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After the first opera piece “Dafne” by Jacopo Peri was staged in Italy (Florence) in 1597, this branch of art developed in Europe rapidly and overspread. However, our country was shut against the art of opera.

During the period of the Ottoman Empire, it was seen that the word “Opera” took place in the embassy reports prepared and handed in the Padishah by ambassadors having been sent to European countries. Ambassadors who much mentioned about operas brought forth an interest in opera in palaces. Therefore, during the reign of the Padishah Murad III (1574-1595), the first musical was performed in the palace. Afterwards, it is understood from the notes the palace secretary wrote down of that period that Padishah Selim III (1761-1808) who was himself a composer was affected from these embassy reports and he organized an opera performance for a foreign group in Topkapi Palace in 1797.

News about opera continued to be mentioned in embassy reports of Ottoman ambassadors in the 18th and 19th centuries. After Tanzimat Period, opera performances of Verdi were held by Italian opera groups in theatre halls built in Istanbul. Italian opera was taken as a model after all for the endeavors in the renewal in the field of music beginning from rather in the mid 19th century in Turkey and it was benefited from educators from Italy which was the cradle of opera. Even the first important example in this subject “Ernani” opera by the great composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813- 1901) was performed by an Italian opera group in Beyoglu in 1846, 7 years after the Declaration of Tanzimat. According to researches carried out, Verdi operas were certainly performed in Istanbul between 1846 and 1877 and a few years after the world premiers in Italy. In this period, as understood from posters about operas displayed by Italian opera groups in Beyoglu theatres in Istanbul and writings in the newspapers of the period about performances, they addressed to a great number of audience.

The first opera performed by translated texts in Turkish in the first theatre building by an Italian named Bosco in 1840 was "Belisario" by Gaetano Donizetti. Bosco’s theatre was turned over Tutuncuoglu Michael Naum Efendi in 1844. The first opera performed in Naum Efendi Theatre (29th of December in 1844) was "Lucrezia Borgia" by Gaetano Donizetti.

Meanwhile, opera companies established by minorities bear a great importance. Dikran Cuhaciyan, Gullu Agop, Kucuk Ismail and Minakyan’s companies are among the most important ones.

The movement to generalize polyphonic music began in Turkey after the declaration of the Republic. Opera was assumed as the greatest sort of music and actions for the foundation of a Turkish Opera began. Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), affected by views of Ziya Gokalp in music, determined the musical policy of the state as “the mold of a new music type based on Turkish folk music and using polyphonic techniques and methods of the West” after the declaration of the Republic. In accordance with this fundamental principle, talented youths were sent to Europe for musical education.

Young musicians returning to hometown after receiving a musical education began to be affective in this field after 1930’s. The first opera in accordance with the musical policy of the Republic was composed by Ahmet Adnan (Saygun). The text of the opera named "Ozsoy" (Feridun by another name) on whose subject and libretto Mustafa Kemal also dwelled upon was written by Munir Hayri (Egeli). It was performed for the first time before Mustafa Kemal and his guest Shah Riza Pehlevi on the 19th of June in 1934. This first opera was followed by Tasbebek again by Ahmet Adnan Saygun and Bayonder by Necil Kazim Akses.

“The Opera Association” was founded in 1930 in Istanbul and “La Traviata” of Verdi was staged by “Buyuk Opera Heyeti (Major Opera Committee)” in 1934.

Disciplined opera studies began with the foundation of the Ankara Government Conservatoire in 1936 and the foundation of Conservatoire Practice Stage for senior students thanks to Ataturk’s directives. In the term 1935-1936, Paul Hindermith, a famous composer from Germany and Carl Ebert, an opera director, had much contributed to the development of opera in Turkey. Pupils beginning to be educated during this period and pioneers of Turkish opera performed in Ankara Folk House Stage for the first time in 1940.

In this first opera performance, “Bastien and Bastienne” by Mozart and the second act of “Madame Butterfly” of Puccini were performed in Turkish. This was followed by the performances of the second act of “Tosca” of Puccini, the whole of “Madame Butterfly" and "Fidelio" by Beethoven in 1941.

Music, Opera, Ballet and Theatre departments founded and began to operate within the School of Musical Teacher Training turned into the State Conservatoire under the law enacted on the 16th of May in 1940. The State Conservatoire educated talented composers, musicians, soloists and ballerinas.

Between the years 1947 and 1948, the Exhibition Hall in Ankara was turned into a building for theatric and opera activities by Bonatz, a famous German architect and the Great Theatre came into service with a ceremony on 2nd of April in 1948. In “the Great Theatre” whose opening was done with a program where works of composers called “Turk Beslileri (Turkish Quintette)” the opera "Kerem" by Ahmet Adnan Saygun was staged for the first time at that night.

