It’s impossible to imagine St Petersburg without its magnificent theatres. Mariinsky Theatre is one of the oldest and most famous theatres in Russia as well as in the world.
History in brief
Its story starts in 1783, when Empress Catherine II issued a decree of “Establishing theatre committee for managing performances and music”. Half a year later the Bolshoy Kamenny theatre opened at Karuselnaya Square, called since then – Teatralnaya. Lots of great operas of those times were performed in the theatre, but it always required reconstructions.
In 1859, the Theatre-Circus located next to the Bolshoy theatre burnt out, and on that place an architect Alberto Cavos built a new theatre. It was named in honor of current Empress Mariya Alexandrovna, the wife of Alexandr II – Mariinsky theatre.
The first performance took place in Mariinsky theatre on October 2, 1860. It was opera “A Life for the Tsar” by Mikhail Glinka. Right away the theatre got famous and popular among St Petersburg residents and city guests. The lines before all the spectacles were always long.
In 1869 Marius Petipa became the principal choreographer, and that was a moment of a completely new history of Mariinsky ballet. Thanks to Petipa, lots of well-known stagings became possible. For the first time, the ballet “La Bayadère” was staged so that dance was like music. Later “The Sleeping Beauty”, “The Nutcracker” and “the Swan Lake” were created.
At the head of the Tsar Box you can see a monogram – two first letters of the names of Mariya Alexandrovna and Alexandr II. At this Box the Imperial family sat only during the official visits of foreign guests or some festive performances. All family members preferred a family tsar box that was opposite to the box of theatre’s director.
There is a secret door in the wall of family tsar box that leads right to the backstage, where the dressing rooms of soloists are located. It’s thought that through that door the future Emperor Nicolas II visited the ballerina Matylda Kshesinskaya.
During the Soviet times, Mariisky theatre got a new name in honor of Sergey Kirov. The compositions by soviet composers like Prokofiev and Berg and some foreign composers of that time were produced then. A new direction in choreography – dram-ballet – appeared on the stage of Mariisky theatre. “The Fountain of Bakhchisaray” by Boris Asafiev and “The Red Poppy” by Reinhold Glière were also staged there.
During the Great Patriotic War, the theatre was evacuated to Perm, where the premier of ballet “Gayane” by Aram Khachaturian took place. After returning to Leningrad, the season was opened with an opera “Ivan Susanin” by Glinka on September 1, 1944. After the war in 1968-1970s the theatre went under the last reconstruction, which actually finished the history of its building.
The important historical moments were in the 80s when “Eugene Onegin” and “the Queen of Spades” by Tschaikovky were staged by Yury Temirkanov, who led the theatre from 1976.
The current epoch of the theatre starts with Valery Gergiev as a chief conductor of Mariinsky. He got the position in 1988. By the way, in 1992 the theatre got its historical name back.
In 2006, thanks to the initiative of Gergiev the orchestra and theatre troupe also got a Concert Hall at Pisareva Street 20. A theatre museum for archived costumes and decorations was established. There it is also possible to book a backstage excursion.
The theatre has an active festival work that brought its popularity worldwide: “The Stars of White Nights”, an international ballet festival “Mariinsky”, Moscow Easter festival.
The second stage of Mariinsky theatre, located at Dekabristov Street 34, officially opened on May 2, 2013.
If you want to know more about the theatre and other sights of St Petersburg, book a private tour.
|Buy tickets||Daily 11:00-19:00|
|Cashier closed||Aug, 19-Sep, 15|
|Theatre Square, 1|
|Metro / Subway|
|Teatralnaya Ploshchad||2, 3, 27, 50|
|Mariinsky Theatre||6, 22, 71|
|Teatralnaya Ploshchad||K-1, К-124, К-2, К-350, К-62|
|Mariinsky Theatre||K-1, K-169, K-306, K-6K|