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Atatürk, in 1934, gave a speech in Turkish Grand National Assembly uttering these words: “…The measure in a nation's recent change is its ability to conceive and comprehend the change in music… It is necessary to gather national feelings and immediately process them according to general musical rules. This is the only way for Turkish national music to be able to rise and place itself in universal music.". It is known that culture, music being in the first place, has an immense role in development of countries. The relation between dominant culture and a country's improvement especially in the musical field is an evidenced case by social scientists. Turkish music culture has taken yet another turn with the proclamation of the Republic. In essence of this process, there lies nationality, modernity in administration, universality in its quality.
During the proclamation of the Republic; branches of art such as theatre, opera, ballet and polyphonic music are determined as signs of contemporary civilization indicators. It is accepted that improvements in these areas will be the fundamental indicators of efforts for the social transformation of the new Republic. For this goal new laws were enacted to constitute new institutions which have administrative and financial support of the government, intending task of education by improving society's delicate taste in areas of theatre, opera, ballet and polyphonic music to add cultural improvement.
Beginning from the first years of the Republic, polyphonic music activities gathered momentum. Mızıka-i Hümayun, the imperial band/orchestra (of the Ottoman Empire), with approximately 100 years background, was transferred to Ankara in 1924, was turned into Riyaset-i Cumhur Musiki Heyeti [Presidential Symphony Orchestra]. In the academic field, foundation of Music Teaching School in Ankara in 1924 and sending The Republic's “The Turkish Five" abroad for education were the groundbreaking developments in the area of polyphonic music. Mentioned as “The Turkish Five"; Hasan Ferit Alnar, Ulvi Cemal Erkin, Cemal Reşit Rey, Necil Kazım Akses and Ahmet Adnan Saygun contibuted greatly to the developments of polyphonic music. Their compositions consist of melodies, tales, epics and Islamic hymns of the folk. For Turkish Republic “The Turkish Five" means what Sibelius means for Finland, De Falla means for Spain and Bartók means for Hungary. The most important improvement, after 1934 when The Turkish Five presents their first compositions, Music Teaching School was converted to Conservatory in 1936. First alumni of this school were between 1941-1942 and first opera performances took place in Ankara in Tatbikat Stage [Practice Stage].
Turkish State Theatres, consisting theatre, opera and ballet art branches, was founded according to the law number 5441, in 1949. State Opera and Ballet was a part of State Theatre Organizations until 1970 and until 1958 was under same administration. In 1970, according to State Opera and Ballet 'Law of Establishment', it is attributed as 'Subsidiary' of Culture and Tourism Ministry and is named as State Opera and Ballet Directorate General. State Opera and Ballet is the cultural reflection of new modern Turkish nation coming in to life in 1923 as a totally new idea.
In accordance with the aforementioned “Establishment Law", dated 1970 and number 1309 State Opera and Ballet Directorate General was founded as a central unit in Ankara. Opera and Ballet Community in İstanbul, continuing its activities since 1960 as a separate domestic company, was centralized as İstanbul State Opera and Ballet Directorate. Later Directorates of İzmir State Opera and Ballet (1982), Mersin State Opera and Ballet (1990), Antalya State Opera and Ballet (1997) and Samsun State Opera and Ballet (2008) were founded as separate branches connected to the central unit located in Ankara. Today; our institutions of art, which perform professionally and according to academic rules of polyphonic music, put these art branches' international developments into practice, fulfill examples of international festivals and competitions in our country. These festivals and competitions attract considerable attention all over the World also make Turkey's mark in international platforms. Our art institutions undertake the mission of correcting the misconception of polyphonic music, opera and ballet's being difficult and inaccessible in our country and making our nation love and wonder these fields, increasing demand of our society for these branches of art and provide these branches art for the use of all segments of the society. For this mission maximum effort and care is put to go on domestic tours and a lot of orchestra, opera and ballet artists meet our people in the four corners of the nation and important cultural service is provided.
State Opera and Ballet Directorate General and Directorate General of Fine Arts have founded opera-ballet institutions and symphony orchestras for the purpose of the young and the children can reveal and increase their creativity also our nation can demand culture and art also participate active-creator process. By spreading country-wide, these institutions provide the social service platform for our nation to be able to consistently contribute to cultural life of Anatolian people.
Despite of recent fashionable " globalization ", every nation designates their own educational and artistic goals. Our country as the meeting point of two continents so connecting the East to the West and incorporate rich cultural identities within. Everyone becomes exuberant and is greatly pleased while listening to Ulvi Cemal Erkin's Köçekçe or Selman Ada's Ali Baba and 40 Opera. Our folklore, our riches and an alliance of values generating Anatolian soil have been a resource to the works of art of these composers and many other. Their music is universal but also it is our music, our value which carry us to the platform shared with developed countries.
Needless to say; polyphonic music, opera and ballet are universal but in these fields our composers should be educated, their works of art should be printed, their copyrights should be protected and they should be encouraged to compose. Otherwise we will not be able to mention that these branches of art exist in our counrty. Just as we can not mention Turkish Literature only with translated works. If it were not for Ömer Seyfettin, Yaşar Kemal, Halid Ziya Uşaklıgil, Reşat Nuri Güntekin, would there be such Turkish Literature? Also there are compositions and works of art of Turkish composers via influence of literary works. For example, composer Selman Ada's Aşk-ı Memnu [Forbidden Love] Opera composed under the influence of Halid Ziya Uşaklıgil's Aşk-ı Memnu literary piece. This is one of the best examples of the interaction between Turkish composers and man of letters. Such examples are mutual success of Turkish opera, classical music and literature. This point is both pleasing and important in terms of showing the development of Universal Turkish Art.
It goes back a long way that Turkish Music and compositions about Turkish people is popular in Europe. In the last quarter of the 17th century, the Ottoman Empire, worldwide powerful politically and militarily, also substantially affect the West cultural sphere. As a result of this effect, until 20th century, hundreds of works of art for stage has come to existence. Handel's Tamerlano Opera, Vivaldi's Bajazet Opera, Mozart's Zaide and Die Entführung aus dem Serail Opera, Carl Maria von Weber's Abu Hassan Opera, Rossini's Il turco in Italia and Maometto II Opera, Verdi's Atilla Opera and Bizet's Djamileh Opera are only a few of them.
In the period of the Ottoman Empire, Military Attache of Sofia Mustafa Kemal, after seeing Carmen in Bulgarian national opera, told Şakir Zümre, who is Mustafa Kemal's good friend and also Turkish Parliamentarian of Varna; "I got to understand better now why we were defeated in war of Balkan Peninsula. I knew of these people were farmers. However, they even have operas. They have vocal artists, musicians, decorators. They are all educated. They have built an Opera-house. Will we see the days we have opera?". Yes, Mustafa Kemal saw those days and by virtue of him, we saw that too.