Ah, St. Petersburg! Life at its Best, Really!
The exhibition opened on 7 April, 2002, in the Hermitage Theater Foyer
is the first part of the Inspector General at the Hermitage Project. The
project is prepared by the State Hermitage Museum jointly with the State
Theater and Music Museum and other museums and theaters of St. Petersburg.
The Inspector General is one of the most accurate representations of Russian
life. It was premiered with the imperial authorization on 19 April, 1836,
at the Aleksandrinsky Theater. The Emperor Nicholas I and the play's author
were among the audience. The play was premiered at the Maly Theater in
Moscow the same year. The full unabridged text of the play was for the
first time presented at the Aleksandrinsky Theater in 1870. Konstantin
S. Stanislavsky staged the Inspector General for the first time in 1908.
Mikhail Chekhov's play as Khlestakov in the 1921 version by Stanislavsky
at the Moscow Art Theater was exemplary. The famous 1926 version of Vsevolod
Meierhold was the continuation of Chekhov's Khlestakov. This was the most
radical performance of the play in the theater history. After the early
1930s, particular actors (Igor Ilyinsky, Yury Tolubeyev, Igor Gorbachev)
rather than particular stage versions are remembered. In 1972 Georgy Tovstonogov
staged a performance which he considered paramount for his theater. Each
new stage version of the comedy in its own way met the requirements of
its epoch. Nikolay V. Gogol's comedy is a masterpiece of wit and the exhibition
creators decided to avoid the strict canon of serious exhibitions dealing
with history and arts and to present a vivid, ironic performance. The
exhibition and play are two parts of one project. The exhibition "Ah,
St. Petersburg! Life at its Best, Really!" tells about the phenomenon
of this masterpiece of comedy, the history of its creation, Russian stage
versions and the play's role in the public life of St. Petersburg and
Russia. Alongside authentic things from Gogol's time, props from various
stage versions of the Inspector General are showed. The State Hermitage
Museum loaned mostly things contemporary with the play's author, objects
of applied art, furniture, arms, clothes and fans.