The Variety Theatre

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In the Variety Theatre Woland and his retinue organize a performance of black magic in which the master of ceremony George Bengalsky is decapitated, in which the ladies from the public can scramble to their hearts’ content in an abundance of luxury clothes and jewels which leads to chaotic and hilarious scenes. A performance also in which chervontsi or ten-rouble bills flutter all over the spectators, and in which the guest of honour of that night, Arkady Appolonovich Sempleyarov, the self-satisfied chairman of the Acoustics Commission of the Moscow theatres, is revealed for being a debauchee, in presence of his wife and his cute niece. In short: «something like Babel broke loose in the Variety».

The Moscow Music Hall

The Театр Варьете or Variety Theatre did not exist, it’s a fictitious building.  Bulgakov modeled it on the Государственный Московский мюзик-холл [Gosudarstvenny Moskovsky myuzik-holl] or the Moscow Music Hall from the '20's, which was situated at the beginning of Bolshaya Sadovaya ulitsa, on Triumfalnaya square, where now is situated the Satire Theatre.

This building, just a few steps away from the apartment were Woland and his retinue would move to, was built in 1911 as a round circus by architekt Bogdan Mikhailovich Nilus (1866-1919). He had designed it as the first Russian circus of the brothers Nikitin, Dmitri (1835-1918), Akim (1843-1917), and Piotr (1846-1921), who wanted to start competition with the existing circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard. Bulgakov had the opportunity to visit the Nikitin circus before it was closed down at the beginning of the '20's, and he described it in his novels The Fatal Eggs and Heart of a Dog.

In 1926, the circus was transformed to a theatre and it was renamed to Second State Circus - Music Hall, and after that it became the Moscow Music Hall. It had 1766 seats and many balconies. One of the acts was called Actors of the Variety. Probably the reason why Bulgakov called his theatre the Variety.

In 1930 there was published a theatre guide called Theatres of Moscow which described the Music Hall as a place where, besides the permanent company, many Soviet and foreign artists performed. It existed until 1936. After that, the building was used as an operetta theatre.

The surroundings

On the place where Bulgakov situates the Variety Theater in The Master and Margarita, is now located the Московский академический театр Сатиры [Moskovsky akademichesky teatr Satiry] or the Moscow Academic theatre of Satire.  In 1963 the building had substantial renovatons and it started looking more as a theatre than a circus. On the outside it’s an ugly concrete construction now. Only the dome, which looks like an flying saucer, refers to what once was a circus.

Behind the Theatre of Satire is the Aquarium Garden, a nice and quiet park, in which the Государственный Академиский Театр имени Моссовета [Gosudarstvenny Akademisky Teatr Imeni Mossoveta] or the State Academic Theatre Mossovet is situated. On the  repertoire of that theatre is, among others, the theatre play Revisor written by Nikolai Vasilevich Gogol (1809-1852), which Bulgakov once adapted to a movie picture script. For a movie which, as you probably guessed, was never made.

Metro: Маяковская (Mayakovskaya)

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