Moscow Children's Musical Theatre – where enthusiasm triumphs over adversity
Russia is world-famous for its ballets and operas, music and theatre. But they’re mainly the preserve of adults – so where do you take your children for a bit of high-brow cultural entertainment?
Fortunately, Moscow has the answer. Its Children's Musical Theatre is a unique and fascinating place for young and old alike. And the story behind its creation is possibly even more amazing than the place itself!
This acclaimed and unusual theatre was the brainchild of Natalia Sats, a woman who devoted her life to children's theatre as a producer and director. In 1918, when just fifteen years old, she oversaw the founding of the first theatre in Russia specifically for children, the Mossoviet Central Children's Theatre. She went on to play a huge part in developing a repertoire for children's theatre, not least by prompting Prokofiev to compose Peter and the Wolf.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing – far from it. As the wife of Marshal Tukhachevsky – one of the eight top Red Army commanders purged by Stalin in 1937 for supposedly collaborating with the Nazis – Sats was condemned to sixteen years in the gulag. She only returned to Moscow in the late 1950s, but fortunately, her enthusiasm for the theatre remained undimmed by her experience.
But it was never going to be easy. Her plans for an opera and ballet theatre were hampered by the lack of works composed for children and the reluctance of singers and dancers to commit to such a project. But fortunately, her energy and enthusiasm triumphed, and the theatre was founded in 1965, developing a strong repertoire from working closely with contemporary composers. Originally housed in a tiny concert hall, the theatre was eventually given a fitting home in its present location: a purpose-built space with two stages, the main one roughly equal in size to that in the Metropolitan Opera House, and almost as well equipped.
Sats' ambition was both to create new productions specifically aimed at a younger audience, and to present the classics in a way that made them accessible to children. The repertoire today reflects her plans and, alongside new versions of fairytales such as Puss in Boots, Snow White and The Frog Princess, there are also productions of 'adult' operas like Madame Butterfly and Evgeny Onegin. The company has an international reputation for the high quality of its performers, who are often younger singers and dancers on their way to greater things. The theatre makes every effort to create a welcoming atmosphere for younger children and, while it may not be that easy to get kids enthusiastic about opera and ballet, it's well worth the effort to catch one of the skilled and charming performances here.
You’ll find the theatre at 5, Prospekt Vernadskogo, near Universitet Metro Station (see website. And for all your travel and accommodation needs, you know where to go – RNTO!