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Durov animal theater turns 100

by Nicole Deli at 03/09/2012 20:21

Ugolok Dedushki Durova (Durov animal theater) centenary performances, Sept. 30, 4 Ul. Durova, m. Dostoyevskaya, www.ugolokdurova.ru

The Durov animal theater celebrates its centenary jubilee on Sept. 30, with a two-part performance on the big stage.

Yury Durov Sr. with an elephant, 1970

© RIA Novosti. / Paniarskiy

Yury Durov Sr. with an elephant, 1970

Now properly called Ugolok Dedushki Durova or “Grandfather Durov’s Corner,” it was founded in 1912 by Vladimir Durov, a renowned clown, animal trainer and scientist. Ugolok Dedushki Durova is a theater where the key artists are elephants, hippopotamuses, pelicans, deer, wolves, foxes, monkeys, seals and other animals from all over the world.

The Durov dynasty of animal trainers, artists, clowns and stage directors has existed for more than five generations. After Vladimir Durov’s death, the theater was managed by his wife, then her daughter and afterwards the greatgranddaughter of the theater’s founder. Since 2007, the theater’s artistic director has been Yury Durov, People’s Artist of Russia and the great-grandson of Vladimir Durov.

For a century the Durov animal theater has been keeping abreast of the times, implementing new work systems and maintaining traditions. It pointedly calls itself an animal theater, not a circus. Vladimir Durov was a pioneer in training animals by rewards rather than by punishments – a “soft” method that works on generating a conditioned reflex: an animal gets a snack for performing a trick. It is known that Vladimir Durov was convinced that cruelty humiliates, and only kindness can be beautiful.

Yury Durov said Ugolok Dedushki Durova is a real theater with plot staging; animal trainers have to learn the profession of dramatic artists. But the director noted that the most essential thing for the animal trainers is good relationships with their four-legged co-workers.

A performance of the Durov animal theater’s ‘Cat Orchestra,’ 1983

© RIA Novosti. / Alexander Makarov

A performance of the Durov animal theater’s ‘Cat Orchestra,’ 1983

The theater has its own “Honored Artists” – elephants, a sea lion and a hippopotamus. It is curious to see animals that fight in natural conditions performing peacefully together in the theater – for instance, dogs and cats, foxes and chickens, even bears and deer take the stage together.

The Durov animal theater includes large and small stages, a “Mouse’s Railway” show and a theater museum. It is situated in a house where the father of the Durov dynasty lived, a mansion built by Austrian architect August Weber in 1894. Vladimir Durov bought the building and opened the animal theater, menagerie, zoological museum and scientific laboratory there.

The Durov family lived on the second floor. Visitors can see oldfashioned posters recreating the atmosphere of the epoch, as well as photos of shows and eminent guests, such as Chaliapin and Stanislavsky. Those who are more interested in Vladimir Durov’s creative work can take a 30-minute excursion of the theater museum.

Anna Vladimirovna Durova performing with a sea lion in 1967

© RIA Novosti. / Vladimir Minkevich

Anna Vladimirovna Durova performing with a sea lion in 1967

The Durov animal theater was created for all ages, but after some time it started to specialize in performances for children. Its motto is “Teach by entertaining!” and its goal, to show the audience that animals are understanding, intelligent creatures deserving the same kindness and loving treatment as human beings.

“Our performances are loved not only by young viewers but also by adults who go back to their childhood for several hours,” Yury Durov said.

“My dream is in the future to create performances for adults – maybe we’ll do it with the opening of a new big stage in two years.”

Yury Durov plans an unusual program for the jubilee evening on Sept. 30. He is recreating the historical Durov’s Railway, which Vladimir Durov used to surprise Russian and foreign audiences. At that time a real train was specially made for the show. The train moved around the arena and was conducted by animals.

This new theater building was constructed beside the old one in 1980

© RIA Novosti. / Ruslan Krivobok

This new theater building was constructed beside the old one in 1980

Yury Durov said that Durov’s Railway had not been demonstrated for more than 50 years and it was not easy to recreate the original. Trainers have been busy instructing the animals that will take places of the driver and his assistant, the conductor and the passengers in a new modern train. The regenerated show is planned to be the finale of the jubilee evening, which is to feature Indian elephants Suzy and Remy, a hippopotamus called Muha, sea lions, tigers, bears and monkeys, among other animals. 

Tickets cost from 350 to 900 rubles and should be bought well in advance, as they’re likely to sell out fast.

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