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White Nights Festival in St Petersburg

Taking place each year in the Russian city of St Petersburg, during what is known as the "season of the midnight sun", the White Nights Festival features a series of music events, carnivals and parades, as well as operas and classical ballet performances. First held in 1993, the festival presents an opportunity for audiences to enjoy the works of talented Russian performers, as well as a host of participating international stars in one of Russia's most stately cities.

The festival kicks off in May, with the renowned Mariinsky Theater presenting the Stars of the White Nights. As an integral part of the White Nights Festival, the Stars of the White Nights is a program of classical ballet, orchestral performances and opera, with evening performances entertaining the crowds every day of the festival until it draws to a close in July. Opened in 1860, the Mariinsky Theater has long held the reputation as the venue of choice among performers and theater goers. It is here that many great composers, including Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov, presented their masterpieces to appreciative audiences. Some of the more recent stars to perform during the festival include Olga Borodina, Placido Domingo, Alfred Brendel, Carlo Maria Giulini, Uri Temirkanov, Alexander Toradze, James Conlon and Deborah Voigt, to mention just a few.

Russia's White Nights Festival also includes a number of carnivals, with one of the most popular being the historical reenactment of events from the times of Catherine the Great and Peter the Great. It is held in the picturesque Peterhof Park, with actors dressing up in costumes of the time, and horse and carriage rides adding to the historical authenticity. The most public and well supported carnival of the White Nights Festival is undoubtedly the Scarlet Sails - a celebration which marks the end of the school year and is attended by an estimated one million people, many of whom are local and international students. The tradition of the Scarlet Sails came about following World War II when students from different schools got together to celebrate the end of the school year in line with the symbolism of Russian author Alexander Grin’s book Scarlet Sails. The event grew with each subsequent year and has now been incorporated into St Petersburg’s White Nights Festival.

The term "White Nights" refers to the fact that during the summer months it never gets completely dark in many parts of Russia, including St Petersburg. This is a popular time for tourists to visit this fascinating city and soak up the culture of the White Nights Festival.

 



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