The Opera and Ballet House in Bishkek is striking. Officially called the Academic Opera and Ballet Theater named after A. Maldybaev, it looms large on Yusup Abdrahmanov street near Ala-Too Square. With large white columns stretching in front of the pink building, its elegance is alluring. After one of my teachers at the London School showed me the website for buying tickets for productions held there, I found several plays, comedy shows, ballets, and concerts coming up. I had my mind set on ballet and, in particular, the International Ballet Festival “Ballet, Ballet…” that was taking place between November 14 and November 17. The festival is in honor of Cholponbek Bazarbaev’s 70th birthday. Bazarbaev was a highly talented dancer and People’s Artist of the USSR.
Four ballet productions were being performed over the course of the festival: Cholpon, Giselle, Swan Lake, and a final gala performance to end the festival. The prices for all four were comparable to one another, with different seat availability. I purchased tickets for Swan Lake about two weeks before the performance. For all four performances, the first eleven rows closest to the stage (called “the parterre” on the website’s seating chart) had already been sold. These tickets were also the most expensive, at 1500-2000 som (21.50-29 USD). Prices for seats in the mezzanine, (labelled amphitheater) were around 1000 som (14.30 USD) and had more availability. Balcony tickets cost 800 som (11.50 USD) and offered great visibility. The website lets you choose your exact seats.
After choosing your seats, you can pay with credit card on the website and electronic tickets will be sent by you via email, along with a receipt. I didn’t have any problems with using the website to complete the purchase. Tickets are available at the theatre up until the start of the performance as well.
My friend and I arrived by taxi 10 minutes early. We were glad we weren’t overdressed; a skirt or dress is appropriate for women and a collared shirt or sweater for men. I had my electronic tickets pulled up on my phone, but the ticket taker didn’t even scan the QR codes before waving us through the doors. There was a long line at the coat check we had to fight through, but the service was at least complimentary.
We were quite pleased with our balcony seats. Because they were the cheapest option, there were a lot of little kids sitting around us. One was kicking my seat before the show, but she knocked it off eventually. Theatre etiquette was at a minimum (in the balcony, at least). People were coming and going through the doors during the performance, but never enough to really disturb my enjoyment of the performance.
I only received a flyer at the door for another performance of Swan Lake happening later in December. Programs could be purchased separately, but I had difficulty located anyone selling them. I read on the website that the roles of the Prince and the Swan were to be played by visiting ballerinas from the Kremlin Palace in Moscow. The rest of the roles were played by dancers from the local ballet company.
Swan Lake is presented in four acts with a 10-15 minute intermission between each act. There was a signal to let theatre goers know when to head back to their seats. We spent the first intermission hunting for champagne, without luck. During the third, we were fruitful and found the snack station located on the right side of the building on the other side of the coat check, near the bathrooms. Juice, soda, and water were available along with wine, beer, and cocktails. Snacks ranged from bags of chips to fancy open-faced sandwiches and desserts. We ordered a cheesecake and glass of red wine for 270 som (3.90 USD) each. It was absolutely delicious, and we felt very classy despite how quickly we had to finish it in order to make it back up to the balcony on time.