1883 - 1955

Fyodor Fyodorovsky.  Legend of the Bolshoi Theater

The Bolshoi Theatre

Fyodor Fedorovsky was an outstanding theatre artist. He was born in 1883 in Ukraine in a family of a railman. After his mother’s death his relatives sent him to Moscow where he got into Stroganov Art Academy. 

He completed his studies at the decorative department and engaged himself with theatre for life. Since 1907 till 1920 Fedorovsky was a permanent artist at S.I.Zimin private opera theatre. In 1913 he has been noticed by S.P.Dyagilev and invited to design sets for “Russian seasons” opera performances.

F. Fyodorovsky in a group of students from the Stroganov School. 1900–1909

After the Revolution in 1917 he became an artist and then the head of the whole backstage staff at the Bolshoi. And he worked there till his last days. First of all he designed sets for numerous gorgeous opera stagings – “Sadko”, “Prince Igor”, “Khovanshchina”, “Boris Godunov”, “The Tsar’s Bride”. 

But he also created theatre art ateliers which are still functioning. These ateliers produce everything that is needed for the stage: from large-scale scenic sets to sham dishes, wigs, chorus artists’ shoes and ballerina’s points.

Portrait of Fyodor Fyodorovsky. 1920s

Fedorovsky is the author of the famous golden curtain which has been covering stage portal from 1955 till 2005. Ruby stars on the top of Moscow Kremlin towers have been created upon the artist’s project too. Laureate of five (!) State awards. 

People’s artist of USSR. The first theatre artist who has been affiliated to the Academy of Arts and even became its vice-president (1947). Only at The Bolshoi he decorated more than 30 stagings, some of them are still in the theatre’s repertoire.

Portrait of Fyodor Fyodorovsky. 1950s

Life of Fyodor Fyodorovsky

1883. On December 14 (26), Fyodor Fyodorovich Fyodorovsky was born in Chernigov. He was baptized on December 15 in the Church of St. Catherine. His father, Fyodor Fyodorovsky senior, was a collegiate secretary and clerk of the Moscow- Kursk railway. Soon after the birth of his son, he was transferred to a post in Moscow.

1891. The boy’s mother died, whereupon he traveled unaccompanied on a steamer to his aunt in Kiev, and then took the train to Moscow, where he met his father and was sent to study at a four-year city school.

Ballet Swan Lake. Tchaikovsky. Sketch of a female costume for Odette. The costume was not produced.
Opera Salome. Sketch of the costume of Salome

1902. With no training, Fyodorovsky entered the decoration department of the Imperial Central Stroganov School of Industrial Art. His teachers were Serov, Korovin, Vrubel, Schechtel, Zholtovsky, and others.

1904. As a student, he taught creative drawing in the preparatory class of the Imperial Central Stroganov School of Industrial Art.

Opera Carmen. Bizet. Sketch of the decorations “In the Mountains.” 1922

1906. At the exhibition of the Moscow Association of Artists, he presented three paintings: the landscapes “Haystack”, “Rostov the Great” and a decorative frieze in the Russian style.

1907. Fyodorovsky graduated as artist and received a gold medal for excellence in the class on decorative composition. His sketches and models for Bizet’s opera Carmen were awarded first prize in a contest arranged by Zimin. The judges were Serov, Stanislavsky, Mamontov, and Zimin. After the competition, the directors of the theater sent Fyodorovsky to Spain for two months to prepare materials for the opera. The opera Carmen opened on December 8 in Zimin’s Opera House. It was conducted by Palitsyn and directed by Olenin.

Opera Carmen. Bizet. Sketch of makeup, “Carmen.” 1922

1908. Fyodorovsky became a teacher of “classes of creative drawing, composition and watercolor painting” at the Imperial Stroganov Central School of Industrial Art. Up to 1915 he worked as a freelancer, and then joined the regular staff. He continued teaching at the school when, after the October Revolution, it was converted into the First Free State Art Workshops and then, in 1920, into the Higher Artistic and Technical Workshops (Vkhutemas), until 1923.

