Accessibility links

St. Petersburg's Old And New Mariinsky Theaters

Russia's cultural hub and former imperial capital, St. Petersburg, officially opens the doors of its sumptuous new Mariinsky II Theater on May 2. The $700 million project has variously drawn jeers and cheers. But there's little disagreement on three points -- it's another feather in the cap of a city already rich with cultural landmarks, its ample space and state-of-the-art technology mark a new chapter for the Mariinsky complex, and it could hardly be a greater architectural departure from the original Mariinsky Theater that rounds out the complex. (15 PHOTOS)

The Mariinsky Theater complex straddles the Kryukov canal in downtown St. Petersburg, with the old (left) and new theaters connected by a glass gangway.
1

The Mariinsky Theater complex straddles the Kryukov canal in downtown St. Petersburg, with the old (left) and new theaters connected by a glass gangway.

The new building occupies nearly 80,000 square meters, making it one of the largest theater and concert venues in the world. Backlit onyx walls in the split-level foyer of the Mariinsky II Theater surround the venue's auditorium.
2

The new building occupies nearly 80,000 square meters, making it one of the largest theater and concert venues in the world. Backlit onyx walls in the split-level foyer of the Mariinsky II Theater surround the venue's auditorium.

The old Mariinsky was cramped but no slouch. Just plain "Mariinsky" is merely the latest name (since 1992) for a theater complex whose titles have changed with the times. Previous titles have included the Imperial Mariinsky, the State Academic Theater, the Leningrad State Academic Theater, and the Kirov State Academic Theater of opera and ballet.
3

The old Mariinsky was cramped but no slouch. Just plain "Mariinsky" is merely the latest name (since 1992) for a theater complex whose titles have changed with the times. Previous titles have included the Imperial Mariinsky, the State Academic Theater, the Leningrad State Academic Theater, and the Kirov State Academic Theater of opera and ballet.

The new Mariinsky II hosted a "pre-premiere" performance for veterans, senior theater employees, and VIP guests on May 1. The company says that at about 18,000 cubic meters, the new hall has "an ideal volume and is comparable to the world's most renowned opera houses."
4

The new Mariinsky II hosted a "pre-premiere" performance for veterans, senior theater employees, and VIP guests on May 1. The company says that at about 18,000 cubic meters, the new hall has "an ideal volume and is comparable to the world's most renowned opera houses."

A view from the Kryukov canal of the original Mariinsky Theater
5

A view from the Kryukov canal of the original Mariinsky Theater

A view from the street of the new Mariinsky II Theater, with its exterior of Jura limestone and "syncopated floor-to-ceiling windows"
6

A view from the street of the new Mariinsky II Theater, with its exterior of Jura limestone and "syncopated floor-to-ceiling windows"

Architect Jack Diamond said an aim of his design and the huge exterior windows of the Mariinsky II was to "remove the kind of exclusiveness, the elitism of the opera house."
7

Architect Jack Diamond said an aim of his design and the huge exterior windows of the Mariinsky II was to "remove the kind of exclusiveness, the elitism of the opera house."

The floor of the old Mariinsky Theater, whose original seating capacity of 1,625 in the Italian style made it the largest stage in the world at the time of its opening (with "A Life for the Tsar" in 1860).
8

The floor of the old Mariinsky Theater, whose original seating capacity of 1,625 in the Italian style made it the largest stage in the world at the time of its opening (with "A Life for the Tsar" in 1860).

A close-up of one of the wall panels, made of Italian onyx
9

A close-up of one of the wall panels, made of Italian onyx

A 1902 view of the Mariinsky Imperial Theater, which was built in 1860. It hosted countless premieres from treasured Russian artists including Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Petipa.
10

A 1902 view of the Mariinsky Imperial Theater, which was built in 1860. It hosted countless premieres from treasured Russian artists including Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Petipa.

The complex's "Mariinsky" name refers to Empress Maria Aleksandrova, the wife of 19th-century Romanov tsar, Alexander II, who ruled over Russia, Poland, and Finland.
11

The complex's "Mariinsky" name refers to Empress Maria Aleksandrova, the wife of 19th-century Romanov tsar, Alexander II, who ruled over Russia, Poland, and Finland.

The old Mariinsky Theater, which was already home to the Mariinsky Ballet, Mariinsky Opera, and Mariinsky Orchestra
12

The old Mariinsky Theater, which was already home to the Mariinsky Ballet, Mariinsky Opera, and Mariinsky Orchestra

Journalists and other special guests toured the Mariinsky II, including its spiral staircase, one day ahead of the official opening.
13

Journalists and other special guests toured the Mariinsky II, including its spiral staircase, one day ahead of the official opening.

Internationally acclaimed conductor Valery Gergiyev, seen with President Vladimir Putin after being granted the Hero of Labor award on May 1, has served as the Mariinsky's general director since 1996.
14

Internationally acclaimed conductor Valery Gergiyev, seen with President Vladimir Putin after being granted the Hero of Labor award on May 1, has served as the Mariinsky's general director since 1996.

The terrace of the Mariinsky II Theater provides a panoramic view of St. Petersburg, and organizers expect to host chamber music events there when the weather allows.
15

The terrace of the Mariinsky II Theater provides a panoramic view of St. Petersburg, and organizers expect to host chamber music events there when the weather allows.

XS
SM
MD
LG