Originally from Moldavia, “Polonized” artist of the mechanical theatre, acrobat, and pyrotechnician, active in Poland. The son of a Moldavian boyar (aristocrat), in 1800 Jordaki Kuparenko became a member of Jan Kolter’s itinerant troupe of acrobats. The troupe performed in Warsaw, where Kuparenko set up residence. For over twenty years, until 1830, Kuparenko was the administrator of Warsaw’s largest amphitheatre, the Heca (Lark) where he organized all manner of performances: circus shows, pantomime, fireworks displays, and even hot air balloon flights.

In 1830, Jordaki Kuparenko devoted himself exclusively to the mechanical theatre, a form that he had begun before 1816 when he established his mechanical theatre in Warsaw. The performances, which he travelled with, were based on the principle of the Theatrum mundi (literally: “Theatre of the World”), and were staged as a succession of scenes (cityscapes, famous buildings and monuments, picturesque landscapes, natural phenomena, and scenes of historical events) that served as context and backdrop for the mechanical figures/puppets, which could number several hundred in one scene. His repertoire included panoramas, dioramas, such as a view of Mount Vesuvius, the coronation of Tsar Nicolas 1, and perhaps the most famous, the return of the coronation procession from the Cathedral of the Dormition in Moscow composed of four hundred moving figures.

During the 1830s, Kuparenko presented his shows in Russia, appearing frequently in Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa, Kharkov (today Kharkiv), and probably in Germany in 1834-1835. He changed his repertoire of five to seven scenes each week, using optical and lighting effects, having thirty scenes at the peak of his career. He became very popular and achieved great prestige. In the 1840s, he returned to the Polish territories and appeared in Wilno (today Vilnius); from 1842 he never left Warsaw.

Jordaki Kuparenko’s theatre survived the loss of its founder, and it continued to present a variety of shows under changing proprietors up to 1862.

(See Poland.)


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