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Georgia-Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre

On The street Besarion Belinsky, just a few steps away from the house where legendary personality Shalva Javakhadze resides, there is a shoemaker’s atelier plastered with photos of Maria Callas. The shoemaker himself is the only one (among his many counterparts living in Tbilisi) who (in parallel to breathing life into shoes) is often heard humming opera tunes and still continues to exchange smiles with his clients. Currently he is the only craftsman who has never ceased to admire opera and knows nearly as much about Maria Callas as Gogi Nizharadze. But a century or, to be more precise, a century and a half ago, any craftsman – a member of any guild – could imitate by heart one or more arias from their much-beloved operas staged in the Tbilisi Opera Theatre. Anyone considering it an exaggerated sense of patriotism would better read (onceagain) the foreign authors who last year chanced to visit Tbilisi and were extremely impressed by yard-keepers who, equipped with brooms, were whistling the very tunes they had heard from the Opera House the night before.

Tbilisi Opera Theatre provides a bizarre chapter framed in a bizarre prologue and a bizarre afterword in the history of 19 th century Tbilisi and Georgia as a whole. The idea of building a new opera house was not born in Georgian minds. ln the second half of the 19 th century Prince Vorontsov, viceroy of Georgia, was quick to find a way to make the Georgian nobility into close allies of Russia and an unquestioningly obedient force. By discovering Georgians’ Achilles Heel, Vorontsov succeeded in his efforts to turn once rebellious Georgian princes into the most loyal vassals of the Russian Empire. For the most part, Russophobic Georgians pinned upon their breasts Russia n medals and decorations and came to believe easily and effortlessly that the foundation of editorial houses and theatres in Tbilisi and Georgia was but a clear signal of the Russian Tsar’s benevolence and mercy upon Georgia. The rare exceptions, who refused to exchange Georgian Chokhas for Russian ranks and insignias, immediately got a whiff of Vorontsov’s perfidious designs. However, the majority of Georgian aristocrats were firm in their belief that all cultural endeavours in Tbilisi served the cause of Georgia’s promotion rather than the goal of acquiescing and pulling the wool over the eyes of those Georgians, who fought selflessly against the Russian yoke. The main motive behind the decision to build an opera theatre was to offer Georgian aristocrats (and not only them) dazzling entertainment to fill their leisure time and thus abandon their main worry. The Russian Emperor, who had become fed up with continuous commotions and riots, found this painless way to put right the Georgian problem attractive and, therefore, acceded with pleasure to the request of founding an opera theatre in Tbilisi.

See the article here: Georgian culture and art. Part 2


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