End of an Era: Georgia's First Prima Ballerina Laid to Rest in Opera House Gardens

Today, Georgia's first female prima ballerina, Vera Tsignadze, was laid to rest in the gardens of Tbilisi Opera House on Rustaveli Avenue. The burial followed a three hour wake in which hundreds of people came to pay their last respects- generations of Georgians who either remembered her grace, beautiy and lively personality directly, or who had heard about it from parents or grandparents. She passed away last Friday at the age of 90.

“I remember watching her perform Gizelle when I was 10 years old," Prima ballerina Nina Ananiashvili told GEORGIA TODAY in an interview last year. "It was a privilege to watch her dance. I’d heard it was her last performance and it was such a believable one that I began crying- I really thought she was dying,” Nina said. “Luckily, I was sitting next to her niece, who was my classmate, and she reassured me it was merely for show.”

Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, Mikheil Giorgadze, spoke warmly of her talent and reputation, lamenting her death as a great loss to Georgian culture, while Nina Ananiashvili echoed the sentiments of many when she spoke of Vera's beauty, grace and ability to light up every stage.

Words describing Tsignadze’s performances could be heard passing between attendees as they sat or stood in the grandly decorated Opera Hall, Vera's coffin in the center surrounded by flowers and four Chokha-clad men, the delicate accompaniment of violinists and, later, the baritone power of Georgian polyphony singers in the background. Enlarged black and white photos showed Vera in her prime- a time when she she spun across the world’s stages with internationally renowned Vakhtang Chabukhiani, enchanting audiences along the way and leaving standing ovations and reverence wherever they went.

In 2007, two stars were picked from the night sky and named after Chabukhiani and Tsignadze and, at the funeral, Nina reminded those present of this. "So, now, together, they can continue to shine their light down on us and watch over us,” she said.

Messages of condolence were sent from theaters around the world to commemorate the sad loss. For many, Vera's passing truly is the end of a grand era.

Katie Ruth Davies

21 June 2016 15:59