Friday, February 17, 2012

Opera on the Roller Coaster of History: Latvia National Opera

The time to get to know Riga and its opera company as an insider is now. Riga has been chosen, together with the Swedish city of Umea, to be the European Cultural Capital in 2014. The city will undoubtedly put on a fabulous program for the wave of tourists expected during that year. A visit to the city this season offers the chance to get to know the city before the excitement begins. And those who have experienced this attractive and culturally rich Baltic capital once will surely want to return for the festivities in 2014.

Latvia is a relatively small country with a dramatic history. All the more remarkable that its National Opera in the capital city of Riga has such a strong and established tradition. The history of opera in Latvia is considerably older than the nation itself, with opera companies performing in Riga already in the 18th century. Despite the many obstacles posed by this Baltic nation's rocky history, dedicated musicians and opera lovers assured the position of opera in the cultural landscape.

The beginnings of the current Latvian National Opera in 1912 were quickly halted by the start of World War I. The performers went into exile in Russia, returning only in 1918. Under Jāzeps Vītols, the company made a new start, and the first production in 1919 was Wagner's Flying Dutchman. During the period of Russian occupation and Soviet annexation, beginning in 1944, the opera continued to exist under the name Latvian S.S.R. State Opera and Ballet Theater. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, the company was once again the Latvian National Opera, and the theater underwent renovation until reopening in 1995 with a performance of Latvian composer Jānis Mediņš’ Uguns un nakts (Fire and Night).

Today, the Latvian National Opera is a remarkably daring institution. The traditional repertoire has a secure place in the programming, but the company constantly strives to present opera in an innovative way. Beside the favorite Classical and Romantic works, the Latvian National Opera also offers contemporary Latvian compositions, Baroque opera, and children's performances. The Riga Opera House is also home to the Latvian National Ballet, which is driven by a similar artistic philosophy.

Classictic is very pleased to welcome the Latvian National Opera to our online portal!