of the Oil Baron Period
and Ballet Theater
circumstances surrounding the construction of the Opera
in 1910-1911 add to its intrigue and romance. It seems an Italian
opera singer visited Baku in 1909. Surprised that there was no
Opera House, she refused to perform.
The Opera and Ballet Theater after reconstruction. The original
theater was built in 1910.
the book, "The Bygone Days" written by Manaf Suleymanov,
now in his mid-80s, a certain oil baron by the name of Mailov
fell in love with her and offered to build an opera house in
Baku if she would return a year later.
But could such an ornate building be completed in a single year?
Oil baron and philanthropist Taghiyev, who had constructed
numerous buildings in Baku, had his doubts. And he challenged
Mailov, betting him that it could not be done. If Mailov succeeded,
Taghiyev promised to underwrite the costs of construction. Ten
months later the opera house was ready. But it's not clear whether
Taghiyev ever made good on his promise or whether, indeed, the
charming Italian vocalist ever returned to Baku. Nevertheless,
the Opera House stands and is central to much of the musical
activity in the city these days especially now that the Philharmonic
is under construction.
The music hall is lavishly decorated with ornate chandeliers.
It has three tiers of seats including a Presidential box. The
total costs for construction exceeded 250,000 rubles (approximately
$30,000), an enormous sum of money in those days.
In 1985, the building caught fire under suspicious circumstances
and was severely damaged. As the Opera and Ballet Theater was
such a focal point for the musical life of the city, the decision
was made to restore it. and thus restoration was made in 1987-1988.
(6.4) Winter 1998.
© Azerbaijan International 1998. All rights reserved.
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AI 6.4 (Winter 1998)
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