Janka Kupala National Theatre

Address: Minsk, Engelsa street, 7
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The solemn ceremony of laying of the foundation stone was held on June 26th, 1888 (old style). The building was architectured by Karol Kazłoŭski and K. Uviadzienski. The City Theater was opened on June 5th 1890, when an amateur performance after Octave Feuillet's The Sphynx was played on its stage. The first theatrical season started on September 9th 1890. At that day Mikałaj Paciechin's Talk Of The Town was performed.

On May 1st (April 23d), 1917 the actors of The First Belarusian Company of Drama and Comedy, created by director and actor Fłaryjan Ždanovič, performed Janka Kupała’s Paŭlinka and Eliza Ažeška's (Orzeszkowa) In Winter Night on the stage of the theatre.

This company would found future Belarusian State Theatre (BST), which was opened on September 14th, 1920 in the building on 7 Engels street, where the Minsk City Theatre was situated. This date is considered to be the date of the foundation of the Janka Kupała National Academic Theatre. The programme included a stage adaptation of Eliza Ažeška’s novel The Lynx performed by the Belarusian Company, Sholom-Aleikhem’s Folks performed by the Jewish company, and Anton Chekhov’s Wedding performed by the Russian company.

The actors of the First Belarusian Company of Drama and Theatre Ivan Ždanovič, G. Hryhonis, K. Sańnikov, Stefanija Staniuta formed the backbone of the new theatre. Soon this constellation of pioneers of the Janka Kupała Theatre was joined by U. Kryłovič, L. Ržeckaja, B. Płatonaŭ, V. Pola, V. Halina, U. Uładamarski, M. Zoraŭ, H. Hlebaŭ, S. Biryła, L. Rachlenka. This legendary generation was destined to become the first stars of Belarusian stage and founders of the national actor school.

In 1921 the government awarded the young theatre an academic title to enhance its prestige. In 1926 the BST became the BST-1, since Belarusian state theatres had been opened in Viciebsk (BST-2) and later in Homiel (BST-3).

Until 1927 the theatre structure included its own choir (directed by Uładzimir Teraŭski), ballet company (directed by Kanstancin Aleksiutovič), and symphony orchestra (conductors - Kuper, Subašaŭ, Michajlaŭ). All of them performed separately. In 1933 the National Opera and Ballet Theatre was opened. 

In 1940 the theatre was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour. The Great Patriotic War found the theatre in Odessa, so the company had to cancel their return travel to Minsk and evacuate to Tomsk instead. There the famous Paŭlinka, which would become the theatre's hallmark, was staged by Leŭ Litvinaŭ. This play, which is still being played at the theatre, was premiered on May 23d, 1944. The same year the theatre was named after eminent poet and dramatist Janka Kupała. In 1955 the theatre was honoured with the title “Academic”. 

The famous “thaw” which resonated with recovery of society and culture, put new life into the theatre. Barys Erin’s performances, as well as the striking performances by young new wave directors Barys Lucenka and Valery Rajeŭski, combined new approaches with the best theatrical traditions. 

In 1973 Valery Rajeŭski became the director general (later – artistic director) of the theatre. He would take this post until 2009.

Theatre’s fame was created by outstanding actor skill and talent of Stefanija Staniuta, Zdzislau Stoma, Halina Makarova, Pavieł Karmunin, Zinaida Bravarskaja, Mikałaj Jaromienka, Hienadź Harbuk, Hienadź Aŭsiańnikaŭ, Lilija Davidovič, Maryja Zaсharevič, Viktar Tarasaŭ, Aŭhust Miłavanaŭ, Halina Tałkačova, Valancin Biełachvościk and many others.

In 1993 the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus awarded status of National theatre to the Janka Kupała Theatre for high achievements in Belarusian theatre life.

In 2009 a winner of the State Prize of the Republic of Belarus Mikałaj Pinihin became an artistic director of the Janka Kupała National Academic Theatre.

In 2010-2013 the building was reconstructed and partially rebuilt. The rebuilding resulted in restoring of the historical look of the theatre, which it had in 1890 (in 1949 the theatre was reconstructed under the plan by Heorhi Zaborski, and in 1958 the main front was rebuilt under the plan by Abram Duchan, according to which side wings were added to the second floor, and a few auxiliary premises were replanned). The reconstruction also significantly improved mechanical facilities of the venue. 

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