The opera house became on of the symbols of Odessa. It was built in 1887 by Austrian architects. During World War II, the theatre was severely damaged by German occupants who took away decorations, costumes and even the rich library. Part of this was returned after the war. In the 60’s, the building was renovated along with the furniture inside.
Theatre life in the city is as old as Odessa itself. Already with the arrival of the first residents, performances could be seen at the markets and artists came from Italy and France . The first opera was held in 1803. It was a Russian opera of Alexander Ablesimov, The Miller who was a Wizard, a Cheat and a Match-maker. In 1810, the first city theatre was festively opened. It was designed by Thomas de Tomoneu. Exquisite Russian actors played in this theatre and Alexander Puschkin was a frequent visitor. The theatre was burnt down in a fire in 1873.
When the original theatre disappeared, the public started to collect money immediately to build a new one. The people of Odessa did not want the best architect of Saint Peterburg , they wanted the best one in the world. Therefore an international competition was held but none of the proposals won the first place. Finally, two architects from Vienna were chosen, Hermann Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner, who had built 15 theatres in various cities of Europe . In 1884, the cornerstone was laid in a ceremony and three years later, the theatre was finished. The final price — 300,000 rubles in gold — was shocking for citizens of Odessa. But the result was well worth it as the theatre is absolutely unique. The acoustics is so good that even in the last row you will hear a quiet whisper from the stage.
The building was constructed in the style of Viennese baroque. The main entrance is decorated with statues on themes of the Greek mythology symbolizing all genres of dramatic arts. A chariot pulled by four deranged panthers with Muse Melpomene hovering above them can be seen inside. Statues by the entrance create compositions on themes of plays by ancient Greek dramatics. The symbol of tragedy, Hypolit and Fedra, is on the left side and Aristofanov’s comedy The Birds is on the right side. In the niches above, there are busts of famous persons of Russian literature and music — Gogol, Gribojedov, Puschkin a Glinka. The most beautiful part of the theatre is the stage constructed in the style of French rococo. It is richly decorated by slightly gold plated ornaments. Along with the cushions in crimson velvet in the chairs and boxes, the feeling of festiveness is evoked. The ceiling of the auditorium is decorated with frescoes with sceneries from plays of Shakespeare, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, The Winter’s Tale and A Midsummer Night's Dream, painted by a Viennese painter Löffler. The surface of the stage is 500m2. All four floors in the theatre have their own foyers surrounding the auditorium in semicircles. The delicate lustre with 208 bulbs is also worth mentioning, it weights more than 2 tons, it is 9 m high and has 4 m in diameter.