Well, I think we all know now that I do love travelling to Azerbaijan. Not many places I have been to more than once with so much in the world to do and see. But, I fell in love with the country and the people on my first brief visit here so third time it was. Still lots to see and do. Of course, before heading into a new district of the country there is always time for a day or two in Baku. So much culture, so much heritage. New things to see around every corner. It is not too far from the shopping district that this remarkable looking building sits, with historic intrigue, tempting you to find out more. The Baku Opera and Ballet Theatre…..
As I have told before, Azerbaijan was the first majority muslim country to have opera and theatre and this building is a remarkable example of their love of opera combined with early 2oth century architecture and quite possibly a very daring bet..
As I research the same story gets told the same as that of my great colleague in Azerbaijan. In 1910 the great Russian soprano Antonina Nezhdanova visited to perform in Baku. At that time she was performing in casinos and clubs there and naturally refused a return visit. One man, a Russian oil magnate, Daniel Mailov of the Mailov brothers asked her if she would return in exactly 12 months if a proper opera house was erected in her honour.
So he set about what at that time was a considerable task in those days. Such a grand building? Inside and out? In a year? The local Azeri industrialist Zeynalabdin Taghiyev thought no chance, and bet that he would pay for it if it could be done…… it was built and ready in 10 months apparently and he paid for it all, a whopping quarter of a million rubles… yes in 1911.
Sure enough, Antonina came back in 2011 to become the first opera singer to perform in the building. Used by varying organisations and has been undergoing restoration over the years.
Baku truly is a city of treasures…