In the period prior to the proclamation of the Republic in Turkey, opera, ballet and the theatre were mostly centred around Istanbul and Izmir. The first showing of opera at the imperial court was by artists trained by Guiseppe Donizetti (1788 – 1856) from the Italian opera. During the Republic, Ahmet Adnan Saygun, Necil Kazim Akses and Cemal Resit Rey were the first composers of opera, operettes and musicals.
A. Adnan Saygun’s first two operas, Özsoy and Tasbebek, Necil Kazim Akses’s Bay Önder staged in Ankara, a Mozart musical Bastien and Bastienne staged at the Ankara State Conservatory with pupils playing libretto in Turkish (1936),and the staging of western operas such as Madame Butterfly and Tosca (1940 – 1941) and the orchestrations, chorus and solo recitals of 1950 – 1952 all contributed to form a foundation for the establishment of today’s State Opera and Ballet.
Meanwhile in 1947, the famous ballerina and teacher Ninette de Valois was invited to Istanbul and through her intermediary the National Ballet School at Yesilköy was set up. In 1956-57 the first dancers graduated from Ankara State Conservatory and in 1959 – 60 the State Opera formed a corps de ballet. “Çesmebasi” which is one of the most important works in Turkish ballet history was first performed in 1965.
Notwithstanding the short history of opera in Turkey which only spans 56 years, the General Directorate of State Opera and Ballet numbers amongst its members many artists of international fame, and aside from Ankara and Istanbul branches have been set up in cities such as Mersin and everywhere very successful results have been achieved.
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