Founded in the 18th century, the Maly TheatreRussian: Malyi teatr or Малый театр is one of the oldest theatres in Russia. It puts on some of the best performances of classical Russian literature, focusing on plays by Alexander Ostrovsky and Anton Chekhov. The theatre’s performances attract viewers of all ages, while high-quality stage design and direction as well as outstanding acting account for the theatre’s popularity in the past and present. The President of Russia has granted the Maly Theatre the status of national patrimony, where it joins the ranks of the Bolshoi TheatreRussian: Bolshoy teatr or Большой театр.
History of the Maly Theatre
The history of the Maly Theatre began in 1756 with the appearance of the Moscow University’s Free Russian TheatreRussian: Volnyi russkiy teatr or Вольный русский театр, staffed by students attending the University’s secondary school as well as the University itself. This was an important milestone for the country as previously all theatre companies consisted solely of foreigners. Over time, the University theatre company extended itself outside university, and so it was that the Russian Theatre came to exist. Its growth was not straightforward, as it took a while for the Moscow public to develop an appreciation for the theatrical arts. It also took a while for the theatre to find a permanent home. The theatre succeeded in finding a suitable location in 1824, in a revamped minion designed by architect J. Bové. In the 1830s, the building underwent a renovation, this time planned by architect K. Thon, who is better known for his construction of the Cathedral of Christ the SaviourRussian: Khram Khrista Spasitelya or Храм Христа Спасителя. Over time, the theatre was named ‘Maly’ (meaning ‘small’) – as opposed to the Bolshoi (‘grand’) Theatre, which is situated just a stone’s throw from it.
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The Maly Theatre has become an integral part of the Theatre SquareRussian: Teatralnaya ploschad or Театральная площадь. Its austere façades blend well with the surrounding structures, above all the Bolshoi Theatre. Interestingly, planning the theatre’s layout posed a big challenge; given that only a small-scale plot was allotted for the building, the main entrance was to be perpendicular to the axis of the auditorium. This architectural solution was rather unusual for its time, because, previously, all theatres in Russia had been designed in such a way that the main entrance, the foyer and the auditorium were on the same axis.
The interior of the theatre building is very impressive. The auditorium boasts superb acoustic properties and beautiful décor resembling the Bolshoi Theatre, with its red velvet, gilded stuccowork and splendid ceiling paintings. The auditorium offers a perfect view of the stage from almost any seat.
TRADITION AND MODERNITY
The Maly Theatre is renowned for its performances of Russian classical works by Denis Fonvizin, Alexander Griboyedov, Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Nikolai Gogol, Alexander Ostrovsky, Anton Chekhov and Aleksey Tolstoy. The theatre also stages performances by foreign authors, including Friedrich Schiller, Augustin Eugène Scribe, Ernest Legouvé and Eduardo de Filippo.
The Maly Theatre has always attracted remarkable actors, directors and artists. Dozens are winners of various state awards and titles. Many visitors come here to enjoy brilliant acting by the older generation of actors, such as Yuri Solomin, the artistic director of the Maly Theatre, Elina Bystritskaya and Boris Kluyev. The theatre has its own orchestra, headed by Honoured Artist of Russia, V. Semkin.
The Maly Theatre is engaged in active creative work, staging four or five new performances every season, with some previous productions on reserve. The Maly Theatre organizes the annual all-Russian festival known as ‘Ostrovsky in Ostrovsky’s HouseRussian: Ostrovskiy v Dome Ostrovskogo or Островский в Доме Островского’, where theatre companies from other Russian cities have an opportunity to present and compare their performances of classical literary works. It is the Maly Theatre that came up with the idea of holding the International National Theatre FestivalRussian: Mezhdunarodnyi festival natsionalnykh teatrov or Международный фестиваль национальных театров, bringing together performances staged by theatres from all over the world. Respecting the traditions of national art is the main condition of participating in the festival.© 2016-2021 moscovery.com