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Kazakhstan: Astana Opera Hits Cultural High Notes

Built on Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s personal orders, Astana Opera is now playing a role in his nation-building pursuits. (Photo: Joanna Lillis)

On a recent snowy winter’s evening in Kazakhstan’s capital, arts buffs flocked to the state-of-the-art opera house.
 
Kazakhstan may be in the grip of an economic crisis, but it was a full house at Astana Opera, a grandiose theater whose neoclassical design stands out on the city’s space-age skyline.
 
The theater was staging Karagoz (“Black-Eye”), a Kazakh-themed ballet telling a Romeo and Juliet-style tale set on the steppes of Kazakhstan.
 
With its ingenious decor suggesting the country’s rolling empty landscapes and its sumptuous costumes in traditional designs worn in the courts of the Kazakh khans, the ballet held the audience gripped.
 
As the curtain fell, Astana’s arts aficionados rose to their feet for a standing ovation.
 
Karagoz is one of the productions being performed at Astana Opera as part of the theater’s quest to showcase Kazakh arts and culture, at home and beyond Kazakhstan’s borders.
 

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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.

Kazakhstan: Astana Opera Hits Cultural High Notes

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