artists designed sets for the performances. In spring 1898 S. I. Mamontov decided to stage "Boris Godunov" by M. P. Moussorgsky. A young composer and conductor S. V. Rakhmaninov was invited to elaborate the musical part of the production. Under Sergey Rakhmaninov's instruction besides "Boris Godunov" Feodor Shalyapin studied the scores of all operas that had been prepared for production. It was a very important stage in singer’s career. Later F. Shalyapin wrote "I recollect this wonderful Moscow period of my work with joy. In the atmosphere of confidence, recognition and friendship I felt my strengths were increased tenfold. I worked with enthusiasm and as a sponge I absorbed the best trends of time, which was marked by the struggle for renewal of spirit and creative form in many fields of art.”
The premiere of “Boris Godunov” opera took place on 7th December 1898 in renovated Solodovnikov’s theatre. In September 1899 Savva Mamontov was arrested, charged with financial misuse, but later was justified. After leaving prison he left opera business.
The troupe of Private Opera under the leadership of conductor and composer M. M. Ivanov united in Association of Opera Artists and then joined Zimin’s Opera and soon performed in International theatre in Bolshaya Nikitskaya again.
Sergey Zimin’s Opera was created in 1904. In 1904-1905 the performances were given in Omon theatre. “May Night” by N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, “A Life for the Tsar” by M. I. Glinka, “Cherevichki” and “The Enchantress” by P. I. Tchaikovski, “Enemy’s Force” by A. N. Serov, “Carmen” by J. Bizet, “Aida” by G. Verdi.
Second and third seasons (1905-1907) of the enterprise were hold in the theatre in Bolshaya Nikitskaya, 19. In the first performances the troupe supported traditions of the Private opera. But at the same time S. I. Zimin began to use the best achievements of the newest European opera art. While preparing to start the enterprise, he visited opera theatres of Paris, Berlin, Naples and Milano, where he carefully studied the whole theatrical process.
Among European theatres Zimin particularly distinguished Parisian Opera Comique, which he took as an example for his own enterprise. It is appropriate to remember the reflections of Russian poetic genius Alexander Pushkin about “the imitation of a talent”. The poet said: “imitation is not the shameful theft, the sign of your own exiquity, but the noble hope for your own strength, the hope to open the new worlds, following the traces of a genius, or even the feeling which is more sublime in its humility: the wish to study the example and give it a second life”.
On the 8th of September 1905 season in International theatre opened with “La Boheme” opera by G. Puccini. Its interpretation was borrowed from the same name performance by Opera Comique. The decorations, costumes were carefully copied and even mise en scenes were imitated. The set designers carefully selected the materials about everyday life of Latin block. The performance was prepared with great care and passion. The performance of E. Tsvetkova as Mimi contributed to the success of the opera. The artistic director was M. M. Ippolitov-Ivanov.
When staging L. Delibes’s “La Roi l’a dit” the sketches and director’s plan of Opera Comique were also used. The main male parts were performed by Volkov and Rayski. The critique said: “as the genuine French they understood the minutest details of French manner, correctly catched its tone.” Moscow public accepted the second novelty of the season with enthusiasm. The critiques noted: “a good ensemble – scenic, musical and vocal was achieved by a troupe.”
to be continued...