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Music in the Hermitage Theatre. 1786 - 1796
15 February 2006 - 1 March 2006

The exhibition in the Foyer of the Hermitage Theatre is dedicated to the 220th anniversary of the building's creation. The works by Giacomo Quarenghi, Francesco Gradizzi, Pietro Gonzaga, the engraved portraits of Catherine the Great and creator of the theatre Giacomo Quarenghi as well as of the composers whose works were heard in this hall, all allow the visitor to gain an idea of how the building of the Hermitage Theatre was planned, how it looked in the beginning of its existence, what is remarkable stage decorations were like.

The choice of the name for this exhibition - Music in the Hermitage Theatre. 1786 - 1796 - is not accidental. "Music for the eyes" is how the artist Pietro Gonzaga (1751-1831) called the magical milieu which the splendid decorations of the Hermitage Theatre created in the first instance. It was built at the behest of the Empress to be a court theatre intended for a narrow circle of select guests. It bore a closed character, but at the same time existed alongside the state and municipal theatres and headed the theatrical life of the capital. This stage was intended for magnificent shows, for spectacles which were accompanied by music and ballet with stage effects and frequent change of luxurious decorations.

The exhibition puts on display sketches of decorations made by Francesco Gradizzi (1729-1793) done in the traditions of the Baroque and those made by Pietro Gonzaga, who possessed amazing virtuosity in his masterful execution. Their style wonderfully suited the image of the theatre created by Quarenghi. Pietro Gonzaga advanced an idea that was completely new for the age, namely the equal value of emotional effects of music and decoration. He believed that "the general view of a stage on which action is taking place could by itself become expressive and elevate, prepare, accompany and strengthen the feelings aroused by poetry and pantomime." Contemporaries commented on Gonzaga's decorations, considering them to be of "rare perfection." He also did the very first depiction of the Hermitage Theatre - a sketch for a curtain with its drawing on it.

The architectural designs of Giacomo Quarenghi (1744 - 1817) occupy a special place in the exhibition. Quarenghi was chosen as architect of the project to build a "superb" theatre "at the edge of the Hermitage" by Catherine the Great, who highly valued him. The look of the theatre is imbued with Antique motifs and the ideas of Palladio and Vignola. The creator himself considered his new and favorite work to be a professional success. The exhibition shows the album entitled Théâtres de l'Ermitage de Sa Majeste l'Impératrice de toutes les Russies, which was dedicated to the Empress and contains engravings modeled on original designs by Quarenghi. The album was published in 1787, when the theatre building was not yet completed.

Alongside the works of graphic art, the exhibition presents scores from the music library of Empress Elizaveta Alekseevna (the spouse of Alexander I), among which we find works by Mozart, Sarti, and Paisiello. All of these composers except Mozart worked in St Petersburg and at various times occupied the post of court maestro di cappello.

The 220th anniversary of the Hermitage Theatre is the first "round" date that it is celebrating. At the time of its 200th anniversary the Theatre was in scaffolding. A reconstruction of the theatre which was carried out in the course of major repair work has made it possible to arrange grand spectacles on the stage and the old theatre has acquired a new life.

 

 


Stage-set Design: Temple with a Columned, Rotunda with Statues of Philosophers
Pietro di Gottardo Gonzaga
Larger view


Portrait of Empress Catherine II
Gavriil I. Skorodumov
Larger view


Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Anonymous
Larger view


Palace interior in Baroque taste. Stage design.
Pietro di Gottardo Gonzaga
Larger view


Scene "Hell". Stage design.
Pietro di Gottardo Gonzaga
Larger view


Portrait of Empress Elizaveta Alexeyevna
Charles Turner
Larger view


View of a sity with bridge and equestrian statue. Pietro di Gottardo Gonzaga
Larger view


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