The Alexander Ostrovsky House Museum

The museum locates in a house, where a playwright Alexander Ostrovsky was born. The wooden house is a cultural monument of the early twenties of the 19th century; it locates in the Zamoskvorechye region, which is one of those rare districts in Moscow, maintaining charm and coziness of old time living. Ostrovsky’s city mansion is surrounded by a gorgeous garden, blooming from early spring till late autumn; wooden house rooms, suffused by subdued soft lighting, create the mood and atmosphere of tranquil slow-paced life.

Museum collection consists of playwright’s personal possessions, his friends-actors and his family’ things, Russian cultural artifacts of the 19th century, as well as exhibit items, representative of Moscow, or Zamoskvorechye in particular, history.

House Museum first floor layout comprises a study, a bedroom, and a Red drawing room. Wooden stairs with carved balusters lead from the ground floor outer hall to the second floor, where a visitor finds himself as if in Old Moscow, since there are pictures and engravings of the time, depicting the Kremlin view from the side of Bolotnaya Square, as well as Alexander Garden, Kuznetsky Bridge, Maryina Roshcha (Mary’s Grove district), and Petrovsky Park. One of the House Museum rooms is dedicated to a stage story of a play “The Storm”. In the same room colorful sketches for costumes and pieces of scenery are displayed; they were made by A. Golovin for the best direction of “The Storm”, staged in Alexandrinsky Theatre in 1916.

The exposition describes stage presentation of Alexander Ostrovsky’s plays on Russian theatre stage; it demonstrates sketches of scenery and costumes, portrait photographs of actors, playbills, and manuscripts. Ostrovsky’s contemporaries called him “the theatre knight”. He knew thoroughly actors’ daily being, stage life and actors’ psychology; all those helped him to create plays devoted to theatre. A special exposition hall displays stage presentation of Ostrovsky’s plays on post-revolutionary theatre stage (after the 1917 revolution). The exposition introduces some play presentations, and amongst them are plays by both Soviet and international leading directors, such as Konstantin Stanislavsky, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, Vsevolod Meyerhold, and Alexander Tairov.

Alexander Nikolayevich Ostrovsky was born on 31 March (12 April) 1823 in Moscow, and was raised in merchant family in the Zamoskvorechye region. His father was a private trial lawyer. Ostrovsky graduated from Gymnasium and then, having dropped out from the law faculty at the Moscow State University, served at different positions at courts of justice. Although the young man was depressed about his home environment and his job, these very conditions brought him abundant life experience and invaluable material for his first plays.

He started writing from an early age. His first published play was “It’s a Family Affair-We’ll Settle It Ourselves” (“The Bankrupt”); it was issued in 1850 and made great impression on readers. Almost everything was surprising in it: a merchant family, in which the action proceeds, as well as bright and rich language, as if it was picked up in the heroes’ lives; and certainly the plot was remarkable too.

Ostrovsky worked vigorously, issuing a play annually. His plays continuously gained increasing popularity, despite the fact that authorities kept being suspicious about him; and proponents of both “high” and “denunciatory” arts went on reproaching him. He is tightening his relations with the Maly Theatre, where many actors share Ostrovsky’s groundbreaking ideas. No wonder that most playwright’s plays were presented on this very stage.

During decades after issuing “The Storm” (1859) Ostrovsky had been working hard and fruitfully. In the 60s-70s he left aside dramatism of “A Profitable Position” and “The Storm” and then turned back to lyrical depiction of ordinary people lives. Vaudevillian play manner didn’t prevent him from demonstrating such intimately known life in Zamoskvorechye.

During the same years Ostrovsky writes some historical play, such as “Kozma Zakhar’yich Minin-Sukhoruk”, “Voyevoda”, “The False Dmitry and Vassily Shuysky” and others. They appeared to be not as popular and spectacular as his other plays were. However, concentrating on history was very important for the playwright. In it Ostrovsky strived to find the roots of generousness and virtue of Russian nature, which he kept lyricizing in his “modern” plays. His affectionate and exalted attitude towards folk-life culture was developed in a dramatic poem in verse “The Snow Maiden”. Creating the story of Snow maiden, who sacrificed her life for the sake of love, Ostrovsky used content of folk tales and songs. Although the play itself met no success, but no wonder that Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, based on it, gained enormous popularity.

In the last decade of Ostrovsky’s life his art become more and more tragic, thus he creates such works as “Without a Dowry” and “Talents and Admirers”. Related to theatre characters appear in many Ostrovsky’s plays, and there is good reason for that. He always took to heart both every trouble and success of Russian theatre. He was terrified with actors having no right in Emperor theatres, their dependence on government officials, a hand-to-mouth salary and back-breaking labor, as well as ignorance of many performers, lacking zest to a play on the whole. Ostrovsky often rehearsed his plays with the actors personally, trying to be understood, to make them perform more profoundly according to ground-breaking nature of play. He hardly ever managed to succeed. Ostrovsky was hoping to start formation of repertoire of serious plays, without sacrificing art interests in favor of box office sales revenue. He also was dreaming about renaissance of theatrical school, which was to train professional actors. However, the playwright’s death on 2 (14) June 1886 prevented him from putting his long-planned reorganizations into life.

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