Tbilisi’s opera has a very interesting story. Originally the city’s first opera was opened on November 8 1851 on the Liberty Square. Italian architect Giovanni Scudieri, who had come to Tiflis from Odessa, was hired to oversee the project. Unfortunately in 1874 the theatre was completely destroyed by a massive fire that also devastated its unique and huge ton and a half luster that was ordered by the Russian Chief Governor of the Caucasus, Mikhail Vorontsov from France and cost 9400 francs. The luster was shipped from Marseilles to Poti port in Georgia. The parts of the luster were packed in 12 big boxes and brought to Tbilisi by carriages. As it is known, the part of the luster broke on the road, so they had to order it again. Sadly, the fire claimed the entire hall, foyer, as well as the large beautiful curtain that was decorated by Grigol Gagarin.
It is noteworthy that Alexandre Dumas, famous French writer was so fascinated by the Georgian theatre that even wrote about it in his book. In 1856 the writer wrote in his book named “Adventures in the Caucasus” while his stay in Tbilisi: “The balconies were decorated with Arabic carvings instead of ornaments, the curtain was beautifully adorned, and the stage itself looked more like a fairy palace, and not because of its expensive decorations, but for its sophisticated taste…I thought I was at the theatre of Pompey. I have never seen such an impressive hall of the theater in my life….”
The present theatre was opened in 1896 and seated 1200 people. The building was distinguished for its design that consisted of Islamic elements. Strange as it may sound the second building of the opera also caught fire in 1973 after which the building was completely reconstructed and renovated by architects Leri Medzmarishvili and Murtaz Chachanidze, yet its eastern pseudo-moorish style was maintained.
The present crystal luster of Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theatre was ordered in the glass factory of Austria and was designed by architect Murtaz Chachanidze . The luster weighs 2800 kilos and consists of 740 lamps. As a rule, this beautiful luster is cleaned twice a year and is considered an important event, since the cleaning efforts take one entire day.
In 2010 the building was closed again for a large scale renovation works. The stage has increased in size and more balconies were added to the hall. Beside works on the Theatre's interior, the outer yard space was also widened to accompany the refreshed venue. The renovation project launched with support of the Kartu Fund and was carried out by architect Leri Medzmariashvili. The building was carefully renovated and the old appearance was maintained, however it was refreshed with some modern details as well. It is noteworthy that the old iconic stage curtain by late painter Sergo Kobuladze has been also recreated using cutting edge technology in Germany after the original creation was lost in the devastating fire at the venue in the 1970s.
Inside Tbilisi's restored historic opera house [bbc.com]
Long-awaited day arrives: Tbilisi Opera House reopens [agenda.ge]
Tbilisi to reopen opera house that has survived tsars, Soviets and civil war. By Andrew North [theguardian.com]
Unforgettable First-Night Opera Performance to Open Renovated Tbilisi Opera House [georgiatoday.ge]
Tbilisi Opera reopens after five year maintenance closure [dfwatch.net]
Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theatre to officially reopen after long renovations [alvertjournal.com]