The Chekhov Moscow Art TheatreRussian: МХТ имени Чехова is undoubtedly one of the best theatres in Moscow, a symbol of the theatrical scene of the 20th century. If you are wondering who modern Russian theatre started with, the answer would most probably be Konstantin Stanislavsky. Stanislavsky and his far-famed system have become a kind of benchmark of performing art. The director started experimenting in this area as far back as 1897 when at a famous meeting in Slavyansky BazaarRussian: Славянский базар restaurant, Stanislavsky decided to set up the Moscow Popular Art TheatreRussian: Moskovsky khudozhestvenno-obshchedostupny teatr or Московский художественно-общедоступный театр with drama teacher and playwright Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. The word “popular” was taken out of the name of the theatre in 1901; since that time the theatre has been called The Moscow Art TheatreRussian: Moskovsky Khudozhestvenny teatr or Московский Художественный театр, or MATMKhT, or МХТ in Russian in abbreviated form.
Innovations of the theatre
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko put forward new art forms in theatre which rejected the previously pompous manner of performing on stage, play-acting, and “poor conventionalities of production”, but supported actors’ commitment, integrity, freedom of expression, psychologies, and credibility, which they brought to all elements of a play. These laid the foundation of the theatre they established. Its public accessibility was based on affordable prices and targeted all social classes.
Actors and plays in MAT
The leading contemporary actors of different ages and typecasting work in the theatre company today are: the People’s Artists of Russia Andrey Myagkov and Irina Miroshnichenko, Yevgeniya Dobrovolskaya and Konstantin Khabensky, Honoured Artists Dmitry Brusnikin and Mikhail Porechenkov, young actors Yury Chursin and Dariya Moroz, and many others. Some prominent directors stage plays here. Their performances often become the key event of the season, ranging from “He’s in ArgentinaRussian: On v Argentine or Он в Аргентине” by Dmitry Brusnikin based on the story by Lyudmila Petrushevskaya and “The Jeweler’s JubileeRussian: Yubilei yuvelira or Юбилей ювелира” starring Oleg Tabakov to “The DrunkRussian: Pjyaniye or Пьяные” by Viktor Ryzhakov based on a piece by Ivan Vyrypaev or the recent outrageous epic, “The Musketeers Saga. Part OneRussian: Mushketyory. Saga. Chast pervaya or Мушкетеры. Сага. Часть первая” by Konstantin Bogomolov. In any case, today the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre offers is the site of creative artistic experiments. In this way it pays tribute to Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Dnachenko’s tradition of innovation. Just like a hundred years ago, tickets sell fast, so you are advised not to put booking off until the last moment.
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The History of the Theatre
The theatre has been juggling names throughout its age-long history: in 1920 the MAT was assigned ‘academic’ status, hence the letter “A” was added to its Russian abbreviation (MKhAT or МХАТ in Russian). In 1932 MAT received the name of renowned Soviet writer Maksim Gorky, while in 1987 the theatre company split into two as a result of an internal conflict. Following this, the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre settled on the historical stage in the Kamergersky side streetRussian: Kamergersky pereulok or Камергерский переулок with Oleg Yefremov remaining its artistic director, while Tatiana Doronina took over the rest of the theatre company (the Gorky Moscow Art Theatre), which had to move to Tverskoy boulevardRussian: Тверской бульвар. The Gorky Moscow Academic Art Theatre still bears the same name, while the name of the theatre in Kamergersky side street has been devoid of the title “academic” since 2004, thus turning into the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre. The emergence of the theatre was linked as much to Chekhov’s name as to those of Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko. It was there that his immortal plays “The SeagullRussian: Chaika or Чайка” (1898), “Uncle VanyaRusian: Dyadya Vanya or Дядя Ваня” (1899), “The Three SistersRussian: Tri sestry or Три сестры” (1901), and “The Cherry OrchardRussian: Vishnyovy Sad or Вишнёвый сад”(1904) premiered.
The Significance of the MAT
Speaking of the history and significance of the Moscow Art Theatre (Chekhov MAT), we can list the honorary titles and achievements of its actors, recall the resounding performances of Stanislavsky’s time and Nemirovich-Danchenko’s works staged after Stanislavsky had left the theatre, feel happy about the creation of the Moscow Art Theatre School or sorry about the crisis and stagnation of the 1950-1960s, and glorify the young and ambitious director Oleg Yefremov, who made the Moscow Art Theatre the country’s leading theatre. We can go on to talk about the continuous staging of Chekhov’s latest plays in the early 20th century, the first steps in interpreting Ibsen and Andreeva Russian playwright, novelist and short-story writer, who is considered to be a father of Expressionism in Russian literature, who were popular at that time, and the work with Simonova playwright and a wartime correspondent, most famous for his poem Wait for Me and Bulgakov later. We can get astonished by a succession of talented actors and directors who brought their talent to life on the stages of the Moscow Art Theatre (O. Knipper-Chekhova, V. Kachalov, Y. Vakhtangov, I. Smoktunovsky, A. Efros, Y. Yevstigneev, among others).
However, the present Moscow Art Theatre remains entwined with what it has seen in the last thirty years. This period is marked by Oleg Yefremov’s last ten years of life. After his death, Oleg Tabakov took over the post of Artistic Director in 2000. While the decade with Oleg Yefremov is considered to be a time of general decline due to his ill-health, the fifteen years with Tabakov can be termed a renaissance.
The Building and Interiors of the Theatre
The theatre is located in a historical building in Kamergersky side street where Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko’s theatre company moved in 1902 owing to art patron Savva Morozova Russian textiles magnate and philanthropist’s financial support (both renowned directors’ memorial apartments are situated only a few blocks away from the theatre). The Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre has occupied this building, which used to house landlord Lianozov’s theatre, for over a hundred years. Interestingly, it was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style within one summer by architect Fyodor Shekhtel with the contribution of architecture academic Ivan Fomin.
Apart from its historical building, the theatre owns the neighbouring buildings which house the theatre school and the new stage. The Moscow Art Theatre interiors are the rarest sample of the Art Nouveau style in theatre architecture. Every little detail there was made to Shekhtel’s design – from the sign fonts to the door handles. The leading masters of the time were involved in the work, with sculptor Anna Golubkina among them. She created the relief “The Sea of Human Life” above the right-hand entrance to the theatre. The theatre’s museum is worth a visit too. Apart from the permanent display of archive photos in the theatre foyer and themed exhibitions linked to MKhT’s renowned figures, the museum offers excursions to see the stages and actors’ dressing rooms, as well as lecture series and edutainment programmes for kids.© 2016-2019 moscovery.com