Georgian theatre has a long history; its
oldest national form was the "Sakhioba" (extant from the 3rd century BC
to the 17th century AD). The Georgian National Theatre was founded in
1791 in Tbilisi, by the writer, dramatist and diplomat Giorgi
Avalishvili (1769-1850). In the twentieth century the Tbilisi-based
Rustaveli Theater has been acclaimed internationally for its
performances (in Georgian) of the works of William Shakespeare and
German dramatist Bertolt Brecht.
The first cinema in Georgia was established in Tbilisi on November 16,
1896. The first Georgian cinema documentary ("Journey of Akaki Tsereteli
in Racha-Lechkhumi") was shot in 1912 by Vasil Amashukeli (1886-1977),
while the first Georgian feature film ("Kristine") was shot in 1916 by
Alexandre Tsutsunava (1881-1955). In the postwar era (The Second World
War), Georgian filmmaking and theater developed an outstanding
reputation in the Soviet Union. Several Georgian filmmakers achieved
international recognition in this period.
It must be mentioned that the firs
theatre was founded in Georgia in the town of Gori in the village of
Uplistsikhe. Uplistsikhe is the oldest cave town in Georgia. Back in the
second millennium BC it was a flourishing city situated on the great
east-west trade route, the Silk Road. Visitors can still walk among the
ancient streets, rock-carved theatre, royal halls and pharmacy, while
the remains of granaries and large clay wine vessels give us some clue
as to the daily life of the inhabitants.
The building of Rustaveli National
Theatre ("Artistic Society") was designed by Korneli Tatishev, Engineer
of the Province, and Alexander Shimkevich, Tbilisi Municipal Architect.
The construction was undertaken by Isai Pitoev and Co Trading House. The
foundation of the building was started on 18 February 1998. On 7
February 1901 the Newspaper "Iveria" wrote "On February 6 at 2 p.m. the
building of the Artistic Society on the Golovin Avenue was blessed".
Shimkevich and Tatishev used the forms and motives of late Baroque style
and ornaments of Rococo. At first the building functioned as a club for
the Artistic Society and was used for different purposes. The audience
hall was on the first floor and the concert all, along with the Club
premises, was on the second. The basement housed a restaurant, "Anona"
which was later transformed into a café-restaurant "Kimerioni" of "Blue
Horns" (Union of Georgian modernist poets). With a request from the
Modernist "Blue Horns" poets, the decoration of the basement walls was
initiated by a famous theatre designer Sergei Sudeikin. Celebrated
artists Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze, Kirile Zdanevich and Zigmund
(Ziga) Valishevski were working together with him. They were later
joined by Mose and Irakli Toidze – equally important names in Georgian
culture. Their masterpieces were brutally whitewashed in the Soviet
period, and, unfortunately, the restoration of only small part became
Under the auspices of Mikheil
Vorontsovi, the Old Opera Theatre was built on April 15, 1847, and took
four years to complete construction. Italian architect, Antonio Skudieri,
designed the theater which became the first opera theatre in the entire
South Caucasus region large enough to house a maximum of 800 people. The
Old Opera was originally located in Freedom ("Tavisufleba") Square. In
1896, however, a new opera theatre was built on Rustaveli Avenue
(formally called Golovini Ave.) designed by Shreteri. Known as the
"Treasury Theatre", the new opera boasted a viewer capacity of 1,200
people and is currently a functioning opera theatre in Tbilisi today.
The Treasury Theatre opened its doors
to the public on November 3, 1896 with an opera by Mikhain Glinka
entitled, "Ivan Susanini". Built in a Mauritanian style, oriental
features such as: a cross vault and ogive, narrow columns, and
decorative turret and lace ornaments, adorn the building. The front of
entrance opens to a terrace with a Mauritanian vaulted ceiling.
A complex reconstruction of the building was undertaken in 1982-1987.
Architect Otar Nakhutsrishvili supervised the restoration works, and the
façade of the Theatre regained its modern look. With the supervision of
an artist Amiran Gogoladze, the "Kimerioni" frescoes were also
Today the Theatre has three stages
technically equipped to modern standards – Main Stage (783 places),
Minor Stage (300 places) and Experimental Stage (182 places). The
Theatre is also proud of its facilities for conferences and other events
– Large Ball Room, Minor Foyer and Small Guest Room.
On 9 June 1949 fire brought the
building to ashes. Only the main façade facing the RustaveliAvenue
survived. The building was restored in a year according to the photos.
The history of Georgian theatre is
impossible to imagine without Marjanishvili State Drama Theatre. The
theatre was founded in 1928 in the city of Kutaisi by Kote Marjanishvili,
a great director and reformer of the Georgian theatre. Following
Marjanishvili's death in 1933, the theatre was named after him.
Georgian, antique, classical and modern drama are all equally at home on
the Marjanishvili stage. Many of its productions, although certainly
unique, are built solidly on the Georgian theatrical tradition.
The Marjanishvili Theatre was invited
to perform abroad as soon as the opportunity arrived. Although the
successful foreign tours are without doubt significant to the cultural
life of the nation, the priority audience for the Marjanishvili Theatre
is the Georgian audience.