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In Melikhovo everything foreshadowed the theater. It was not for nothing that “The Seagull” and “Uncle Vanya” were written here, in the midst of Chekhov’s medical and everyday troubles, and so theater people were drawn here, and the text of Chekhov’s plays sounded so amazing at various readings, evenings, and meetings. But for a long time no one dared to give a real performance, realizing how difficult it was to play in the garden, in the open air, and what audacity it was to play Chekhov at his home.

The first to decide was a theater from the city of Lipetsk, which had recently staged “The Seagull” and came to see Melikhovo – and was fascinated by it. Then, at the invitation of the director of the museum, Yuri Avdeev, in agreement with the chief director of the theater, Vladimir Pakhomov, the Lipetsk people came again and on a gloomy June day in 1982 they played “The Seagull” at the estate.

Until now, readings, concerts, and performances had taken place on the veranda of Chekhov's house, but this was the first time that an entire play, and such a difficult one as “The Seagull,” was performed. It was raining, thunder was roaring, the wind was rustling in the trees, and the conventions of the theater seemed incompatible with this natural setting. The performance of the artists had to be as natural and truthful as the world around it. The first two acts took place on the estate, by the pond, the next two - on the veranda of the house. Once upon a time, on this very veranda, Chekhov read “The Seagull” to his friends for the first time. Now on the veranda the life of Chekhov's heroes was recreated. It was a test of truth, and the theater passed it. Thus came the experience of merging the museum with the theater, and there is a deep meaning in this.

Yuri Avdeev

The Lipetsk residents played, surrounded on all sides by the public. Spectators came from Moscow, from the city of Chekhov, and gathered from the Melikhovo environs. We came with families, with children; We stood and sat on wet benches under umbrellas for several hours; they looked and listened tensely and greedily, as if they were playing an unfamiliar, new play. They looked with anticipation and anxiety, wanting to know and fearing not recognizing Chekhov here. And they found out...

Perhaps the authenticity of Chekhov’s house and garden, the whole “witchcraft” atmosphere of Melikhov did its job, penetrated inside the performance, nourished it. The actors in costumes from the end of the last century, sitting at ease in light country furniture, behaved as if there were no spectators next to them: they watched an amateur performance staged by the pond, explained themselves and quarreled, and were tormented by their problems. They were part of this world, and our spectator presence in it seemed almost illegal. We, as if remaining invisible, seemed to be spying on someone else's, long-past time; someone else's life going on at its own pace.

The experience of the Lipetsk theater was repeated and took place already in the spring, in May, from where both the history of the “Melikhovo Spring” and the new life of the Lipetsk Theater came from, for which Chekhov became the main author, companion and adviser. Every spring the theater came to Melikhovo with its next premiere.

Only then did we begin to realize what we had done - we realized Anton Pavlovich Chekhov’s dream of creating a theater here. And we promised Yuri Konstantinovich Avdeev that we would come here every spring. All these years, Chekhov has been the tuning fork of our creativity, our life, a surprisingly accurate and nervous tuning fork. We rallied and grew up with Chekhov. We study his life, everything connected with it. We go to Melikhovo to breathe in its air.

Vladimir Pakhomov


At the end of the last century, the Melikhovo theater became a desirable place for creative exploration and meetings, its fame grew, and the need for some kind of large-scale solution, a new step, was brewing. And since 2000, from solo tours of the Lipetsk theater, “Melikhovo Spring” has grown into a full-fledged festival - “annual, international, Chekhov,” according to the formula of its creator, then director Melikhov Yuri Bychkov. His risky and happy idea paid off; moreover, it benefited the museum-reserve, the entire Chekhov community, and theaters, which are so eager to make contacts these days.

The festival developed quickly. Its geography grew, covering all of Russia, from Vologda to Taganrog, from St. Petersburg - through the Volga region and Siberia - to the Far East. From the first envoy from abroad, the modest Milanese theater “Na Doganke”, the circle of participants in the “Melikhovo Spring” quickly expanded, incorporating many European countries, Japan, and the countries of the post-Soviet space, most of all Ukraine.

Theatres-friends, theater-satellites of the festival, frequent or even permanent guests of the festival appeared. For example, the Russian Drama Theater from Odessa and the Chamber Theater from Madrid came here more than once or twice. Anton Chekhov, and the Lviv Theater. Maria Zankovetskaya, where director Alla Babenko prepares a new performance based on Chekhov’s prose every year - and the premiere takes place right here, in Melikhovo.

Something attracts them here: is it the charm of Melikhovo’s nature; the tangible, albeit invisible, presence of Chekhov; the special atmosphere of the festival, with its spirit of informal communication, without any hierarchy of genres and types of theater? - Apparently, all at once. Here you can see operas and ballets, performances for children and those where children play, students' theses and experiments of the International Chekhov Laboratory. Strict classics coexist with “new forms”, and through the festival’s performances one can see not only the state of Chekhov’s theater, but also the entire theatrical process.

With all the breadth and freedom of choice, “Melikhovo Spring” still has its own traditions, dictated by the place of action. The main one: only Chekhov, his plays and prose, performances about himself. And – the indispensable presence of “The Seagull”, this symbol of Chekhov’s theater.

The most important constant of the International Theater Festival “Melikhovo Spring” is its location. In Melikhovo, groups of invited theaters have the opportunity to visit Chekhov’s creative laboratory, to come into spiritual contact with Chekhov’s world - to play in the estate where “The Seagull” and “Uncle Vanya” were written. Every year, the performances of the next “Melikhovo Spring” create a theatrical panorama that stretches into infinity.

Yuri Bychkov

“Melikhovo Spring” seemed to awaken the theatrical nature of Chekhov’s estate. New events not only for Melikhov began to take place there - for example, the anniversaries of the great plays, “The Seagull” and “Uncle Vanya”.

Oleg Efremov, Yuri and Vitaly Solomin, Peter Stein and Tom Stoppard, the British, Greeks, Japanese went to Melikhovo - “to breathe in its air” -- you can’t count them all.

Since 2007, the International Theater Festival “Melikhovo Spring” has acquired a new team of organizers and a new format. Now only professional theaters are allowed to participate in the festival, and the Expert Council strictly selects the best performances from all submitted applications. Preference is given to premiere performances. Every year, for each specific festival, a unique concept is developed, arising either from calendar events or from the geography of participating theaters. Another important difference of the new “Melikhovo Spring” was the opportunity to invite large-scale performances, since the festival began to actively cooperate with large stage venues in the Southern Moscow region.

The role of the viewer in the festival process has become more significant. The festival becomes not just an internal event of the museum and theater. Thanks to the use of new ways to attract audiences (the uniqueness of performances, interesting opening ceremonies, advertising in the media, etc.), the number of not only “ordinary” but also professional audiences began to increase significantly.

See also in section Melikhovskaya spring