The Hermitage Garden was founded in 1892 in Karetny Ryad on the initiative of Yakov Shchukin. Planned and designed in the fashion of that time, the park with an open air theatre was opened in 1894 and was immediately a tremendous success with the public. In the summer of 1895 it was visited by over 70 thousand people. Shchukin invited the best companies, opera singers, orchestras and circus artistes to perform in his theatre. It was graced with performances by Sarah Bernhardt, Ernesto Rossi, Gustavo Salvini, Jules Devail's Italian opera company, leading string orchestras and brass bands.
The theatre was the place where the “overseas wonder” — the cinema was shown for the first time in Russia. Especially popular with the public were Prince Tsereteli's opera troupe featuring the famous singers Tsvetkova and Tartakova, operatic productions by Savva Mamontov's company, Fyodor Shalyapin's recitals. The spirit of innovation that reigned in the theatre attracted many talented artists and writers, such as Vrubel, Rerikh, Levitan, Vasnetsov, Balmont, Artsibashev and others.
In 1910 a modernist Mirror Theatre, designed by the architect Novikov, was inaugurated as a space dedicated to open air performances. The design of the open air theatre harmonized with the regular lay-out of the park, making a splendid ensemble.
The new bulding
In 1991 the Moscow government handed over the building of the Mirror Theatre to the Novaya Opera and this marked the beginning of a new life for the famous theatre in the Hermitage Garden. In place of the dilapidated old building, the Austrian company Lennex as the prime contractor and a number of Moscow building organizations erected a modern opera house. The chief architect of the project, Vladimir Kotelnikov, preserved the style of the original building and used some elements of the Mirror Theatre's decoration in the design of the new building's facade. The chandeliers and the curtain were made to designs by Eduard Kochergin, People's Artist of Russia.
The authors of the project did not confine themselves to the reconstruction of the architectural monument. The new theatre has an audience capacity of more than 700 and is well supplied with state-of-the-art lighting equipment and stage machinery, which make it possible to create productions with complicated stage effects. It also has a comfortable foyer and a hall, rooms for the artists, modern audio and video recording studios, a library and administrative services.
On 27 December 1997, the Novaya Opera celebrated the opening of its new building with a majestic gala concert consisting of fragments from all the productions of the opera house. The second part of the concert featured such world opera stars as Dmitry Khvorostovsky, Paata Burchuladze and soloists of New York's Ebony Opera. The opening ceremony was attended by the founders of the Novaya Opera Theatre, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Artistic Director Evgeny Kolobov, and also by the Russian President's wife, Mrs Naina Yeltsina.