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The beginning of the article: Georgian culture and art. Part 1
The opera was meant to be ltalian. lt fell to the merchant Tamamshev to build an opera house. According to newspaper reports, he bought a plot of land from the Tsitsishvili Estate “for two smoked sturgeon and two pieces of fabric”. The Armenian merchant weakened into absolute misunderstanding at the miserable price Prince Tsitsishvili asked for the land. But the latter, by eyewitness accounts, was wary from the very outset of the muddy and churned-up Yerevan Square with a channel running underneath. lt was through this channel that a stream of water made its way from upper Sololaki to the right embankment of the Mtkvari River via the Mukhrani ravine. Immediately prior to the opening of the opera house, “rain commenced to fall in torrents in Tbilisi. The downpour of water started to swell, swept a cow from Sololaki and drove it up to the Mukhrani ravine across the channel underneath the Yerevan Square”. The report in question of Kavkaz Newspaper is further confirmed by oral evidence saying that the cow incident did indeed take place and caused the delay of the opening ceremony until 24 April 1851. The opera house was a four-storey building. Scudier, an Italian who died a tragic death the same year, was appointed as its architect. Design is credited to Gagarin. The theatre was located in the front part of the building, which, at the insistence of Tamamshev, was initially intended as a caravanserai. It was quite understandable judging from the scope of interests Tamamshev used to pursue. That he was far from caring about the revival of Georgian theatre and culture is an undisputed fact. Another fact is that this wealthiest Armenian knew nothing even about Armenian culture and cared less. Repeated pleas to help his Armenian fellow-citizens constantly fell on deaf ears. He was never persuaded to cough up a penny. Armenians took their revenge on him in the same manner as on the storekeeper Mantashov. They staged Gabriel Sundukiant’s play titled “Oskan Petrovich’s life hereafter” and made the stingy rich man boiling in a cauldron of tar closely resemble Tamamshev. Tamamshev was seen twisting his body and screaming for relief but the keeper of Hell remained adamant saying that the punishment was rightly meted out to him for his reluctance to finance the Armenian theatre. Tamamshev who was attending the performance did not even knit his eyebrows over this scene, unlike Mantashov, who, immediately after the end of the play, went behind the coulisses and contributed a considerable sum of money to the Armenian theatre. As for Tamamshev, he left with his face void of emotion. So, Georgian culture could cause him no worry, indeed. The only task he set for himself was to extract handsome profits from any business into which he injected money. The opera venture lived up to Tamamshev’s expectations. Each performance was a sell-out. The stalls and boxes were filled to capacity. The road to the opera hall lay en route to shops, for which (in fact) the caravanserai was built by Tamamshev. Tamamshev, in common with the Russian Empire’s emissaries to Tbilisi, had foreseen everything: Georgians’ immediate infatuation with opera, resulting sense of gratitude to the Emperor and the eventual abjuring of freedom. They undoubtedly had grounds for this. Tbilisi’s Italian Opera Theatre was still in its early infancy when Shamil’s naib Hadji Murad (once a figure of legend already forced into submission by Russians) was brought to Tbilisi. The Opera House hosted that day Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma featuring the dazzling Julia Minnozi, soprano, in the role of Norma. A few minutes before the curtains rose (in the hall aglow with light), Hadji Murad followed by a cohort of Russian top brass made an entrance and took his specifically assigned seat in the stalls. The lights went off. As the hall plunged into darkness, a young Georgian prince clad in a white Chokha suddenly rose and publicly swore at Hadji Murad (as a traitor). An imposing chandelier specifically tailor-made in Paris for the Tbilisi theatre was immediately set ablaze with light, guards were called in, but the indignant Georgian prince’s identity remained unknown.anywhere in the world. The Tbilisi audience was also unmatched. Instead of exchanging greetings, Tbilisi-dwellers bade one another good day by enquiring about the health of the tenor due to appear on the stage in the evening.

Passage of the article here.


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