Mamontov Savva Ivanovich, born in 1841, was a big entrepreneur but considered theatre arts his true vocation. He collected paintings by Russian artists and was known as a patron of art. His estate Abramtsevo located under Moscow became a unique place where workshops of painting, wood engraving, pottery and sculpture were organized. Mamontov’s house appeared to be home for the Vasnetsov brothers, Antokolskiy the sculpture, Polenov, Golovin, Repin, Surikov, Korovin, Levitan, Serov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Vrubel, whose talent Savva Ivanovich evolved and supported. The artists loved that place; they used to live there for months, sometimes with their families. A great number of world-known masterpieces were brought into life here in Abramtsevo, a revival hearth for the best traditions of the national culture.
Apart from patronage extended to artists Mamontov turned out to be a true reformer of theatrical business: he was a founder and a stage director for the first Russian private opera house. Mamontov’s opera house underwent three stages: from 1885 to 1887, from 1896 to 1899, from 1899 to 1904. The second stage was the period of efflorescence, since Mamontov staked on Russian opera artists and conducted an intensive search for gifted young singers.
In autumn of 1896 F. Shalyapin came to the private opera house, and the same period next year S.V. Rakhmaninov joined him. It was Mamontov who supported Shalyapin and recognized him as an opera artist. After long searches Savva Ivanovitch managed to organize a strong opera group, which rose up numerous singers, who later successfully performed and were welcome at many theatres of the capital. Unfortunately, the second stage of the opera existence ended tragically: in 1899 Shalyapin left the Private opera house for the imperial stage of the Bolshoi theatre; stage director Mel’nikov followed him several months later. In autumn of the same year Mamontov was arrested on a charge of illegal use of the capitals of the joint stock railway company. In the last period (1899-1904) the theatre was renamed into the Russian private opera association and gradually faded.
Mamontov’s house in Sadovaya Street, the museum of Moscow artistic culture, remained sealed for almost two years with all masterpieces kept in the building. In 1903 some of them were sold out and nobody knows where they are now, but a great part of things, due to Mamontov’s friends, was sent to the Tretyakov Gallery. Savva Ivanovich spent about six months in prison; this horrible time served him bad as he fell ill. However, as soon as his condition became known, Mamontov’s punishment was replaced by the house imprisonment. The rest of his life, almost twenty years, Savva Ivanovich spent in Moscow in a small house. Later the investigation and the court found Savva Ivanivitch innocent, but the lawsuit ruined Mamontov. He died in Moscow on March 24 of 1918 and was buried in Abramtsevo. ...