1909. On August 31, Rubinstein’s opera Demon opened in the Zimin Opera House. It was conducted by Buke and directed by Ivanovsky. Fyodorovsky worked on Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Sadko in the Zimin Opera House. At a competition arranged by Zimin, Fyodorovsky’s sketches of scenery and models were awarded first prize by a panel consisting of Surikov, Stanislavsky, Serov, and Zimin. During his work on the opera he traveled to the north of Russia, to Novgorod and other cities, and studied the way of life, nature, and architecture of that region. The performance did not take place. In the autumn Fyodorovsky traveled to Italy. The directors of the Zimin Opera House sent him to Rome, Florence, and Venice for two months, where he gathered materials and made sketches on site for Jean Nouguès’s opera Quo Vadis. The scenery was made by the order of Zimin in just one week.

Model of decoration for the opera Faust 1924

1910. On September 17, Jean Nouguès’s opera Quo Vadis opened in the Zimin Opera House. It was conducted by Palitsyn and directed by Olenin. On October 18, Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden opened in the Zimin Opera House. It was conducted by Palitsyn and directed by Olenin. On November 6, Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades opened in the Zimin Opera House. It was conducted by Plotnikov and directed by Ivanovsky.

1911. On August 8, Fyodorovsky’s daughter Nonna was born, who later became a stage designer and, from 1967 to her death on January 6, 1997, the assistant production designer of the Bolshoi Theater.

1912. Fyodorovsky worked on sketches for Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin for the Zimin Opera House. The opera later opened in 1918 in the theater of the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’, and Soldiers’ Deputies, based on sketches preserved from 1912. In the spring he traveled with Zimin around Western Europe. He visited Vienna, Munich, Paris, Monaco, Rome, and Milan.

Musical performance for the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution. Sketch of the decorations 1927

Career after the revolution

1913. He designed the set of Mussorgsky’s opera Khovanshchina for Diaghilev’s company. He worked on the decorations in Paris from March to May. Many costumes created for this performance were used in the Opéra Garnier up until the 1960s. They are currently stored in the Center of Theatrical Costumes in Moulin, France. On June 5, Mussorgsky’s opera Khovanshchina opened in the theater on the Champs- Elysées, and on June 25 in London in the Drury Lane Theatre. It was conducted by Cooper and directed by Sanin. [On November 22–23] Tchaikovsky’s opera The Enchantress opened in the Zimin Opera House. It was directed by Ivanovsky.

1918. Mussorgsky’s opera Khovanshchina opened in the theater of the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. It was directed by Komissarzhevsky. Fyodorovsky completed the decorations for a commemoration to be held on the Red Square on May 1, dedicated to the memory of those who fell in the Great October Revolution. He also made a drawing for the first issue of the newspaper News of the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’, and Soldiers’ Deputies, and a poster for the election of deputies to the Moscow Soviet, which won first prize in a contest run by the Moscow Soviet. He became a professor in the stage design workshop, as well as a dean of the art faculty of Vkhutemas (until 1922). He organized a celebration in the Bolshoi Theater on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. He participated in the competition for the design of a new curtain for the Bolshoi Theater.

Opera Khovanshchina. Mussorgsky. Sketch of costumes. “Strelets and Clerk.” S. Diaghilev’s company
Opera Khovanshchina. Mussorgsky. Sketch of the decorations “Village of the Streltsy.”
Opera Khovanshchina. Mussorgsky. Sketch of the decorations “Execution of the Streltsy.” 1950

1925. Fyodorovsky received the highest award at the World Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris for his models for the set of the opera Lohengrin by Richard Wagner. In the Sverdlovsk State Theater, he worked on the production of Wagner’s opera Die Walküre. He worked in the central bureau of the Central Committee of Art Workers (Rabis). 

He designed a celebration in the Bolshoi Theater for the 200th anniversary of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. He designed the decoration of the theater for a gala evening on the 10th anniversary of the Great October Revolution, held in 1927. He designed a celebration for the 100th anniversary of the Bolshoi Theater (1825–1925), which was held on November 1. A commemorative badge and stamp were released based on his sketches. He designed a celebratory meeting of the Government on the 20th anniversary of the 1905 revolution, held in the Bolshoi Theater on December

Opera Boris Godunov. Mussorgsky. Sketch of female costumes “Polish ladies.” Scene 5

1935 On January 25, Fyodorovsky completed the design for the funerals of Kuibyshev and Barbusse in the Hall of Columns of the House of Soviets. He participated in the exhibition “Artists of the Soviet theater over 17 years,” organized by the Historical Museum. The exhibition covered sixteen rooms. He displayed sketches and models of the operas Lohengrin, Boris Godunov, The Maid of Pskov, and Prince Igor. 

