Громадянської гордості є безцінним Володіння 24/10/2010Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
Tags: history, kiev, kyiv, Pyotr Stolypin, Taras Shevchenko National Opera House, travel, ukraine, urban, Viktor Shreter, walks, wandering, wooden church
Neatly arranged half-liter bottles stood along a concrete retaining wall patiently awaiting collection. An online guide had painted a portrait of happy Ukrainians drinking in city parks and leaving the remnants of their evening for the local homeless to cash in. Civic pride is a priceless possession, one which cannot be hung from a billboard.
Order where there should be shattered glass, but more curious was that this was a beer garden. A central bar distributed glasses to patrons who sat at shaded picnic tables radiating outward from the hub. Was the periphery populated by budget-conscious students soaking up an atmosphere beyond their reach or did bottles collect after the bar closed? Janice and I considered rewarding ourselves with a night amongst the locals later in the week.
Further along a street crowded by decaying buildings, metal doors braced open with mysterious signs inviting entry, was a less commercial patch of urban respite. Downtown commuters bisected manicured shrubbery with the regimentation of ants following chemical trails. By hugging trees we could pause to gaze up at a towering church of logs, the local variety of Slavic religious architecture. Time had been unkind, tearing at the foundation and causing rifts to emerge between planks. There was a freshness to the building, a glass covered window and railing along the observation deck to prevent lawsuits, which suggested ineptitude was as much to blame as seasons.
The Taras Shevchenko National Opera House of Ukraine does not suffer from weather or mean craftsmanship. It spans most of a city block, the rotunda entrance and classical wings unique among the surrounding mélange of Eastern Orthodox towers, pastel apartments and crumbling communist blocks. We had picked over the official tourist map, sponsored by escort services and massage parlors, and this was the closest attraction to our neighborhood Nescafe machine
Kyiv may be populated by knick-knack stands and run by the powerful consortium of chain restaurants which owns our hotel, but it also boasts an amazing array of theaters. Instruments produced by the Slavs traveled the world centuries ago and Ukrainian folk musicians toured the continent. Italian opera troupes found rapturous audiences here throughout the 19th century.
Since being indoctrinated into the Russian Empire the city had played third fiddle to Moscow and St. Petersburg. The central government would not grant permission for such large scale projects as opera houses until the jewels of Russia could count them as their own. When Kyiv was officially authorized an official troupe they performed in a civic auditorium until 1896 when an unattended candle reduced the walls to cinders.
The Duma held a design contest which was won by Russian architect Viktor Shreter, and the purpose-built opera house grew from the ashes of its predecessor. Problems were immediate. Religious authorities objected to the original crest of the Archangel Michael gracing a blasphemous structure and had to become griffins. Pyotr Stolypin, prime minister under Nicolas II, was assassinated during a performance. Post-revolutionary revisions were drafted in consideration of a more socialist aesthetic, but never carried out. The building took artillery and aerial bombardments during the second world war and then proceeded to rot through Soviet rule until massive reconstruction in the 80’s resurrected the institution.
Today the opera is festooned with the sort of banners Budweiser hangs from chainlink fences. They advertise future performances but may as well sell Twinkies. Around the corner sits a dry fountain collecting trash and packs of bored yahoos drawing swastikas on benches. We sat and stared at the brooding statue of some dead dignitary and wondered if the balustrades were ever witness to society soirées and public events or if the broad balconies sat useless and ignored.
Across the street is a monument of another kind. The communist blocs of Tarnów had nothing on the inner-city concrete hovel staring back, microwave windows peering down onto the finery and wealth of the national opera. Rusting air-conditioning units hung between stained curtains, packed so tightly together there didn’t seem room for walls to create even the illusion of privacy or space. Construction men surrounded the foundation chipping away at concrete with jackhammers and between the noise and the dust, between the decaying facade and the claustrophobia, it didn’t seem possible anyone could be living there.