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The Development of Azerbaijani Theater Azerbaijani Theatre is closely connected with the activity, life, festivities, wedding traditions, and outlook of the people. Ancient traditional ceremonies, such as "Sayachy", "Novruz", and "Gevsech" encompass theatrical elements such as choruses, dances, various archetypical characters, and dialogs in dramatic plays. The roots of the performances of national games such as Garavelli, Kosa-kosa, Garagoz, Kilimarasi and others date back a long way. In medieval times Shebih, religious theatre emerged in Azerbaijan. Crossed poles were erected in open areas and connected by a tightly stretched rope. The rope-walker held a long pole in his hands and danced on the rope accompanied by a zurna (oriental wind instrument) and kettledrum, showing his acrobatic prowess. Broadly famed national scenes such as “Kosa-kosa”, “Garavelli”, “Shah Selim” were of great importance in formation of national Azerbaijani theatre. These spectacles organize riper stage of the Azerbaijan people theatre. Azerbaijan people theatre has been connected with toiler layers. The repertoire of the national theater involved small ethical shows (fars). Such shows as "Kosa-Kosa", "Tapdiq choban" ("The Foundling Shepherd"), "Tenbel qardash" (" Lazy Brother", a three-act comedy), etc. were popular amongst the people. These performances are notable for their optimism. They mainly reflect everyday life and agriculture. The comedy developed into satire, criticizing the defects in peoples work, life, and psychology.

Under the rule of the Sefevies (in the 16th century), which advocated Shiism as an official religion, used different methods to influence the consciousness of the people. In that period, the religious performance "Shabih" was widespread. This performance, along with the positive influence of the development of the professional theater of Azerbaijan, also created conditions for the appearance of a number of actors.

Folklore theater played a great role in the development of the professional theater of Azerbaijan. on 22 March 1873 in the meeting hall of the Baku Society, the drama Sarguzashti veziri-khan Lenkaran by M. F. Akhundov, was founded professional theatre in Azerbaijan.

Leading intellectuals of Azerbaijan and teachers later graduating from the Gory Seminary staged various performances in Shusha, Nakhichevan and other cities. Leading teachers and intellectuals, led by U.Melik-Hagnazarov arranged shows in clubs and in Khandemirovs theater in Shusha during summer vacations. They mainly staged comedies by M.F.Akhundov ("Khyrs-quldurbasan", "Musyo Jirdan ve dervish Mesteli shah").

Creations by M.F. Akhundov were also performed. The comedies, for example, were staged in Azeri starting in 1876. The most prominent among the leading intellectuals were N. Vezirov, the author of a number of comedies and vaudevilles, B. Badalbeyov, A. Velibeyov, F. Kocherli, H. Sarydjalinski, Mukhtar Muradov, I. Shefibeyov, the famous singer Djabbar Qaryaghdyoghlu (Shusha), M. Sidgi, Dj. Mamedguluzades brother Mirza Alekper, playwright E. Sultanov (Nakhichevan), R. Efendiyev (Nukha), etc. From 1870-1880 the amateurs working in different cities of Azerbaijan gradually gathered around the workers of the Baku theater. Therefore, Baku theater livened by the late 1880s, in whichled to the establishment of a permanent theater team. In 1887, the theater team in Baku was led by H.Mahmudbekov, S.M.Ganizade and N.Veliyev. They strengthened this team and transformed it into a troupe that started its career as the staff of an independent theater in 1888.

Since 1890 N.Narimanov made a great contribution to implementation of the requirements of realism on the stage and to the development of the theater with sound ideas in Azerbaijan. He regarded the theater as one of the important means for spreading the leading ideas of the time and for raising the self-consciousness of people and used the theater as a tribune for expressing ideas. N.Narimanov attracted the highly intellectual young people to the theater troupes and at the same time played principal roles in a number of performances. H.Zerdabi created the first professional theater troupe "The first Muslim theatrical troupe" in Baku in 1896. The union of actors was established for the first time in Baku in 1897.The repertoire of Azerbaijani theater included the plays of national dramatists as M.F.Akhundov, N.Vezirov, H.Vezirov, N.Natimanov, A.Haqverdiyev, Dj. Mamedguluzade and ohers and was also enriched by creations of Russian (N.V.Gogol, I.S.Turgenev, L.N.Tolstoy and Western European classics (V.Shakespeare, F.Shiller, H.Heyne, Y.B.Molyer). From its very establishment Azerbaijani theater adhered to the ideas of democracy and enlightenment. Along with the comedies of M.F.Akhundov, such plays as "Musibeti Fakhreddin" ("Misfortune of Fakhraddin"), "Avoiding rain, caught in a rainfall by N.Vezirov, "The ruining house", "An unhappy young", "Agha Mukhamed Shah Gadjar" by A,Hagverdiyev, "Nadanlig" ("Ignorance"), "Nadir Shah" by N.Narimanov exposed the traditions of feudalism, despotism and tyranny of capitalism.

