Turkey’s Trabzon Opera House 1912-1958


One of the first opera houses of Anatolia was built in 1912 by French contractors in Trabzon. Opera house architecture was designed by an Italian architect in accordance with the European art-Noveau art movement of that period. It was built near the Meydan park at the city center of Trabzon. The local Greek Pontus population had organized the construction financing. The opera building could house 1000 audience and operated as opera theater. The Greek families migrated to Greece in year 1922 in accordance with Turkish Greece population exchange agreement. Now we have no documentation about opera, we have only verbal pale memoirs from the elderly.

Between 1922 and 1935, this beautiful stone building was used as a venue for public performance events. In 1937, a local businessman initiated the commercial activity as “Summer” Cinema. In 1958, the municipal authorities demolished in the magnificent stone building within two weeks with the intention to open a greater road from the square to seaside Tangent road. That place has been empty until today.

Administrators who are even quite distant to the art of opera, still want to have an opera house in their city. Because, like the winners of the hotel stars, the opera house earns more credibility in the marketing fair-conference evaluation for the city. An opera house is an additional criterion in selecting a site for the Olympics, fairs, or conferences.

Istanbul has the Kadikoy Süreyya, Beşiktaş Fulya, Bakırköy Leyla Gencer Opera locations. The new Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) will be reconstructed by 2019 elections. There are the State Opera House and the Ostim Leyla Gencer Opera House in Ankara. There are six different opera houses in Izmir, including Alhambra.

But the Trabzon Opera building is no longer. The magnificent image stands just in black and white sepia photos. The front facade resembles Izmir’s Alhambra Opera. From time to time, in the printed media, as well as on the internet pages, the Trabzon Opera House is mentioned. The Opera building was used as cinema hall until 1958. Then there was an instant demolition. Elderly immigrant people who migrated from Trabzon to North America have it in their memories as a distant dream. Pontus Heritage Libraries in Greece may have some logbook documentations.

Can this gorgeous stone building be rebuilt? What happened here between 1912-1922? Who played? What opera groups came, what was staged? Which artists were there? What did they do? We do not know anything.

The Trabzon Opera Days were held on April 18-21-23, 2017 in the Hasan Saka Hall of the Black Sea Technical University Cultural Congress Center. The program covered “Lend me a Tenor” musical by Ken Ludwig, Harem Ballet, and Nasrettin Hodja Children’s Opera.

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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