Kharkiv State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Mykola Lysenko
Kharkiv State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Mykola Lysenko
Kharkiv Kharkiv State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Mykola Lysenko

One of the oldest musical theaters and the first permanent opera house of Ukraine. Its history dates back to the end of the 18th century.

Kharkiv region
Official status:
Not registered as monument
Date of destruction:
March 2022

Before March 12, 2022. Photo: @sovietbrut

‘Aircraft carrier’, ‘city of masters’ or simply ‘KHNATOB’ (abbreviation of the first letters of the full name in Ukrainian) is how Kharkiv citizens call one of the oldest musical theatres and the country’s first stationary opera house. Its history dates back to the end of the 18th century. However, Kharkiv Musical Theatre gained its own building between 1884–1885. After the Bolsheviks seized power in Ukraine and relocated the capital to Kharkiv, the theatre became the Ukrainian State Capital Opera in 1925.
Numerous Ukrainian and international operas have been staged there: ‘Taras Bulba’ and ‘Natalka Poltavka’ by Mykola Lysenko, ‘The Golden Hoop’ by Borys Liatoshynskyi, ‘The Jewels of the Madonna’ by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, ‘Princess Turandot’ by Giacomo Puccini, ‘Boris Godunov’ by Modest Mussorgsky, ‘Carmen’ by Georges Bizet. Ballets such as ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, ‘La Bayadère’ by Ludwig Minkus, ‘The Rite of Spring’ by Igor Stravinsky, and many others were also staged there.
Bold experiments were carried out here. For example, in the ballet ‘Mr. Kanovskyi’ by Mykhailo Verykivskyi, the ballet master Vasyl Lytvynenko combined classical ballet with Ukrainian folk dance elements for the first time.

After March 12, 2022. Photo:

In 1991, a new postmodern building for the Kharkiv Opera and Ballet Theatre was erected. It took 30 years to build. The two upper floors resemble a huge overhanging slab, which is combined with the complex plasticity of the lower floors (the lobbies and the foyer). The building contains two halls for 1,500 and 400 spectators, and its premises cover an area of more than 7 hectares. All of this is supported by six pillars measuring 3×6 metres each, covered by hundred-metre long metal beams weighing 100 tonnes each.
Kharkiv Opera and Ballet Theatre has united almost a thousand creative professionals and technical staff. That is why the locals called it ‘aircraft carrier’ or ‘city of masters’. The theatre has not only staged plays, more than 60 of which have been included in the theatre’s repertoire, but also made costumes and scenery for numerous theatres in Ukraine and worldwide. The artistic groups of KHNATOB were met with ovations in many Western European countries, Asia, and North and South America. They spoke to the audience in the language of music.
On March 12, 2022, the theatre heard another language and music, which were the sounds of war and destruction. The facades, roof, windows, and doors of the ‘city of masters’ were damaged by the bombing of Russian troops. This place cherished the memory of the performances of Feodor Chaliapin and Mattia Battistini and nurtured beauty in the hearts of many generations.
Nevertheless, the site that once held memories may now turn into a memory itself.

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