The oldest not only in Irkutsk, but throughout Eastern Siberia is the Irkutsk Academic Drama Theater named after N.P. Okhlopkov – the founder of the creative movement and development of the Irkutsk region – where the best cultural traditions of the national theatre school are preserved and multiplied.
The theatrical season 2019-2020 will be its jubilee – 170 years. Immediately after the opening of the new theatre building in 1897, designed by Viktor Schroeter, the capital press was quick to name the Irkutsk Melpomene Temple the best in Eastern Siberia.
Since its foundation in 1850, the theatre has been housed in wooden buildings that have been destroyed by fire several times. And so, in 1897, the troupe moved to a stone building, erected according to the traditional scheme of a “tiered theatre” by the project of the chief architect of the Directorate of the Imperial Theatres Viktor Schroeter (the author of the St. Petersburg Mariinsky: The State Academic Mariinsky Theatre is an opera and ballet theatre in St. Petersburg, one of leading musical theatres in Russia and around the world).
The financing of the work and the construction itself went under the tireless control and patronage of the Governor Alexander Goremykin. The new theatre amazed not only with its rich decoration but also with excellent acoustics of the auditorium. It was built in three years, and the theatre has stood to this day, rightfully considered a masterpiece of Russian architecture of the 19th century, “… the kind of which you will not find from the Urals to the Far East.”
From time to time, the building was renovated, re-equipped, outdated systems were replaced with new ones: kerosene lighting gave way to electric lighting, the roof was re-covered several times, pipes and sewers were replaced.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a third floor was built over the side lodges around the auditorium, finishing and restoration work was carried out in the auditorium, and the stage turntable was electrified.
But the building deteriorated more and more from year to year and there was an acute shortage of space for staff. But only by the beginning of 1999, almost all construction and restoration work was completed and the renovated theater opened its doors to the Irkutsk audience.
The walls of the theatre remember such masters of the national stage as Dmitry Karamazov – one of the best Hamlets of Tsarist Russia, Pavel Orlenev – the first performer of the role of Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich, Konstantin Varlamov – Honored Artist of the Imperial Theaters, the great Vera Komissarzhevskaya, Alexandra Yablochkina, Elena Gogoleva.
For its great contribution to the development of domestic theatrical art and outstanding artistic achievements on August 31, 1999, by the order of the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, the theatre was awarded the title of “Academic”.
Every evening, the two auditoriums of the Main and Chamber stages are filled with spectators. The theatre attracts specialists from the capital city for cooperation. People’s artists of the USSR Nikolai Okhlopkov and Leonid Gaidai began their creative career here and such outstanding actors as Leonid Bronevoy, Yuri Itskov, Natalya Kalyakanova, Anatoly Basin worked here too. It was on the stage of the Irkutsk drama thetre, with the direct participation of the author, that the play by our countryman – the great playwright of our time Alexander Vampilov “The Elder Son” was first staged, along with his other works later on. A long creative friendship linked the Okhlopkovites with the classic of Russian prose Valentin Rasputin. Performances based on his novellas “Money for Maria”, “Live and Remember”, “Farewell to Matera”, “The Last Term” made it into the gold portfolio of the Irkutsk theatrical chronicle.
The Irkutsk drama theatre constantly pleases fellow countrymen with new premieres, enjoys the well-deserved love of the Irkutsk people and tickets to the theatre must be bought in advance, a month before the performance, before they’re sold out.
Nikolai Pavlovich Okhlopkov (1900 – 1967) was born in Irkutsk and studied in the Siberian cadet corps.
From the age of 17, he began to work in the Irkutsk Drama Theater, first as a stage worker, a furniture maker-decorator and then as an actor.
Under the slogan “Youth, courage, experiment”, together with his friends, he organized his own theater. In Irkutsk, on Tikhvin Square (now Kirov Square). In 1922, on a Komsomol ticket, he left for Moscow, entered GITIS, and held leading positions in Moscow theaters.
N.P. Okhlopkov was an active public figure: a professor at GITIS, a corresponding member of the Berlin Academy of Arts, a member of the collegium of the Ministry of Culture. He was awarded the USSR State Prize six times. He was awarded the Order of Lenin, three Orders of the Red Banner of Labor, the Order of the Red Star and medals. Nikolai Pavlovich starred in several films: “Lenin in October”, “Alexander Nevsky”, “The Story of a Real Man”. In 1948 N.P. Okhlopkov was awarded the honorary title of People’s Artist of the USSR.
The whole life of Nikolai Pavlovich was connected with the stage. Having left Irkutsk, he did not break off relations with his hometown and contributed whatever assistance to the Irkutsk Drama Theater. By the decree of the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR of November 2, 1967, the Irkutsk Drama Theater was named after Nikolai Pavlovich Okhlopkov
Translate Anastasija Olesova, The University of Manchester , 3rd year, BA (Hons) Politics and Russian