The staff demand of Ankara State Opera and Ballet beginning its activities with a special law in 1949 and Istanbul State Opera and Ballet which was established as its branch was able to be met with artists graduated from the state conservatoire.

And the first ballet school having official and academic features was founded in 1948 in Istanbul. It became appertained to the State Conservatoire when it was moved to Ankara in 1950. It gave its first graduates in 1956-1957. Dame Ninette de Valois, the founder of English Royal Ballet, invited to our country in order to make the preparations for the foundation of the state ballet school, had a lot of contributions to the development of Turkish ballet. The first performance of Ankara State Conservatoire Ballet Department was carried out in 1950 and ballet performances named “Keloglan” and “Pastoral Suit” [Pastoral Suite] whose choreography was done by Joy Newton on the music of Ulvi Cemal Erkin were staged. This was followed by a single-act-performance "El Amor Brujo/Bewitched Love”, "Coppelia" which was wholly performed and the first authentic ballet “Cesmebasi” created by the combination of the music of Ferit Tuzun and Turkish Folklore of Valois and his ballet technique.

Efforts to establish opera in Istanbul were resulted in 1959-1960 and Aydin Gun founded Istanbul City Opera at Tepebasi Dram Theatre. This institution became subjected to the state through a law enacted in 1970 and it still continues its activities at Ataturk Cultural Center as Istanbul General Directorate of State Opera and Ballet. Under Ankara General Directorate of State Opera and Ballet, Izmir General Directorate of State Opera and Ballet was founded in 1983, Mersin General Directorate of State Opera and Ballet was founded in 1992 and Antalya General Directorate of State Opera and Ballet was founded in 1999.

One of the most important artistic organizations held by General Directorate of State Opera and Ballet is Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival. It has been hosting many foreign groups as an international festival since 1998. The festival to which approximately 80 thousand people attend every year is held in June-July.

Another important festival held within the organizations of General Directorate of State Opera and Ballet is Bodrum International Ballet Festival held in historic Bodrum Castle in August every year.

The Modern Dance Group

Modern dance groups have flourished besides classical ballet groups within the stage arts spectrum in the world. These groups have increased their popularities in the society in a short time.

The foundation of the Modern Dance Group (MDG) was set up by the invitation of Beyhan Murphy to Turkey by the General Director of State Opera and Ballet, Rengim Gokmen, in 1992. MDG, founded in the fabric of General Directorate, began its superstage activities as a professional repertoire group with its first premier in February in 1933 with a staff composed of 8-10 people.

MDG achieved to reach youths with modern dance through various activities and conversations at many universities besides its own interior education for the first three years and pioneered for the openings of Modern Dance Department in a great number of universities.

Works over 60 in Turkish and foreign choreographies with small and big criterions are brought forth within 12 years. Within this process, European and American guest educators and choreographers that could be a record in the history of State Opera and Ballet were invited to Turkey to work with MDG thanks to the support of foreign attachés and a cram education was applied via their contributions. These relationships increase day by day and the educational process goes on.

Modern Dance Group superseded in the international dance world through various tours to USA, Germany, Israel, Egypt, France, Georgia, England, the Netherlands, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan. Modern Dance Group took part in the Netherlands Dance Festival, which is assumed as the most prestigious dance festival of Europe, with “Seyhatname” in 2001.

General Directorate of State Opera and Ballet

Modern Dance Group
Art Director: Yener Turan
Managerial Coordinator: Volkan Kiran
Tel: + 90 312 310 09 71 - + 90 312 324 22 11 / 2152 – 2119 – 2179
Fax: + 90 312 310 09 71

Tel: +90.312.324 22 11 (7 lines)
Fax: +90.312.310 72 48
Baglar St. No:16 Ostim

Art and Sculpture Museum Talatpasa Boulevard Sihhiye

Tel: +90.212.251 56 00 (7 lines) / +90.212.251 10 23 (box office)
Fax: +90.212.245 39 16

Tel: +90.232.489 04 74-75 / +90.232.441 01 73
Fax: +90.232.441 01 73

Tel: +90.324.238 04 92-93 / +90.324.238 37 52 (box office)
Fax: +90.324.237 47 19

The Building for Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism Anafartalar St. (Gulluk) No: 31
Tel: +90.242.334 06 52-334 29 56-334 35 27 / +90.242.244 24 47 (box office)
Fax: +90.242.334 18 16

Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival
Tel: +90.242 238 51 43- +90.242 238 51 44 (Numbers of liaison offices are valid between the 1st of June and the 15th of July, which is the festival period).