The Roudaki Hall officially the Vahdat Hall (تالار وحدت – Tālār e Vahdat), is a performing arts complex in Tehran, Iran. It is the legacy of a prosperous and developing period for Iranian music, dance, ballet, and related performing arts.
Named after Roudaki, a well-known blind Persian poet from the 9th century, the hall was among the best-equipped and modern opera houses in the world at the time of its inauguration. After the 1979 Revolution, it was renamed Vahdat Hall by the new government.
Around the 1950s and 1970s, the Iranian national stage had become the most famous performing scene for known international artists and troupes in West Asia, with the Roudaki Hall constructed in the capital of the country to function as the national stage for opera and ballet performances.
The complex was designed by architect Eugene Aftandilian, influenced by the Vienna State Opera, and was constructed during a period of ten years starting in 1957. It was equipped with the latest lighting and sound system technologies of the time, with revolving and moving stages. The main stage consists of three different levels . The auditorium seats 1200 and has two tiers of boxes and balconies. The venue was fully supplied by Siemens Electrics. The main curtain in proscenium has a motif of a phoenix rising from the ashes, with the style of Persian miniature.
Just before the completion of Tehran's new opera house, Nejad Ahmadzadeh, artistic director of the Iranian National Ballet Company, was sent by the Ministry of Culture and Arts to the United States to visit their opera houses and study administrative, organizational, and technical constructions of American opera establishments that were deemed to be the most modern in the West. At his return, he was appointed as manager of the upcoming opera house, and established the technical, administrative, and artistic sections of the Roudaki Hall. The constructions of the hall were eventually completed in 1967.
Robert de Warren (right) being presented to the Emperor and Empress of Iran (left)
As part of the Shah's White Revolution, the Roudaki Hall of Tehran was constructed to function as the national stage for music, opera, and ballet, and was inaugurated by Emperor Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Empress Farah Diba on October 26, 1967, on the occasion of their coronation. Two weeks of full house performances by international ensembles marked the coronation festivities. Numerous orchestras, opera singers, and dance companies were invited to perform for the occasion.
The hall is home to the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, Tehran Opera Orchestra, and the Iranian National Ballet Company. Other troupes, ensembles, and artists, such as the Iranian folk dancers, also used the stage of the Roudaki Hall for their presentations.
Close down and reopening
Auditorium of the hall in the 1990s
At the time of the escalating political upheavals in Iran and the 1979 Revolution, the activities of the Roudaki Hall were stopped, and the hall was eventually closed down during the ongoing Cultural Revolution . The Shah (Emperor) and the Shahbanu (Empress) were frequent visitors of the hall. The new regime viewed the hall as a symbol of the Pahlavi government's secular cultural agenda. The opera ensemble and the Iranian National Ballet Company were dissolved and the artists were dismissed. Archive of the Roudaki Hall, including costumes, videotheque, photo collections, and every thing else that was considered anti-Islamic, were destroyed under the new government. It has been said that the hall was at risk to be demolished, like in the case of the theater hall of Red Lion and the Sun in the city of Tabriz.
After the re-opening, the stucco relief of the Imperial Coat of Arms of Pahlavi Iran, which was depicted on the balcony of the royal box in the auditorium, was replaced by the emblem of the Islamic Republic. Art works such as the large oil painting of the Pahlavi coronation, along with any other elements reminding of the monarchy, were also removed. About 12 years, the hall had hosted the classical ballet and opera repertoire, although the official archive of Roudaki Hall does not keep any records of that period. All references to the country's national ballet company have ever since been faded out, and there is no mention of the Iranian National Ballet Company in any of the publications or presentations of the hall.
The construction of the complex includes two venues, which were named the Roudaki Hall and the Small Hall. The main venue was then renamed Vahdat Hall (meaning "unity" in Arabic language), and the small hall was renamed Roudaki Hall.
Since the revolution, the hall does not host any permanent ensemble alike the pre-revolutionary period, and has been used to stage a wide variety of events such as music concerts, theater plays, recitals, festivals, seminars, conferences, and etc.
In 2004, due to a private initiative, former workshops of the hall were turned into a puppet theater named Ferdowsi Hall, which is now one of the few stages for opera production in Iran.
