Odessa Opera House, Ukraine

The magnificent opera house in Odessa, the Ukrainian city on the Black Sea, is the architectural highlight of the city. It is located directly at the port of Odessa and traditionally hosts both opera and ballet performances.

The Odessa Opera House in Ukraine was first opened in 1809, built by Thomas de Thomon from St. Petersburg. At that time still in the classicist style, its façade had a gable roof supported by columns and thus resembled a Greek temple. In 1873 it fell victim to a devastating fire caused by the building's gas lighting.


After this tragic accident, the construction of the new Odessa Opera House was put out to international tender. The contract was awarded to the Viennese architectural firm Fellner & Helmer and construction began in 1883. Incidentally, after the gas accident the opera was the first electrically lit building in Odessa.

Four years after the start of construction, the ceremonial opening took place. At that time, the Odessa Opera House was the second largest opera house in the world after La Scala in Milan. At the end of the 1990s, there were problems with the statics, as the opera house is located directly on the sloping harbour of Odessa and was in danger of slipping. After seven years of stabilisation, including the use of 1,800 piles to support the foundations, it was reopened in 2007 with the same ceremony as 120 years ago.

Inventive: The Odessa Opera House was also the first building in the city with air conditioning. On hot summer days, whole truckloads of straw and ice were unloaded under the floor of the main hall, slowly but steadily cooling the air inside.

Imposing appearance of the Odessa Opera House

The new Odessa Opera House, made of shell limestone, gleams in neo-Baroque style and features numerous columns and impressive sculptures. At the main portal, Melpomene, the Muse of Art, is enthroned with a torch in her left hand, her right raised in salute and guided by two genii. The Muse is drawn by four leopards on a chariot.

Also in keeping with the opera house is the figure of the legendary singer Orpheus, who sings to a centaur, a mystical creature, half man half horse with a lyre. On the entrance level to the left and right, comedy and tragedy are figuratively depicted.

Around the opera house are busts of famous artists, such as the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka, the Ukrainian-Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, the Russian diplomat and playwright Alexandr Griboyedov, and the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Because of its round shape and lavish décor, the Odessa Opera House is also affectionately called the "Viennese Cake" by the local population.

Musical enjoyment with a magnificent ambience

The interior of the Odessa Opera House in French rococo style is also impressive. Instead of a large central staircase, there are two main entrances whose staircases lead directly into the hall, which they rival in terms of decoration. This is famous for its fantastic acoustics, its horseshoe shape supposedly transmitting a whisper on stage to every corner of the magnificent room.


The main hall is gilded all over with allegedly 9kg of gold leaf and decorated with stucco work, floral ornaments and figures, the boxes are lined with red velvet and a huge crystal chandelier, weighing over 2 tons, hangs from the ceiling. If you take a closer look at the crystal chandelier, you will also notice the elaborate ceiling painting. It shows scenes from Shakespeare's works "Hamlet", "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "A Winter's Tale" and "As You Like It".

Secret: A casket is walled in under the mirror on the white parade staircase, containing the symbolic gold-plated key, current newspapers from the time, the official inauguration certificate and the very first opera house programme and posters. A small greeting from the first birthday of the opera house.

Related links:

Official website of the Odessa Opera House (English)