The connection of generations
4/2022

A new, unusual for opera houses, postmodern building of the Kharkiv Opera and Ballet Theatre (KhNAOBT named after M.V. Lysenko) is known to all Kharkiv residents of my generation, previous and younger.
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The theatre, ie State Metropolitan Opera (since 1931 it was called the Kharkiv Opera and Ballet Theater), was located in an old 18th-century building at a different address. And since 1991-1992 it opened its seasons in a new and majestic building in the heart of the city.

It was in the 1990s that teachers regularly took us, students of a young country that had recently gained independence, to opera and ballet performances.

My grandmother was then young, elegant, wearing pearls and working at a design institute. She provided cultural education for grandchildren, took us to the theaters, while parents tried to arrange life under new conditions. I remember how she proudly told me during a visit to the Opera House that she was engaged in design and construction. 

Urban and postmodern

Now, after the Russian invasion and the daily pain of not only the terrible destruction of the lives of millions of people, but also the destruction of architectural monuments in cities, I asked my grandmother again about her involvement in the fate of our theater. I said: "I want to remember EVERYTHING." And I asked her to tell in detail. 

I have always admired the building and planning of the theater. The massive and spacious building, which stands on several pillars, is contrasting and radically different from classical historical opera houses. It is urban and monumental, with complex plasticity of the entrance foyers, decorated in front of the entrance with a decorative sculpture dedicated to the composer M.V. Lysenko, and modern light fountains. The entrance area and the area around KhNAOBT is one of the favorite places for young people, skateboarders and rollerbladers. 

The Theater has countless corridors, several floors, two halls and nooks. These rooms for me still remain a fabulous maze. During its existence, the building has become a home for: publishing houses, shops, theaters, cafes, festivals, fairs, cinemas etc. On different levels of the theater were hospitably located not only many institutions, but also grew up my generation. 

The life is a necklace and every day is a pearl

In primary school we were taken by teachers to performances, joining the theatrical culture. Later, as we were in high school, we ran away from performances and wandered through these mazes, explored nooks, played hide-and-seek, and burst out laughing, trying not to catch the eye of theater workers. During adolescence, in the darkest and farthest corners of the building, the first hugs and kisses took place… Later, cheap red wine in plastic cups was tasted in these places.

In the future, this native and cozy theater became for my husband and me a synonym for such long-awaited concerts and performances, which we regularly attended. 

And recently, my teenage son began his adulthood there, joining the skater community. It was around the Opera House that a long-standing and stable company of skaters constantly honed their skills and tricks on skateboards. And I had the pleasure of watching his stories and the stories of his friends, taking a breath when he jumped over a few steps.

Construction took many years

On March 12, powerful explosions in neighboring buildings partially destroyed the Theater building. The roof was on fire, the windows and doors were shattered. 

"I want to remember EVERYTHING!", I wrote to my grandmother. She was also forced to flee deep into the country after two weeks in the area of massive bombing and shelling. My grandmother is 84 years old now, but she is beautiful, smart and courageous. She uses Viber and Facebook.

She replied: "Our department took part in ancillary construction work in the small hall. Our tools were a shovel, a stretcher, a wheelbarrow. Light building works. It was around the end of the 70's. The construction of the Opera House took many years. There were a lot of alterations. We were sent to these works periodically.

As for designing, my participation was minimal. In general, our Opera House was designed by the Kyiv Institute. GIPROKOKS was not involved in the joint designing. Only if necessary we were asked to make adjustments in some small drawings. I directly adjusted the small diagrams of the caissons under the ceiling above the porch at the entrance to the theatre. It was there, under them, that I boasted to you."

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These are the most beautiful caissons for me. Under this decor on the ceiling of the theatre porch, I always remember how my grandmother took me to performances as a child. 

We will remember everything: every building, every story, and the destiny of our city.

Author: Mariia Kotenko, resident of Kharkiv (for Teamwise)

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