Unforgettable First-Night Opera Performance Opens Renovated Tbilisi Opera House

After 6 years’ break, the wonderful building of the Z, Paliashvili Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theatre opened on the 30th of January with ‘Abesalom and Eteri’ composed by Paliashvili himself. The play is the Georgian analogue of ‘Tristan and Izolda’ and ‘Vis and Ramin’, and is thus a nationally decided international work about the eternal values of Mankind. The opera, in three acts (originally four but with the latest version cut down on the decision of the director), is based on the epic ‘Eteriani,’ conveying social antagonism – the feelings of the desperately in love couple are opposed by Abesalom’s father – a King who refuses his daughter Eteri permission to marry a peasant. Love conquers, of course, but tragedy is the fate to befall them.

With the support of the Georgian Ministry of Culture, the curtain of great Georgian painter Sergo Kobuladze was reproduced and hung in preparation. The moment of it's falling was met by tumultuous applause. The simple but bold curved scenes (principle designer- Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili) were most effective- accents of gold reminiscent of the Gold Fund at the National Museum, projections of trees symbollic of Eteri's forest switching to gold for Abesalom's castle and the wedding feast, then icy blue for Murman's ice palace. Simple yet stunning. The costumes, also designed by Meskhishvili, reminded one of Queen Tamar's dress, as shown in the Vadzia fresco- blocks of bright color on pale pastels, set off by sparkling gold and jewels.  

“After 42 years, the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre has returned its main business card – by hanging the replica of Kobuladze’s curtain on December 12, it has been reborn,” Mikheil Giorgadze, Minister of Culture and Monuments Protection said, commenting exclusively for GEORGIA TODAY. “A number of events were dedicated to the opening of the Opera house, considering the great significance of it, including a centennial book of its history, a show-case of opera costumes, screening of documentaries and more. I thank the sponsors and am sure that a lot of high level performances will take place here, in consideration of the theatre’s history and high professionals.”

The ‘Abesalom and Eteri’ opera spectacle has two casts. GEORGIA TODAY had the honor to meet the first cast members whose performance took place on the 30th – an ‘invitation only’ event - and on the 2nd of February. The second cast will sing on the 31st of January and 21st of February.

Lado Ataneli, Baritone, one of the most sought-after interpreters of Verdi and Puccini, plays the part of Murman, who is in love with Eteri and who sells his spirit to the devil (personified by a numer of women in black) to separate her from her sweetheart Abesalom. Ataneli’s international career began in 1996. Since then, he has regularly appeared in such roles as Scarpia, Sharpless, Tonio, Alfio, Gerard, Jago, Giorgio Germont, Jack Rance, Don Carlo Vargas, Renato, Simone Boccanegra, Amonasro, Rigoletto and Conte di Luna at the Vienna State Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Hamburg State Opera, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and the most important Italian opera houses. He is equally at home on stages in Zurich, Paris, London, Tokyo, New York, to name only a few. “I am singing the negative part of Murman, trying to give it some good emotions. He was also a man who loved Eteri, however, he surpassed the limits and the evil [he chose] has no justification,” Mr. Ataneli told GEORGIA TODAY. “My debut was in 1993 in this theatre. So, after 23 years, this will be the most beautiful day for us. I wish our theatre a high level of economic development – this is the only thing it lacks - to be able to host a large variety of repertoires. In terms of the building’s beauty, technical side, and cast, it will have no problem.”

Tamar Iveri, marvellously taking on the role of Eteri, is a world-famous Georgian female singer. She made her debut in December 2011 at the La Scala in Milan as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni under Daniel Barenboim. She has since performed with the Vienna State Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Opera Bastille, and at the Salzburg Festival. A soprano, she has sung the roles of Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte, Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito, Elettra in Idomeneo, Elisabetta in Don Carlos, Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, Desdemona in Otello Otello, Mimì in La Boheme, and Tatyana in Eugene Onegin. “This role is a debut for me though I have performed on this Opera stage before. My father, Avtandil Javakhishvili, is an opera Baritone singer. Therefore, I was practically raised here. I was only 4 years old when he brought me here and enlisted me in the children’s choir of the opera ‘Carmen.’ The great Odissey Dimitryadi was conducting then. It was my baptism into the opera world and on our own opera stage,” Iveri told us. “I’m very happy that at last my serious appearance on the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre stage will occur. I’m also anxious that my Georgian colleagues feel the same, as when you are overseas you are not obliged to anyone, yet here, in our homeland, our friends, parents, relatives, and teachers are attending our concert. I’ll come back to Tbilisi with pleasure if there is an appropriate program for me.”

Temur Gugushvili, singing Abesalom’s part, also spoke to GEORGIA TODAY.

“I was Abesalom in a previous staging of Gizo Jordania. The painter is the same, too – our great artist Gogi Alexi-Meskhishvili. This time round, though, the colors are pleasantly lighter. Thanks to our sponsors, the Georgian opera now has one of the best stages in the world.”

For Gizo Jordania, outstanding drama director, this is the fourth version of this particular opera art piece after his respective shows in Germany, Batumi and Tbilisi. GEORGIA TODAY asked him about the novelties he had brought to it this time. “My aim was to go deeper into the partitura of Paliashvili. This is an international motif about good and evil, saying that you should love others. These are biblical themes and therefore surpass national boundaries. The main aim is that nations should unite and act in kindness. This unreachable aim can be achieved at least for two hours, and exactly at the theatre.”

Davit Kintsurashvili, artistic director, told us: “We will have a lot of new versions of performances: Abesalom and Eteri will be followed by Verdi’s Atila, Meri Davitashvili’s Idler, George Biset’s Carmen, Haydn’s Creation, Leoncavallo’s Clowns, and others. We will offer opera lovers oratorios as well as gala concerts.”

Congratulations to all who will witness the brilliant results of the work of Gizo Jordania, distinguished director; Gogi Alexi-Meskhishvili, master painter; Iliko Sukhishvili, leader of the world-famous Sukhishvili National Ballet; well-known conductor Zaza Azmaiparashvili; and all the talent to be conveyed in the performance of the aforementioned sparkling opera stars, besides whom Tea Demurishvili, Gocha Datusani, Irina Alexidze and many other wonderful voices will welcome us in through the open doors of the Tbilisi Opera House once more.

Maka Lomadze


Photo: Zura Balanchivadze, facebook

31 January 2016 10:48