St. Petersburg is home to Russia’s finest and most-renowned opera and ballet venue, the historic Mariinsky Theater. Find out why a night out at this cultural institution is an absolute must.
The theater’s history spans over two centuries, starting with the opening of Bolshoi Stone Theater in 1783. This was the first of many names to come. With its spectacular venue, it soon became the center of Russian ballet and opera, presenting the world with first class performances.
The beginning of Mariinsky
The Bolshoi Theater was destroyed in a fire in 1859. Alberto Cavos was then instructed to build a replacement made completely from stone. The result was the Mariinsky Theater, named in honor of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, wife of the new Tsar Alexander II. The building still represents the neoclassical style of its predecessor, but include elements of neo-byzantine design in its decorations.
© Theater ceiling by Danila Shklyar
Cavos was instructed by the Tsar to recreate the decorations of the former building. Among these was the ceiling mural of a clock with cupids, by Enrico Franciolli, and the astounding fringed chandelier designed by Cavos himself. The auditoriums magnificent interior of blue, turquoise and gold is a symbol of imperial grandeur.
A new start
© Götterdämmerung by Natasha Razina
On October 2, 1862, this cultural institution opened with a performance of Glinka’s ‘A Life for the Tsar’, under the baton of the Russian Opera Company’s conductor Konstantin Lyadov, father of the renowned composer Anatoly Lyadov.
© Eugene Onegin by Valentin Baranovsky
The Mariinsky developed the great traditions as Russia’s first musical theater. By Eduard Nápravnik’s arrival as the new Principal Conductor in 1863, it stepped into a new and glorious era of its history. Nápravnik dedicated half a century to making sure the Mariinsky Theater stood out and premiered the most important operas in Russia’s history.
The ballet’s entre
© Swan Lake by Valentin Baranovsky
In 1886, the Imperial Ballet Company transferred to the Mariinsky. At that time, the legendary Marius Petipa was ‘Premier Maitre de Ballet’, and his classic choreographies ‘The Sleeping Beauty’, ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Swan Lake’ all had their premieres on the Mariinsky stage. The ballet ensemble is regarded among the highest in the world. Well-known performers such as Anna Pavlova, Mikhail Byryashnikov, Galina Ulanova and Vakhtang Chabukiani have all taken to this stage.
© The sleeping Beauty by Valentin Baranovsky
At around the same time as the Ballet Company transferred to this venue, Mariinsky’s facade was in need of a restoration after further fire damage in 1880. This large-scale reconstruction included the creation of the auditorium as we see it today. However, the famous stage curtain wasn’t installed until 1914.
© Khovanshchina by Valentin Baranovsky
In the 1980s, the venue stepped into another important stage in its history, with productions of Tchaikovsky’s operas ‘Eugene Onegin’ and the ‘Queen of Spades’. These productions are still in the theatre’s repertoire today.
A night out in this breath-taking venue with first-class performances guarantee you an impressive experience. Visit Mariinsky’s website to see what’s on the program during your visit. When staying at Radisson Royal Hotel, St. Petersburg, you’ll find yourself located only 3.5 km from the theatre, ideal for an unforgettable cultural break.
Top image by Valentin Baranovsky | All Images © State Academic Mariinsky Theater