One of the world's great opera theatres.

One of the world’s great opera theatres.

‘Are you sure you want to go there?’ asks our cruise ship’s excursion organiser. ‘It’s a bit of a weird show, look, it’s got skulls in it. And maybe you won’t like the music. We can get you tickets to a Ukrainian folkloric performance instead.’

‘No thanks. We know Stravinsky and we’re prepared to risk the skulls.’

I don’t envy Vanessa her job. Probably there will be complaints if the production is too avant garde. With skulls. But if you play safe in the middle of the road you may get run down by a bus.

A couple of busloads of us feel the same, so off we go to the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theatre to see a fine ballet production of The Firebird and The Rite of Spring.

The theatre is a marvel, the skulls and dancing skeletons remind me of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and we get a fascinating glimpse of Ukrainians on a night out.

The skulls are not too off-putting.  Photo:

The skulls are not too off-putting.

It’s the last night of the season and a sell-out, but somehow fifty tickets have been reserved for us (at a premium from the normal box-office price though still good value).

The theatre is one of Odessa’s great buildings and one of the world’s great opera houses, we’re told, like La Scala in Milan (which we haven’t seen) and Vienna’s Staatsoper (which we have).

Equally impressive from the outside.

Equally impressive from the outside.

It’s a scramble to get there in time for the 6.30pm performance. We feel seriously underdressed, surrounded by local people in all their plumage.

The performance is fine, though despite the usual pre-show warnings about switching off mobile phones, many audience members find the temptation too great. After the first few furtive flashes it’s open slather, with people around us posting and emailing and tweeting their shots. It must drive the performers mad, but perhaps they’re more used to it than we are.

Firebirds. Photo:

Firebirds. No, of course I didn’t take this shot during the show!

Thanks, Vanessa, for organising a memorable night out. We’re sure the folkloric thing would have been good too, but this was special.

The writer was the guest of Compagnie du Ponant. See


Filed under Black Sea

7 responses to “BALLET BUFFS BEHAVING BADLY – Odessa, Ukraine

  1. Sounds like the performance of the audience was just as interesting as the show! What a great night out. The theatre does look pretty fab too.

  2. Of course I would do the same…see the Firebird! I saw this ballet in SF last year. The choreographer Yuri Possokhov was born n Ukraine!

    • Thanks for the info. In the scramble to get there we didn’t find out anything about the company or the choreographer. And it was hard enough for us to read the tickets for row and seat numbers, let alone the programme.

      • How were the seats? I saw a ballet in Vienna and an opera in Prague. The opera house was very cozy. Every seat was a good seat!
        I will be traveling to E. Europe again in Sept, this time including
        Warsaw and Krakow. We’re you there before? Any recommendations for art museums, ballets, concerts or opera?

  3. Yes, all good seats in Odessa, though we we lucky to sit pretty near the front. I’ve been in Warsaw, though years ago, and everyone says Krakow is lovely, having avoided physical damage in WWII. Both have a tragic human history of course.

  4. So you’ve also been to the opera this season. We finally went to the Savonlinna Opera Festival held in a medieval castle in the middle of a lake, in Finland of all places. Posted about that recently.

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