OPENING OF ASTANA OPERA HOUSE
Astana, June 28: Kazakhstan’s stunning new opera house, “Astana Opera”, was opened by President Nazarbayev on June 21, and was immediately rated as being on a par with the world’s leading opera houses, such as La Scala in Milan, Covent Garden in London or the Bolshoi in Moscow. The impressive building, based on Greco-Roman principles and decorated throughout in the national style of Kazakhstan, represents an international collaboration, being the work of some of the world’s finest architects and designers from Albania, Italy, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Russia and Switzerland.The building covers a territory of 64,000sq.m., of which 800sq.m. is taken up by the main stage in the great opera hall. This has seating for an audience of 1,250 and the orchestra pit, constructed on three tiers, can hold 120 musicians.
Everything in this hall has been installed with acoustics in mind: the parquet fl ooring is made from beech wood and birch; the cherry panelling inlaid with brass; even the seating, mirrors and decorative moldings fi t the acoustics of the hall. Everything which can refl ect or absorb sound has been taken into consideration. Even the angle of tilt or rotation of the seating has been calculated to maximize the acoustics.
As well as the main hall, there are two side – or “pocket” – stages, which can also be used to hold scenery during a performance on the main stage. This helps with smooth scene changes and the creation of a seamless production. The building houses a further eleven halls, which can be used either as rehearsal rooms or to stage smaller productions; the chamber hall, for example, can seat an audience of 250.
The opera house has been decorated throughout using Sicilian marble, gold leaf and only the finest wood. The ceilings have been hand-painted by Italian craftsmen, using traditional color combinations in pastel tones.
In his speech opening the opera house, President Nazarbayev described it as, “the largest cathedral of culture in Central Asia”. He added that the period of independence has seen the genuine Renaissance of Kazakhstani culture. There are now 41 organizations at the republican level and 7,000 at the local level engaged in cultural activity. Some 75,000 people work in this sector. Last year alone the state spent over KZT 35.5bn on culture. The President made clear the place he sees for the culture of Kazakhstan: “Today the culture of Kazakhstan should become a part of global cultural heritage. This should encompass all the fields of art: music, theatre, cinema, literature and painting.”
Astana Opera plans to stage two major ballets and two operas each year, as well as smaller productions in the side halls of thetheatre. Tickets should be within reach of opera lovers throughout society, ranging in price from eight to 100 US dollars. All opera productions will be put on in their original language. For the very fi rst performance in the Astana Opera, the opera “Birzhan andSara” was chosen, a classic Kazakh tragic love story. The offi cial world premiere of the opera house will take place on October 21 2013, with the staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s, “Attila”.