Theatres and concert halls

The Stalingrad Musical Comedy Theatre had its first premiere in the former building of Tsaritsin’s Concordia Theatre, on the bank of the Tsaritsa River, in 1932. It was the operetta The Bondwoman by Nikolai Strelnikov. The company rolled out 13 premieres its first year, touring Moscow, Kiev and Kharkov. The subsequent seasons were just as successfUlitsa The company staged the works of such operetta classics as Carl Zeller, Robert Planquette, Franz Lehar, Imre Kalman, and Johann Strauss, as well as the operettas of modern composers: Sorochintsi Fair by Aleksey Ryabov, Wedding at Malinovka by Boris Aleksandrov, Golden Valley by Isaac Dunayevsky, and others. Then came the war. Everything the company had – props, costumes, even the building – was destroyed in the Battle of Stalingrad. Evacuating to Kazan and Omsk, the Stalingrad Musical Company Theatre continued to rehearse and perform. When Stalingrad was liberated, the company returned to the city intact. The Tractor Factory gave the company its recently renovated club building. The place was not very comfortable to work in. There was no heating, but the house was always packed for the company’s performances. The Stalingrad Musical Company Theatre was allotted a beautiful historical building on the embankment in 1952. The company’s repertoire continued to expand. The staged the operas The Bartered Bride by Bedrich Smetana and Sorochintsi Fair by Modest Mussorgsky, the ballets The Red Poppy by Reinhold Gliere and Esmeralda by Cesare Pugni, and many other works. Several great composers collaborated with the Stalingrad Musical Company Theatre in the 1960s and 1970s: Vasily Solovyov-Sedoi, Vladimir Semyonov, Nikolai Minh, and Konstantin Listov. The company won a USSR National Award for its production of the operetta The Snow Mountaintops Tune by Georgy Tsabadze in 1972, and won the same award again a few years later for the play Girl Hero Wanted by Veniambin Basner. The company’s musicians manned Volgograd’s first symphony orchestra.  

The company’s building was closed for renovation in the early 1990s, which took five years. The Volgograd Musical Theatre had to perform on other people’s stages in the meantime, but its creative process continued nonstop. The company staged new productions and played concerts. The company officially became a “musical” theatre in 1995. In 2003, it won a Volgograd City Award for its musical The Great Heroism of Stalingrad, timed to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Victory in the Battle of Stalingrad.

The Volgograd Musical Theatre has hosted the Interregional Christmas Festival of Young Musicians since the early 2000s. In 2001, it hosted the premiere of the Autumnal Volga opera festival, featuring opera soloists from Russia and the newly independent states. The first operetta festival named in honour of the People’s Artist of Russia Tamara Papina, an Honorary Citizen of the Hero City Volgograd, also took place at the Volgograd Musical Theatre in 2004. The Volgograd Musical Theatre has staged more than 400 shows in its lifetime, raising several generations of talented actors and musicians. The Volgograd Musical Theatre is currently led by head director Alexander Kutyavin, Merited Artist of Russia, and head conductor Vadim Venediktov, also a Merited Artist of Russia, who faithfully uphold the company’s high artistic standards.  

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The first Cossack theatre in the region was the travelling theatre company from the Cossack village of Uriupinskaya, formed in 1909. It was the second officially recognized Cossack theatre company to be established in Russia. In 1970 it was merged with the Ka.m.yshin Drama Theatre, and the new company was named Donskoy Cossack Theatre. In 1992 it was transformed into the National Donskoy Cossack Theatre in what was hailed as the first ever theatre project exemplifying the traditions of the Cossacks from the region of the River Don. The mission of the Cossack theatre is to narrate the unique history and culture of the Cossack land in the language of theatre. The company’s first premiere was the play I Came to Give You Freedom, based on the eponymous novel of Vasily Shukshin. Their productions combine professional acting with folk drama, the use of historical musical instruments, and Cossack chorus. The repertoire consist of classical and modern plays, such as From Love to Hatred by Nikolai Staritsky, Vanka-Cain by Boris Khmelnitsky, Podkhaliuzin and Company by Alexander Ostrovsky, and The Sands by Alexander Serafimovich, to name a few.

The theatre was founded by Honoured Artist of Russia Vladimir Lyapichev, who became the company’s first art director. The company won the Grand Prix of the Kompliment Festival in Novocherkassk in 2005 with their production of Villagers, a play by Alexander Kopkov. In 2006 and 2007 the company won two consecutive awards of the international festival Homo Ludens in Nikolayev, Ukraine. The new head director, Vladimir Tikhonravov, who took over in 2010, substantially rejuvenated the repertoire. In 2011 the company was renamed Volgograd Musical Drama Theatre of the Cossacks. The Cossack theatre has toured extensively in Russia and abroad. The company performed its Cossack Tall Tales at the opening of the 3rd international theatre festival At Trinity in Sergiev Posad near Moscow in 2016. The company is domiciled in a historical building, the architectural style of which has been described as “eclecticism in brick.” The building was 150 years old in 2012. 

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The Volgograd Youth Theatre opened with the premiere of The Feast for My Eyes, based on an Aleksey Arbuzov play, at the former Volga cinema in September 2006. Until then the youth theatre had existed as an independent project, Youth Theatre at Knyagininskaya, under the directorship of Aleksey Serov. Vladimir Bondarenko took over the directing in 2012. The Youth Theatre’s repertoire lists 26 plays, representing the full ga.m.ut of theatre genres, including plays for children. The company appears frequently at theatre festivals. In 2008 the Youth Theatre won a Volgograd Region state prize in the Theatre Arts category for its play The Face of War is not a Woman’s Face, based on the book by Svetlana Aleksievich. The company performed this play in 13 cities across Russia and Belarus as part of the Volgograd’s Memory Mission initiative in 2010. The Youth Theatre won another Volgograd Region state prize in 2014, this time for its play Before the Rooster Crows. The Volgograd Youth Theatre house is small, seating only 82. There is no proper stage, and hence no divide between the actors and the audience. 

