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The Majestic Mariinsky Theater in St Petersburg

Dedicated to promoting opera and ballet in the Russian city of St Petersburg, the majestic Mariinsky Theater opened in 1860 and soon became the venue of choice for theater performances in the late 19th century. Named in honor of the wife of Tsar Alexander II, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, the theater is home to the Mariinsky Orchestra, the Mariinsky Opera and the Mariinsky Ballet, under the direction of Russian conductor and opera company director Valery Gergiev.

Catherine the Great was the motivating force behind the establishment of the Imperial opera and ballet theater in St Petersburg in 1783. The Empress had a deep love of the arts, music and theater, and was herself an opera librettist. At that time performances were stages in the Karl Knipper Theater, a wooden building located on Tsaritsa Meadow. The elite guests of the Empress were entertained at the Hermitage Theater located alongside the Winter Palace.

In 1783 the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theater was designed and built by Antonio Rinaldi, and became the new home of the opera and ballet artists. It was later renovated by Albert Cavos to accommodate the Imperial Ballet and Opera. The location of the theater came to be known as Theater Square, and in 1849 an Equestrian circus opened on the square, but its wooden building burnt to the ground ten years later. The existing Mariinsky Theater was designed by Davos, and with its U-shaped auditorium and seating capacity of 1,625, it was unmatched in St Petersburg. Its opening performance, A Life for the Tsar, took place on October 2, 1860 and the theater was named after its patroness, Empress Maria Alexandrovna. A bust of the Empress stands in the foyer of the theater.

The works of musical legends Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov were firm favorites at the theater, with the ballet Sleeping Beauty first being performed at the theater in 1890, The Nutcracker in 1892, and Raymonda in 1898. The iconic Swan Lake was staged in 1895 and continues to be a firm favorite among theater enthusiasts. While the theater is still the venue of timeless classics, under the direction of Gergiev it has branched out to embrace innovative theater and collaborate with ballet and opera theaters from around the world.

Moving ahead with the times, the Mariinsky Theater launched its own record label in 2009, allowing audiences to experience the thrill of a live performance and take home some magnificent musical memories.


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