The Academic Russian Maly Theatre

The Maly (mal-ee) Theatre, meaning literally “Small Theatre”, is one of the oldest Russian theatres and has played an outstanding role in the development of Russian culture and the formation of national drama art. It is hard to imagine the Theatre Square ensemble, and the entire Moscow centre, without this fancy yellow building.

The history of the theatre goes as far back as the middle of the 18th century. The Maly theatre company was established at Moscow University in 1756 right Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, also known as Yelisavet, decreed the birth of the first Russian professional theatre. The Bolshoi Theatre drama company was created based on the companies of the Moscow Russian Theatre and the Maly Theatre.

The Petrovsky Theatre building burned down in 1805 and the company had lost its scene. The next year the management board of the Imperial theatres was established and, at the same as the construction of the burnt Petrovsky Theatre went on, the rebuilding of a prominent merchant manor into a theatre building under a project of the Moscow chief architect Beauve began. The drama theatre was open in this rebuilt mansion on the 14th of October 1824. The next year, 1825, after Bolshoi Theatre’s opening, the drama part of the Moscow Imperial theatre company received its own name, the Maly Theatre.

At first, the names “Maly” and “Bolshoi” (“small” and “big” in Russian) related only to the theatres’ comparative sizes.
But in a short while the words “Bolshoi” and “Maliy” had become the theatres’ proper names which even now are used around the world. The plays of Pushkin, Griboyedov, Gogol and Turgenev were put on the Maly Theatre’s stage.
A special chapter of the theatre’s history is related to the Russian outstanding play-writer Nikolay Ostrovsky whose monument is situated in front of the theatre.

Foreign drama in the Maly included plays from the world theatre classics such as William Shakespeare and Friedrich Schiller while a drama school was opened at the theatre in 1918. There is a special term used with respect to the Maly Theatre, the Moscow Drama School. This school has expressed the very essence of the Russian art of acting: warmth, passion of romantic protest, compassion for the “little man” and aspiration for a natural sincerity and true-to-life performance. The traditions of the Moscow drama school live on and get stronger thanks to the Maly Theatre. Travel to Moscow