“Eugene Onegin” performance in the frosty morning on the 4th of February in 1896 became the last one in the old City Theatre in Kiev. Unextinguished candle in a makeup room has ignited a fire in the whole building and ruined it in several hours. While Kiev Opera troupe has been performing on other stages for a couple of years, including even a circus one, Kiev public was dissatisfied with the situation and demanded building a new Opera House.
Architects from Ukraine, Russia, Germany, France and Italy took part in the announced competition for the best design of the Kiev Opera Theatre. A Project of the Russian architect Victor Schroter was claimed the winning one, and construction works were started soon after.
The theatre premises were opened in 1901. The solemn event started with a performance of cantata Kiev of Hartweld and Hlinka’s “Life for the Tsar”. Victor Schroter has not seen his creation completed having died half of a year before its opening. His plot implementation is the current building of the Shevchenko National Opera House of Ukraine, with its impressive neo-renaissance architecture. The pride of the newly opened theatre was the stage - designed by the latest standards and engineering techniques of that time, one of the biggest in Europe. Within next 80 years not much has changed in the building or needed renovation. Though some alterations have occurred. Kiev metropolitan Theognostus insisted on taking away from the main entrance a decoration bearing the Kiev coat of Arms with the city patron St.Michael the Archangel. The metropolitan has considered it improper having a saint image on such a sinful institution as the Opera House. After that the coat of arms was replaced by heraldic griffins with a lyre. The temple of Muses has avoided the Soviet reconstruction when it was planned to bring a more proletarian look to the Opera House appearance. The building has survived under the air bombing of the WWII. But eventually it needed renovation, which began in 1984 and lasted for 5 years. The Kiev theatre troupe started its 120th season in the newly renovated Opera House in 1988, maintaining it as one of the top three Opera Houses in Ukraine.
At various times within these walls performed Feodor Chaliapin, Boris Gmyrya, Zoya Gyaday, Natan Rakhlin and Stepan Turchak.
Anatoliy Shekera‘s choreography of Romeo and Juliet of 1971 is still on stage and has won a UNESCO medal for the best interpretation of Prokofiev’s music.