The organization of Muslim Theater Actors was established in Baku in 1906. It was led by famous theater worker Dj.Zeynalov. Despite prosecutions and material difficulties the organization diligently staged different plays and expanded its repertoire. At that time theatrical circles and troupes were created in a number of working districts of Baku ("The theatrical circle of Balakhany", "Zeal"). The troupe "Zeal" included A.Rzayev, Dj.Hadjinsky, etc, beside its direct founder M.A.Aliyev. The troupers not only prepared performances but also attracted the audience.

Due to the lack of means for renting an appropriate establishment, the performances were shown in a salon "Granvio" of the trade passage. The play "Ignorance" by N.Narimanov was staged there in 1906. Following the revolution of 1905, it was permitted to establish a number of organizations while those operating secretly emerged on the surface. These included the cultural and educational organization "Nidjat". Establishment of a theatrical troupe under this organization in 1907 played a great role in the development of the theater of that period. The professional theatrical troupe, including the professional actors as H.Arablinski, S.Ruhulla, A.Veli, was created at that time under the organization "Hidjat" in 1908 and it had its permanent cloakroom and properties.

The trope demonstrated the performances twice or thrice a week at Taghiyevs theater and in working districts. Such plays as "The unhappy young man", "Agha Mohamed Shah Gadjar" by A.Hagverdiyev, "Nadir shah", by N.Narimanov, "Pehlevani-Zemane" by N.Vezirov, "Gaveyi ahengar" by Sh. Samin, "Runners" by F.Shiller, "Almensur" by N.Neynen, "Othello" by W.Shakespeare , "A physician" by U.B.Molier, "The inspector", "Wedding" by N.V.Gogol, "The former wine-maker" occupied the most important place in the repertoire of Azerbaijani theater at that time.

A new cultural and educational society "Shafa" and a theatrical department under this society were established in 1910. Yet the theatrical trope of "Shafa" was weaker compared with "Nidjat". However, the actors of Nidjats trope gradually transferred to Shafa". D.Bunyadzade, poet Samed Mansur, actors Dj. Zeynalov, A.M. Sherifzade took an active part in the activity of the society and from time to time actors from Nidjat as H.Arablinski, M.A.Aliyev, S.Ruhulla, H.Sarabski were invited to take part in the theatrical shows. The troupe of Shafa not only arranged performances but also dealt with cultural and educational issues related to the theater. The troupe celebrated the 25th jubilee of Dj.Zeynalovs creative activity in 1911, the 100th jubilee of M.F.Akhundov in 1911, the fortieth anniversary of N.Vezirovs theatrical activity. Shafa was characterized not only by performing its shows in towns and villages of Azerbaijan but also by arranging tours to other countries (South Caucasus, Central Asia, North Caucasus, in the cities of Iran, Astrakhan, Kazanda, etc). On the whole, both Nidjat and Shafa made a great contribution to strengthening of the organization and creative activity of the Azerbaijani theater.

The staging of masterpiece by U.Hadjibeyov "Leyli and Medjnun" -the first creation of the national opera in January 1908 (by a new calendar-January25), laid the foundation of professional musical theater of Azerbaijan. Within the first year of the establishment of the theater UHadjibeyovs musical comedies created in 1908-1913 "Leyli and Medjnun", "Sheikh Senan", ":No matter this or that", "Arshyn Mal Alan" dominated the repertoire of the theater. The following years were marked by enrichment of theatrical repertoire with such creations of Z.Hadjibeyov (musical comedies "Ashug Garib", "Young at the age of fifty", "The Married Bachelor"), M.Magomayev ( "Shah Ismayil", "M.M.Kazinovsky (musical comedy "Vurhavur"), M.Dj.Amirov (opera "Seyfalmulk")Yet, despite the absence of its own repertoire the musical theater was in need of professional performers. Musical performances were mainly performed by theatrical artists H.Arablinski (director), A.Huseynzade, A. and Y.Olenskayas, R.Darably, A.Anaply etc along with opera singers H.Sarabski, M.Mamedov (Bulbul), H.Hadjibababeyov, H.Teregulov, M.Baghyrov, A.Aghdamsky. Musical and drama theaters were not delimited and both musical and drama creations were included in the repertoire of troupes (musical performances dominated in 1910th).

The staging of the comedy "Oluler" ("The deceased") by Dj.Mamedguluzade in 1916 proved the maturity of the Azerbaijani theater. The play that stood against ignorance and superstitions, lie and tyranny was a great success. The union of Muslim Artists was founded in Baku in 1917. A.M.Sharifzade was elected the chair of the union. The union, uniting all theatrical troupes, produced performances based on friendship. Howver, this union survived only up to 1918. The entrepreneurs of Mayilov theater did not give the actors an opportunity to appear on the stage. Most of the actors went on tours. Only the trup of U. and Z.Hadjibeyov brothers operated permanently. The troupe involved the actors of theater, opera and operetta. The theater of Azerbaijan which reflected the leading, democratic ideas played a great role in the cultural development of people. However at that period the theater did not reached the high level of the scene ethics.