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Development of Azerbaijani musical theater in 1918-1920

28 May 1918 is one of the most significant dates in the historical calendar of Azerbaijan: the date of the proclamation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. This event opened new horizons for the development of theatrical art in the country.

The emergence of musical theater dates back to the beginning of the 20th century when the foundations of Azerbaijani professional music were laid. On 12 January 1908, the premiere of Uzeyir Hajibayov’s opera “Leyli and Majnun” was held in Baku, paving the way for the development of opera art in Azerbaijan. However, an amateur group led by young playwright A. Akhverdov had staged a scene called “Majnun on the Tomb of Leyli” from Fuzuli’s poem in Shusha in 1897-98 and a musical scene based on the poem of Alisher Navoi “Farhad and Shirin” was staged in Baku in 1902. These two events are considered to have started the history of Azerbaijani opera. As noted by U. Hajibayov, this is when the idea of creating an opera appeared in his mind.

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The premiere of “Leyli and Majnun” marked the start of the history of the first musical theater in the entire Muslim East. The creative path of the Azerbaijani musical theater turned out to be thorny. The founders of Azerbaijani opera art U. Hajibayov, Z. Hajibayov, H. Arablinsky, G. Sarabsky, M. Magomaev, M. Aliyev and many others, who ushered a new type of art for their people, were inspired by the confidence in the great progressive significance of the initiated cause, great love and support of the people.

Seal of the Azerbaijan State Theater. 1919, NMHA

Over the years, the theater’s repertoire was replenished with new musical works by U. Hajibayov and Z. Hajibayov. In 1910, U. Hajibayov composed the first operetta “Husband and Wife”, which initiated the development of a new genre of musical comedy in Azerbaijan. In the same year, the composer wrote his second operetta, “If not that one, then this one”. Both works were staged in Baku and were a huge success. However, the most remarkable musical comedy which became one of the pearls of Uzeyir Hajibayov’s career was “Arshin Mal Alan”, the premiere of which was held in Baku in October 1913. It was subsequently staged with great success in many cities around the world and has not lost its artistic value to this very day.

A theater troupe called a “Directorate of the Z. and U.Hajibayov brothers” was set up in Baku in 1916. It staged both dramatic and musical performances. The first performance the troupe staged at the theater of the Mayilov brothers was the opera by Zulfugar Hajibayov “Ashug-Garib” which featured H. Sarabsky and A. Agdamsky. The director of the play was Abbas Mirza Sharifzadeh. As “Caspian” newspaper wrote, the production was a great success: “The Mayilov theater had not seen so many people under its arches for a long time”.        Continue Reading