The Mariinsky Theatre

In the distant 1783 a Bolshoi Stone Theater was built on Carousel square by decree of Catherine II and it became the ancestor of the modern Mariinsky Theatre. The Empress ordered to establishment a Theatre Committee and to give it a luxurious venue so that it could “manage shows and music” which also included finding those who could play music and create spectacles. So the first dedicated stationary theater appeared on the banks of the Neva River.

However, the Bolshoi Stone Theater has a very indirect relationship to the Mariinsky Theatre. Once being one of the most significant sights of St. Petersburg, it just laid tradition among the nobility to regularly visit opera. The current Mariinsky Theatre, named in honor of Maria Alexandrovna, the wife of Alexander II, who reigned at the time, appeared only in 1859. It was erected under the project of architect Alberto Kavos on the site of the Circus Theatre, another venue of the Committee that located opposite the Bolshoi Stone theatre.

Mariinsky theater
The Bolshoi Stone Theater

Fire – the curse of many theatrical venues of the time – overtook the Circus Theatre as well, so dismantling it was not so vexing. The Mariinsky Theatre was built with all the requirements and constructors paid special attention to the acoustics. A thick layer of broken crystal was laid under the floor of the orchestral pit, which gave the orchestra an additional “silver” sound.  By the way, If you come to Mariinsky Theater to listen to opera, then the best places are in the 3rd tier, since the acoustic wave is sent that direction (this is facilitated by a special angle of the scene). But if you come to the ballet then go to the second floor. Here no one will disturb you, and you will be on “directing” the distance from the stage.

“A thick layer of broken crystal was laid under the floor of the orchestral pit, which gave the orchestra an additional “silver” sound.”

The hall of the Mariinsky theatre according to the idea of the architect should have been no less magnificent than the hall of the Bolshoi Stone Theatre. The curtain painted by the artist Aleksandr Golovin in 1914 exactly repeats the pattern of the ceremonial mantle of Empress Alexandra. By the way, in the same year the decoration of the theater changed from crimson red to blue. In addition to the luxurious golden stucco it is decorated with a huge bronze chandelier. Its weight is 2.5 tons, it uses 210 light bulbs and consists of almost 2,500 small crystal pendants. This is the third chandelier that has appeared here in 1860. The first one, which used oil, became the cause of the fire, and the second, a gas one, was replaced. Venetian painter, professor Douzy, depicted dancing nymphs and cupids on the ceiling, along with the portraits of 12 Russian playwrights. Try to find all of them. 

Mariinsky theater
Mariinsky theater
Mariinsky theater
The Mariinsky Theater New Stage

But any theater is done by people. The stage of the Mariinsky theatre hosted great Anna Pavlova, Galina Ulanova and a favorite of Nicholas II – Mathilde Kschessinska (by the way, the young Emperor came to visit her after shows using a special door in the family box near the stage). Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, George Balanchine made their first professional steps here.  Tchaikovsky and Glinka wrote for this venue.

Today, the Mariinsky theatre has three stages – the historical building on Theatre (formerly Carousel) square, the New stage and the Concert hall on Pisarev street. Together they form a unique cultural complex and one of the largest musical theaters in Russia.