NOVAT through the eyes of the restaurateur

April 21, 2017

A well known Novosibirsk restaurateur Denis Ivanov and his wife Chizuko are often seen and welcome guests at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre. One of the most successful local businessmen shared his view on the theatre and the changes it has undergone in the last couple of years.

Denis, tell us about your impressions of the theatre, of what it has become. How do you find the atmosphere, the climate?

Denis: Ladies first!

Chizuko: The changes in the theatre are quite notable. The first time I came here after the renovation I was surprised. I was amazed with the possibility to make such a theatre in Novosibirsk. It has become nice, cozy and comfortable for the audience. The sofas in the hall, the carpets - it all looks fancy. These changes are quite remarkable, and I like them.

Denis, how often do you happen to visit the theatre after the renovation?

Denis: Not that often. But it has to do more with my personal life rather than the renovation. Now that we have kids, we go out less. But I have always been a theatre-goer. I used to think that the metropolitan theatres have more luck than our local ones. They get the best management, the best artists, and our city lacks this kind of people, who could turn the provincial theatre into a metropolitan. Having Vladimir Kekhman designated for NOVAT, it has surely become a metropolitan theatre. They say that Novosibirsk is the capital of Siberia, but it never felt like a metropolitan theatre here.

Do you think Vladimir Kekhman managed to accomplish the administrative task he was given?

Denis: I've had a lot of people under my command, so I know how difficult can it be to reorganize the given circumstance. I noticed the big changes happening pretty soon. In couple years Kekhman managed to change the image of the theatre completely, and it's just the building. I caught an impression of the theatre as a cultural centre, both of opera and ballet: new interesting performances appeared, the house was rebuilt well-minded, it became comfortable on European level. As a restaurateur I couldn't help but noticed that the bar evolved from a bean wagon into a high-class European type theatre bar with nice staff, proper service, decent menu and cold champagne. I appreciate that very much as a restaurateur. And of course there are thing to learn from Vladimir Kekhman. I believe he has done some genius work.

- Would you hire Vladimir Abramovich to one of your restaurants as a managing director?

Denis: I think that any company big enough would love to have such man in charge. I saw him working. I was impressed how well he knows the material, how he reads everything through, how thoroughly up he is in the topic. I saw how he picks the performances, how many runs he checks before the premiere. That's why he has such an amazing outcome.

They say each restaurant takes after its owner; do you think it's applicable to the theatres?

Denis: I think that the theatre now is a nice summit of classics and avant-garde, it manages to combine the past and the future in the interior and on the stage: there are classical things in the repertoire alongside contemporary art like the new "Peer Gynt" ballet. NOVAT found the new sound in Novosibirsk, it updates the audience, works with universities. I noticed your student-oriented advert in one of the local universities, the "The Student's Wednesdays". I'm happy for the students about this opportunity. And also about the opening of the new stage with amazing acoustics, the visual aspect, I'm sure that's a promising project. Nowadays, everything in the theatre is high-class: the guest stars, Ivan Vasiliev for example and also the informational part: the website, the notifications, the ticket selling process.

What do you consider to be the essential feature for the theatre?

Denis: There is no doubt, the personnel matters a lot, just like in the restaurant world, although it might not be very humble thing to say. Here we must give a proper respect to Vladimir Kekhman. No one from Novosibirsk could imagine the theatre becoming the way it is now. It had to be a man from a different world with a different state of mind, a man who applied a totally new approach and managed to show completely different reality. The character means everything in this matter, only a man of character surrounds himself with similar men: great artists, composers, conductors, musicians and other.

Do you think you could manage NOVAT?

Denis: Never thought about it. I think not. I prefer restaurants (laughing). Each person should do what he does best. We are all fine on our places.

Talking about managing skills, what features of character must a leader possess to accomplish the changes needed? And if possible - can you match managing a big restaurant business and heading a big theatre like NOVAT?

Denis: I think we can match it partially. Despite we both serve the people, the workers of the theatre and the ones of the restaurant are completely different. The main thing for a manager is to reach a goal. I don't know how Vladimir Abramovich organizes his day, whether he has meetings or briefing sessions, but I'm sure we have some things in common. I assume he is goal-oriented, strict in some sense, hard-edged, and stress-proof just like me. The working process is very important for sure, but the main thing is that the man could mix it all up and put everything on its place in such a huge scale. His results prove that this man possesses the very qualities required for a theatre general director.

What is NOVAT for you?

Chizuko: First things that came to my mind - luxury, high society, pleasure and inspiration.

Denis: I can add, that NOVAT is a symbol of Novosibirsk. We don't have a lot of significant features in the city, and the theatre is pictured almost on every sign and emblem. That's why, for me personally, the theatre is a symbol of the city. I must note that previously, the theatre for me was connected with Zelensky and the ballet, since it represented the ballet renaissance, and now it associates with Kekhman and new, colossal theatre era. Now we go to opera performances more than ever, and we learn even more about the opera.