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Svobody Avenue in Lviv is a picturesque tree-lined boulevard crowned by the majestic Lviv Opera and Ballet Theater named after Solomiya Krushelnytska . This architectural landmark which adorns the city with its beauty holds a special place among theatrical structures in Ukraine, and rivals the most respected theaters in all of Europe.

By the late 19th century, it was determined that Lviv was in need of a theater suitable for opera, ballet and musical comedy performances. In 1895 a competition was announced for the best design of a big municipal theater. The first prize was awarded to a local architect named Z. Gorgolewski (1845-1903), who at that time was the head-master of the Lviv Higher Technical School.

Gorgolewskyy proposed that the Theater be constructed atop a marshy area through which the Poltava River flowed. The choice of this site was surprising, but the architect successfully diverted the course of the river by constructing special containers to guide the overflow. On June 5, 1896, the groundbreaking was initiated. It was the first time in Europe that solid concrete slabs were used in laying a foundation.

The building was erected in a classical style with forms and details characteristic of Renaissance and baroque architecture. The exterior decor adds a solemn quality to the structure. From all angles the building displays a high level of artistic taste and harmonic proportions.

The Theater's interior is striking in its exquisite splendour. It is lavishly decorated with multi-colored marble, ornamental paintings, moldings, sculptures and gilding. The numerous decorative reliefs, capitals, masks and other ornamentation (except for the statues) were executed by E. Pliszewski.The entrance-hall showcases a majestic marble staircase leading to the upper circle. The stately portal is crowned with the allegorical figures of Tragedy and Comedy (sculptor P. Wijtowicz). Beneath them is a bas-relief portrait of architect Z. Gorgolewski, with the years 1897—1900 engraved designating the period of the Theater's construction.

The mirror hall on the first floor is another splendid example of the Theater’s magnificence. This salon was decorated under the guidance of the painter S. Dembicki. The pictorial designs above the mirrors (painter M. Harasymowicz) depict the Four Seasons personified by a boy with various attributes: with flowers (Spring), with a fife (Summer), with vegetables amid chrysanthemums (Autumn), near a bonfire (Winter).

The lyre-shaped auditorium (22.5 by 18.5 metres) consists of stalls, the dress circle, the upper circle and the gallery. Its decorative work was guided by S. Reychan, who painted the "Triumh of Fame" and the narrow plafond over the orchestra pit. A group of painters executed the huge plafond over the hall with nine allegoric figures: Grace, Music, Dance, Critique, Drama, Inspiration, Bacchante (with a tambourine), Innocence (in a lilac garment), Illusion and Truth (with a looking-glass). Suspended from the centre of the plafond is the luxurious chandelier designed by Z. Gorgolewski. And above the stage is the sculptural group "The Genius with an Angel" executed by P. Wijtowicz.

   

Lviv's opera history spans more than two centuries. The town's first professional theater at the beginning of the 19th century witnessed the operas of W. A. Mozart, A. Salieri, G. Paisiello, A. Stefani and others. The Grand Municipal Theater (the original name of the present Opera Theater) was inaugurated on October 4, 1900.

At different times the Theater's stage was host to such famous singers as Alexander Mishuga, Salomea Krushelnitskaya, Modest Mentsinsky, Eugene Gushalevich, Yanina Korolewich-Vaidova, Helena Zboinska-Ruszkowska, Marcelina Sembrich-Kochaiiska, Ada Sarri, Mattia Battistini, Gemma Bellincioni, Jan Kiepura, Adam Didur, as well as celebrated conductors: Filippo Brunette, Victor Podesti, Antonio Ribera.

Ballet productions have included classics such as Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, and The Nutcracker among others.

In addition to operas, operettas, and ballets, dramatic pieces were shown on the Theater's stage, in particular the plays by N. Gogol, A. Chekhov, M. Gorky, A. Ostrovsky, stage adaptations of L. Tolstoy's and F. Dostoyevsky's works. In 1906 among the cast in the performances of "Father's Tale" by I. Karpenko-Kary, "Black Sea Sailors" by N. Lysenko, "The Dnipro Kozak across the Danube" by S. Gulak-Artemovsky were Maria Zankovetskaya, Nikolai Sadovsky, Ivan and Yekaterina Rubchaks, Sophia and Joseph Stadniks.

The Theater marked its centennial in the year 2000. That same year, the theater was rededicated in the name of reknowned Ukrainian opera singer Solomiia Krushelnyts'ka. It had previously been named for Ivan Franko (a Ukrainian poet with socialist inclinations), a carryover from Soviet times.

 

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