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Ethiopian National Theatre  

Abridged History 

The Ethiopian National Theatre, which was used to be  called the Haile Selassie I Theatre, and which before that has set out to be Cinema Marconi, holds an interesting place in the history of Addis Ababa. 

In 1946, the Municipality of Addis Ababa recruited a band with the main objective to play Ethiopian songs by soloists accompanied by a modern orchestra; this was motivated by the influence of western & eastern culture.  On the one hand, Ethiopia was not to insulate itself against these trends, on the other, the Ethiopian traditional music should survive. Thus began the process of giving a modern setting to the folk traditions of the country and this in turn prompted the Government to set up a National Theatre.  This was an innovation and aimed at preserving folk-music traditions of the country.

At the very center of the capital, the Italians had started to build Cinema Marconi, but they were expelled when it was only half completed. It became a dumping place for garbage. In 1955 the building was completed for the celebrations of the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of His Imperial Majesty. The building rose from a ramshackle hall, which could seat some three hundred and fifty people or so to an imposing edifice which could seat an audience of 1260.

    Exterior  and   Interior of the Theatre Building

   
     

 

 

Meanwhile at   the same year the Municipality called professor Franz Zelwecker, Austrian composer and music director, in Ethiopia as the first director of the National Theatre.

 Franz Zelwecker faced the huge task of  training  young   and  enthusiastic artists and making them ready in short time for the inauguration of the theatre on the day of the Silver Jubilee of the Emperor's coronation.

The Emperor was highly moved by the Performance- the growth of dramatic and  musical   expressions  that  was achieved  in  the  country  within   a minimal  time frame.  '' David   and Uriah'' , an original play by the then Prime   Minister, H.E.    Bitwoded Mekonnen Endalkatchew  and directed by    Franz  Zelwecker,  who   also composed    and   arranged     the accompanying music performed  on the night of the inauguration. 

 

At present the Ethiopian National Theatre is organized into two Directorates, i.e.,the Theatre Directorate, and the Music Directorate .  The Theatre Directorate has    two performing groups while the Music Directorate comprises three modern and folk music groups, namely Izra Folk Music and Dance Group, Yared Modern Orchestra, Dawit POP Orchestra and String Orchestra.

        


                

 

Yared and String Orchestra



Shakespeare's '' Hamlet '' Performance

       

                                                  Getnet Enyew as '' Hamlet '' 
                                          Meaza Biru as "Gertredw 

(Fikadu T/Mariam as '' Claudius '' 
and Alemu G/Ab as '' Polonius)

 
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MYSC, April, 2004 All Right Reserved