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The Philharmonic has featured very prominently in the life of Stalingrad and then Volgograd since the day it opened in 1936. The creative mainspring of the Philharmonic in its early years was the Stalingrad Radio Committee Symphony Orchestra, and its first stage was the city park of culture and recreation.

The Volgograd Region Philharmonic, which marked its 80th anniversary in 2016, hosts over 400 concerts by Russian and international artists every year. Affiliated with the Philharmonic are the Volgograd Academic Symphony Orchestra, Nikolai Kalinin Russian Folk Orchestra of the Volga, Volgograd Choral Capella, Lazorevyi Tsvetok Cossack song ensemble, Tsaritsa song ensemble, Vishnyovyi Sad vocal and instrumental ensemble, Grigory Ponomarenko folk and pop song ensemble, and many individual vocalists and instrumentalists. The Philharmonic music collectives perform in many musical genres: symphony, folk, organ, cha.m.er, a cappella, instrumental, classical, Russian, world music, and so on. They play for adult and young audiences.

The cha.m.er organ in the Philharmonic’s Central Concert Space is a real treasure. Crafted by Rieger Kloss of Czechoslovakia in 1982, the organ was a gift to Volgograd as a token of friendship between the people of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. The art deco organ is exceptionally advanced technologically. The first organ concerts were played in the autumn of 1989. In 1996 and 2000, the CCS hosted international festivals of organ music featuring such celebrated organists as Daniel Roth (France), Hans van Nieuwkoop (Netherlands) and Peter Planjawski (Austria). The organ season begins in September and continues until next June in Volgograd. The evening concert series Baroque to Modern: A Collection of Masterpieces, Musical Legends, and Organ Plus are especially popular with the local audiences.

The Volgograd Region Philharmonic has hosted the Nikolai Kalinin festival of professional folk orchestras more than once. The festival premiered in the spring of 2005, and its geography has since expanded with every passing year. The third festival, staged in 2009, was awarded international status.

CON BRIO, the international Christmas Season’s arts festival under the auspices of the Volgograd Region Philharmonic premiered in the winter of 2008. The festival has since been graced, in different years, by the participation of such great artists as the organists Evgeniya Lisitsina (Latvia) and Anastasia Sidelnikova (Moscow), vocalist Tatyana Teslya (Czech Republic), organist Sergei Parshin (Moscow), and others. The Volgograd Region Philharmonic sponsors the creative progra.m.me for children, Flowers of Music. The winners of the Flowers of Music competition enjoy the privilege of performing with the Volgograd Academic Symphony Orchestra. 

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Tsaritsin’s first opera company was formed in 1908 thanks to the owner of Concordia Theatre, Vladimir Miller. Soloists for the new opera company were recruited from the Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg and from Saratov Opera. This was not, however, a full-bodied opera house, and the city never saw one until 1993, when Volgograd Opera became a private theatrical enterprise. The new private opera company had its first premiere – the opera Cio-Cio-San by Giacomo Puccini – on the stage of the Central Concert Space. Tsaritsin Opera, the successor of the private opera company, is a government-sponsored opera house. It opened in 2004, moving into the building of the former culture palace of the Red October Steel Works. The concert space in the culture palace, built in 1956 in the Stalin Empire style to the design of Yakov Kornfeld, is distinguished by quality acoustics. Tsaritsin Opera’s first premiere was The Snow Maiden by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, staged by Bolshoi Theatre director Mikhail Panjavidze. 

The theatre’s 2004 opening was celebrated with the 1st international Tsaritsin Opera Traditions festival, featuring opera soloists from Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Saratov, Perm, Odessa and Kharkov. Tsaritsin Opera has collaborated with Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre since 2006. Opera soloists from Moscow work on Volgograd opera productions alongside their colleagues from Kazan, Ufa and Saratov. In its first few years, Tsaritsin Opera staged the operas The Impresario by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Cio-Cio-San by Giacomo Puccini, Aida by Giuseppe Verdi, The Snow Maiden by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and The Mermaid by Alexander Dargomyzhsky, and the ballets The Lady and the Hooligan by Dmitri Shostakovich, Walpurgis Night by Charles Gounod, Apollo Musagetes by Igor Stravinsky and Giselle by Adolf Adan. The Volgograd Region Ministry of Culture decided to make Tsaritsin Opera into a repertoire theatre in 2011. Tsaritsin Opera hosts the Operatic Alliance international arts festival every May. 

The one actor of Volgograd’s Solo Actor Theatre is Zinaida Gurova, a Merited Artist of Russia, who is the producer, director and artistic decision-maker on this project. Gurova writes her own scripts, designs the stage art, directs and plays all the parts herself. The first premiere of the theatre, which was established in 1989, was The Holy Truth, based on the poems and letters of Anna Akhmatova. The Solo Actor Theatre has produced 25 original plays in the nearly three decades that it has been around. As an actor, some of Zinaida Gurova’s fortés are her beautiful voice and excellent elocution. Her superb mastery of the spoken word is a leading factor in the success of her one-woman shows.   

Zinaida Gurova hosts the international theatre festival, One and All, which is on the European calendar of monodrama festivals under UNESCO auspices, held in Volgograd every by-year. Gurova tours far and wide, taking her theatre to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sevastopol, Baku, Perm, Krasnodar and even across the national frontier – to Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Poland.