Productions and guest presentations
Before the 1979 Revolution
Pari Samar, Iranian opera singer, performing in Carmen (1975)
Bijan and Manijeh La Bayadère (Season 1972-73) Myth of the Creation (1971) Nutcracker (1971) Bolero The Firebird (1967) Carmina Burana The Witch Boy The Fountain of Bakhchisarai (Season 73-74) Swan Lake (Season 1971-72) Petrouska Les Sylphides Giselle (Season 1970-71) La Fille Mal Gardée Romeo and Juliet (1968) Schéhérazade Coppélia (Season 1972-72) Miss Julie Cinderella (1969) Serenade Sleeping Beauty (1978)
Pardis and Parisa La traviata Orfeo ed Euridice Madama Butterfly Turandot La bohème Carmen Nabucco (1976) Falstaff (1977) Werther (1977) Die Zauberflote (1978)
Various national and international festivals were organized at the Roudaki Hall, including:
International Film Festival Ballet and Dance Festival Folk Dance Festival Annual Festival of Culture and Arts
Since the inauguration of the Roudaki Hall in 1967 until the last stagings in the fall season of 1978, world famous music, opera, and dance artists visited Iran to stage their works. Presentations of the guest artists and ensembles included:
Guest ballet companies
Kirov Ballet The Igor Moiseyev Ballet Le Grand Ballet Classique de France Antonio Gades Flamenco Ensemble Stuttgart Ballet Berliner Ballett Le Ballet de XXe Siécle (Ballet of the 20th Century) Nederlands Dans Theater (1977)
Guest ballet artists (dancers / choreographers)
Rudolf Nureyev Margot Fonteyn Robert de Warren Liane Daydé William Dollar John Cranko Marcia Haydée Richard Cragun Robert Urazgildiev Maurice Béjart Alvin Ailey Jiri Kylian
Guest opera singers
Elizabeth Schwarzkopf Giuseppe Taddei Cesare Siepi Leo Goeke Delme Bryn-Jones
Guest music ensembles
Moscow Symphony Orchestra Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra Berliner Philharmoniker Stuttgarter Kammerorchester
Guest musicians / conductors
Herbert von Karajan Aram Khachaturian Yehudi Menuhin Zubin Mehta Ruggiero Ricci Henryk Szeryng Claudio Arrau Arthur Rubinstein
Marcel Marceau, the pantomime artist
After the 1979 Revolution
Ghamar Band at the Roudaki Hall, 2013
Roudaki Hall has remained as the most important venues of Tehran. Theater plays of different genres, as well as concerts of Iranian traditional, pop, and classical symphonic and orchestral music have been staged regularly. Among the presentations after the 1979 Revolution are:
Vasl-e-Yar Ensemble Choir of Gorgin Mousissian Tehran Symphony Orchestra Nour Ensemble Bob Belden's ANIMATION
Loris Tjeknavorian Mohammad Reza Shajarian Hossein Alizadeh Ahmad Pejman Parvaz Homay Bagher Moazen Peyman Yazdanian Mohammad Esmaili
International Fajr Film Festival International Fajr Theater Festival Tehran Art Expo.
Total capacity of the hall is about 750 seats; with 500 seats in the main hall, and 250 seats in the balconies.
Proscenium opening: 12m Stage depth: 35m From hall’s end to the proscenium opening: 23.75m Stage height: 28m Deck height: 85 cm Proscenium opening height: 7m Forestage: 2.70m
Operational and artistic directors
Hamed Rowhani Abedin Zanganeh (?–1979)? (1979–?) (after the 1979 Revolution and before the re-organization of the hall in 2003)
Following a legislation from the Parliament of Iran in 2003, the operation management of the hall was reorganized. A new non-governmental public foundation was established in order to be in charge of the Roudaki Hall. The CEOs of Roudaki Foundation, responsible for the operation of Roudaki Hall have been:
Mehdi Massoudshahi (2003–2008) Ali Asghar Amirnia (2008–2010) Hossein Parsaee (2010–2013) Hossein Seyfi (2013–?) Bahram Jamali (?–present)
The Iranian National Ballet Company was founded in 1958 and moved to the Roudaki Hall in 1967.
Ali Pourfarrokh (1976–1979) held the position until disbanding of the Iranian National Ballet.
Enayat Rezai (citation needed)
? Ali Rahbari (2015–present)