Oct 302012

On October 25th began our first snowfall around 3 PM in the afternoon.  Through my office window, I could see the sky become a steely gray.  First there was a mix of rain and snow and then it all changed to snow.  We had tickets for the theater that evening.  I decided to leave a little bit earlier to give us time to eat and walk to Vanemuise, Tartu’s largest theater.  I am so glad that we live but 10 minutes by foot from Center City. Theaters are conveniently close and well within walking distance.

All the Estonian plays that we have seen so far have been very well done.  Early in the season we decided to purchase tickets to go to various plays and concerts almost every other week during our stay here. The acting has been good, the sets and productions very professional.  The first play that we saw back in September was a tragicomedy titled Panic (Paanika, ehk Mehed närvivapustuse äärel) by a Finnish playwright Mika Myllyaho.  The play consisted of only three male parts and revolved around the lives of a graphic designer, an engineer and a TV personality.  Each of the men was going through a midlife crisis.  Their lives were intertwined, however, with each other in fun ways– but thank goodness, not in a homosexual way.  The latter theme I find is just being overdone in the US.  This play was at the “Sadam Teater” (Harbor Theater) right next to Emajõgi.  This theater reminds me very much of our small American Theater in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The second play was a drama “Puhastus” (The Purge) and is based on a factual story taking place between 1936-1992 and surrounding the author’s (Sofi

Oksanen’s) mother’s side of the family who was Estonian and lived in Estonia near Haapsalu. The book is available from Amazon books.  The play is about two sisters who are caught up in Stalin’s horrific acts toward innocent people and their deportation in cattle cars to Siberia. Over a tenth of Estonian’s population was affected:  If people were not outright executed, families were separated, and the men, women and children were sent to Siberia.  Many died in Siberia.  Survivors eventually – after ten to twenty years in exile- were able to return to Estonia.  Some were sent back again.  In the play via multiple flashbacks, it becomes apparent that one sister was sent to Siberia, is still alive, but has not yet returned.  The play, however, focuses on the other sister who survives in Estonia, but in a way, did so by selling her soul. The play begins with her Siberian sister’s grandchild entering her now rather lonely life in 1992, right after Estonia’s newly regained independence.  The book has been translated into more than 9 languages and the play has similarly been on the stage of as many countries in Europe. As I understand it will be also at the Mama Theater in New York City. This play was at the Väike Maja of Vanemuise (a small theater up the hill from Vanemuise). Click on single pictures for captions.

The play we saw on the evening of our first snowfall was “Mary Poppins”.  The play and songs were all translated into Estonian and was very entertaining!

This production was in the Great Hall of Vanemuise. The original theater built in 1906 (see model below of the original theater)  was completely destroyed during the Soviet occupation  .

The present day Vanemuise Theater occupies the same site as the original.   Mary Poppins was quite an international production with the Director from Sweden, Music Director and Stage Designer from Estonia, costume designer from Scotland; lighting was done by a Swede, and the choreographer was from the United States….Reading about the play, it appears there is a special arrangement with a Music Theater International group in New York City to present the play and to even obtain performance materials, set design, costumes, props, etc from this same group.  It seems a good way to be able to put on plays of this caliber and to do it in a cost-effective way.

Present Vanemuine Theater, as viewed from one of the restaurants at the shopping mall.



When we left the theater to walk back home, it was still snowing.  It continued into the night and not until next morning did it began to clear. We got some nice pictures.  It has been now hovering around freezing temperatures during the day and below freezing at night.


In regards to concerts, one pleasurable one was a group called “Kum-Ba-Yah”.  They sang at the historic St. John’s Church (Jaani Kirik).  I was intrigued, because this group was from Germany, but they were to sing our US Negro spirituals and gospel songs.  A German group singing our Negro spirituals??  Interesting!!  So I went and have to say I enjoyed it!  I like our US Negro spirituals, but this was somewhat different- a German rendition of them.  I have heard Negro spirituals sang in Charleston, South Carolina which was close to what I would think would reflect quite closely the spirituals of the American South before the Civil War.  Kum-Ba-Yah’s version was not quite the same –but not bad. The conductor of the group really got the audience involved with clapping to the rhythms of the songs. He was quite an exuberant conductor! They also sang African folk songs, gospels, and spiritually up-lifting songs as “Climb Every Mountain”.  After the concert, the singers mingled with the audience. Two people came over to talk with me. Unfortunately, they did not speak English (although they could sing it) and started to talk German.  I had to pull myself together to try out my German that I had learned in high school and college. Five years of German in all, but when one does not practice speaking, it becomes very rusty.  Surprisingly, I was able to manage to a point that they understood me and I them as well.  Jüri did not come with me this evening, as he was having some hip problems that I think developed from his taking part in a 10 km walking race the week before.  He walks a lot, but 10 km and at a faster clip??  I was still in the US at the time of the race and was not able to “dampen his enthusiasm” for taking part in it.  He came in first for his age group, but as he smilingly said, he was also the only one in that group…. Matter of fact, there was no one in the above 50 age groups!  Apparently, the seniors in Estonia conserve their energy for the cold winter months.

  One Response to “Round-About Tartu…Theater, Concerts and First Snow”

  1. Suurepärane report! Ja pildid veel – üks pilt ütleb rohkem kui 1000 sõna. Vaba Eesti Sõnas oli grupipilt EV Saatkonnas
    ja teie olite seal keskel. Leena ja Väino.

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