Opera & Ballet Theatre
Although currently closed for renovation, the Opera and Ballet Theatre – named after the great Azeri playwright Akhundov, known as the Moliere of the Caucasus – is still worth a mention as one of the most curiously beautiful buildings in Baku. Surprisingly, it has retained its charm even post-renovation, after it was gutted by fire back in the 1960s, and also has a wonderful story attached to its construction. Snubbed by Baku’s greatest opera singer of the time (1910) the fabulously wealthy Mailov Brothers resolved to build something even more stupendous than the brand new mansion the singer had been showing off. When a visiting Russian soprano, Nezhdanova, said she would not return to a city whose wealthy populace were not philanthropic enough to build a splendid opera theatre, the Mailovs had their goal set and resolved publicly to build an opera theatre worthy of Nezhdanova’s charm and talent within a year. Fellow oil baron Taghiyev doubted the feasibility of such a build and accepted a wager to pick up the tab, should the works over-run. 10 months of triple shifts later, the opera theatre was built and Taghiyev out of pocket to the tune of 250,000 roubles, a stupendous sum for the time. When Nezhdanova played to a full-house at the opening gala, notable among the few non-invitees among Baku’s high society was the opera singer who had previously snubbed the brothers.