Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater

Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater

 

(BDT; full name, M. Gorky Leningrad Academic Bolshoi Drama Theater), one of the first theaters established after the Great October Socialist Revolution. M. Gorky and M. F. Andreeva were deeply involved in organizing it, and A. A. Blok was its literary director. It opened in 1919 with a performance of Schiller’s Don Carlos.

Its organizers conceived of the BDT as a theater of heroic romanticism. The troupe was composed of prominent actors— Iu. M. Iur’ev, N. F. Monakhov, V. V. Maksimov, A. N. Lavrent’ev, and V. Ia. Sofronov; directors—B. M. Sushkevich and N. V. Petrov; and artists—M. V. Dobuzhinskii and A. N. Benois. During its first years, the BDT staged Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1919), King Lear (1920), and Julius Caesar (1921); The Robbers by Schiller (1919); Ruy Blas by Hugo (1921); and such comedies as Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, Servant of Two Masters by Goldoni, and Les Précieuses ridicules by Moliére (all in 1921).

In the mid-1920’s, works of Soviet dramaturgy appeared in the theater’s repertoire: Mutiny (1925) and The Break (1927) by Lavrenev, Moon on the Left by Bill’-Belotserkovskii (1928), Man With a Briefcase by Faiko (1928), and The Bedbug (1929) and The Bathhouse (1930) by Mayakovsky. With these works the BDT established itself as a theater of a consistently realistic orientation and brought fame to the actors A. I. Larikov, V. Ia. Sofronov, V. P. Politseimako, and O. G. Kaziko.

In the 1930’s, the BDT turned to the work of M. Gorky; its greatest achievements were productions of Smug Citizens (1937, directed by A. D. Dikii) and The Summer People (1939, directed by B. A. Babochkin). The theater convincingly staged N. F. Pogodin’s plays—for example, My Friend (1932), After the Ball (1934), The Aristocrats (1935), and the plays devoted to V. I. Lenin: Man With a Gun (1938) and Kremlin Chimes (1940).

In the 1940’s, The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov (1940) and King Lear by Shakespeare (1941) were staged. During the Great Patriotic War the theater was evacuated to the city of Kirov. After the war, the BDT was headed by L. S. Rudnik, N. S. Rashevskaia, I. S. Efremov, and K. P. Khokhlov. Plays staged included Under the Chestnut Trees of Prague (1946) and The Russian Question (1947) by Simonov, The .Dowerless Girl by Ostrovskii (1948), and Gorky’s Enemies (1948), Egor Bulychov and the Others, and Dostigaev and the Others.

G. A. Tovstonogov became director of the BDT in the mid-1950’s. The performances of the 1950’s and 1960’s were characterized by the increased tendency toward acute and tense clashes, vivid realistic form, and broad sociohistorical and socio-psychological conclusions. The most significant productions of this period were The Idiot (1957; based on the Dostoevsky novel), The Fox and the Vineyard by Figueiredo (1957), Gorky’s The Barbarians (1959) and Smug Citizens (1967; State Prize of the USSR, 1970), the documentary play The Truth! Nothing But the Truth! by D’Al’ (1967), and Henry IV by Shakespeare (1969). The name of M. Gorky was conferred upon the theater in 1932 and the academic appellation in 1964.

The troupe of the BDT in 1973 included People’s Artists of the USSR E. Z. Kopelian, E. A. Lebedev, and K. Iu. Lavrov; People’s Artists of the RSFSR L. I. Makarova, E. A. Popova, and V. I. Strzhel’chik; Honored Artists of the RSFSR A. V. Abramov, A. A. Andreev, O. V. Basilashvili, V. M. Medvedev, V. P. Kovel’, N. A. Ol’khina, P. P. Pankov, M. A. Prizvan-Sokolova, B. S. Ryzhukhin, N. N. Trofimov, Z. M. Sharko, and S. Iu. Iurskii; and Honored Artist of the Ukrainian SSR O. I. Borisov. The chief director (since 1956) is People’s Artist of the USSR G. A. Tovstonogov. The BDT was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor in 1971.

REFERENCE

Leningradskii gosudarstvennyi Bol’shoi Dramaticheskii teatr imeni M. Gor’kogo 1919–1954. Leningrad, 1954.

S. L. TSIMBAL

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