On February 17, he was awarded a gold watch by the People's Commissar of Defense Voroshilov for his excellent stage design for the concert of the Red Army amateurs held on February 1, 1935, for the delegates of the Seventh Congress of Soviets of the USSR. 

He designed a concert on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater to mark International Women’s Day, which occurred on March 8. He joined the staff of the permanent Art Meeting at the Bolshoi Opera (reorganized as the Khudsoviet). On April 25, Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Sadko opened at the Bolshoi. It was conducted by Golovanov and directed by Lossky. From September 5 to 20, in collaboration with the writer Sholokhov, he collected materials in the village of Vyoshenskaya in the Azov-Black Sea region for the production of Dzerzhinsky’s opera And Quiet Flows the Don. 

On October 23, Gounod’s opera Faust opened at the Bolshoi affiliate. It was conducted by Melik-Pashayev and directed by Lossky. He worked at the central bureau of artists at the Central Committee of Art Workers after it was founded. He took part in an exhibition of watercolors in the House of the Red Army. He displayed his landscapes “Kandalaksha” and “On the riverbank.”

Novodevichy Cemetery. Sketch of the decorations for the opera Boris Godunov. 1946. Prologue

1937 Dzerzhinsky’s opera And Quiet Flows the Don, with scenery by Fyodorovsky, was performed at the State Academic Theater in Kiev, in the Ukrainian SSR, and in the Akhundov Great State Theater in the Baku, in the Azerbaijan SSSR. On January 31, Dargomyzhsky’s opera Rusalka opened at the Bolshoi affiliate theater. It was conducted by Nebolsin, directed by Rappoport, and choreographed by Nikitin and Radunsky. 

On June 2, Fyodorovsky was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor. On the instructions of the Council of People's Commissars, he designed and built models of ruby stars for installation on the Kremlin towers. 

He received the highest award at the World Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris for his design of Borodin’s opera Prince Igor and Dzerzhinsky’s opera And Quiet Flows the Don. Based on sketches by Fyodorovsky, a golden curtain was woven and borders were painted for the stage of the Bolshoi Theater.

Sketch of the curtain of the Bolshoi Theater 1952

The last years of creative activity

1939. As part of a project by Fyodorovsky, a team of thirty artists created the panorama The Unity of the Peoples of the USSR for exhibition in the Soviet pavilion at the World’s Fair in New York.

1940. He traveled to the Caucasus, where he worked on sketches for Paliashvili’s opera Absalom and Eteri, for the Kirov State Academy Theater. This production was not realized. He participated in a contest to replace the ceiling painting of the auditorium of the Bolshoi Theatre with his sketch “The Apotheosis of the Arts of the Peoples of the USSR.” His work was approved by the panel consisting of Grabar, Zholtovsky, Shusev, Rabinovich, Mukhina, Johanson, Samosud, Barsova, and others. However, the first prize was given to a sketch by Lanser. The project to replace the ceiling was never carried out.

Sketch of the curtain 1918

1943. Fyodorovsky returned to Moscow from the evacuation. He participated in the All-Union art exhibition Heroic Front and Rear, displayed in the halls of the Tretyakov Gallery. On November 16, he was awarded the title of People’s Artist of the RSFSR. 

On December 24, Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Night Before Christmas opened at the Kirov State Academic Theater. It was conducted by Pazovsky and directed by Baratov.

1949. On April 29, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko opened at the Bolshoi Theater. It was conducted by Golovanov, directed by Pokrovsky, and choreographed by Lavrovskiy and Glan. For this performance, Fyodorovsky was awarded the State Award of the first degree. He decorated the Bolshoi Theater for the celebration of the 70th birthday of Joseph Stalin.

F. Fyodorovsky. Model of the curtain of the Bolshoi Theater. 1950s. Completed and installed in 1955

1955. On April 22, a new curtain was installed at the Bolshoi Theater, based on sketches by Fyodorovsky (removed in 2005 before the closing of the theater for renovations). On June 7, Tchaikovsky’s opera The Enchantress opened at the Kirov State Academic Theater. It was conducted by Yeltsin and directed by Gladkovsky. Along with Nonna Fyodorovskaya, he designed a production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Tsar’s Bride, which opened on December 29 at the Bolshoi affiliate. It was conducted by Svetlanov and directed by Petrov. Fyodorovsky died on September 7. He was buried in Moscow at the Novodevichy Cemetery.

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