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Mariinsky Theater

Sights / Opera and ballet

Since 1860 the Mariinsky Theater has served as St. Petersburg's premiere entertainment venue. It is home to a variety of world-renowned organizations and was the birthplace of some of Russia's best composers and performers. Seeing a performance in this theater today is to bask in the symphony of wonder that is and was the Imperial Mariinsky.

The Imperial Opera and Ballet was established in 1783 by Catherine the Great. This organization of Russia's best musicians and dancers first entertained the elite in a wooden theater, far less refined than what the plays and ballets deserved.

The first replacement building was the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theater, but in 1860 a theater of engineering marvel opened on Theater Square. This theater contained the largest performance stage in the world with a U-shaped audience chamber that could hold 1,625 guests. It was dubbed the Imperial Mariinsky Theater after Empress Maria Alexandrovna.

The Mariinsky Theater has staged some of the world's best performances. It has seen operas by such talents as Mikhail Glinka and Tchaikovsky. It has witnessed the rebirth of Swan Lake by world-famous choreographer Marius Petipa, as well as many other unspeakably beautiful ballets. The Mariinsky has seen the premiere of countless fantastic operas and ballets from Boris Godunov to the ballets Spartacus and Cinderella. It is also home to the Russian Ballet and has spurred more careers than any other St. Petersburg ballet school.

Today the Mariinsky lives up to its lofty history. The sea foam green building seems less extravagant than most of St. Petersburg's structures, but inside is contained a world of sensory marvels. The main auditorium immerses guests in a wave of gold, the five-tiered balconies stretching up to the ceiling and cocooning around audiences like a warm sunset. These are but settings for the true wonder, the performances themselves - each ballet and opera is a flurry of stunning backdrops, flowing costumes, and dedicated performers that tie every show into a flawless package.

The Mariinsky Theater is a delight for the eyes as well as the ears. No other performance on earth can compare to witnessing a production in these hallowed halls, and as one of St. Petersburg's most prominent sites, it is almost required of every visitor. You will arrive a tourist but leave a cultured member of Russia's elite musical community.

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04/12/2013 12:01

Russian ballet is something you have to see! Swan's lake is just fantastic!


03/16/2013 22:13

Even for my husband who was thinking he would be sleeping through his first visit of a ballet performance, it was impressive. My husband was all taken up by the ballerina and the number of spins she could do. I was of course overwhelmed. Standing ovation alone is not enough to express the appreciation of such excellent performances by the world's top performers.

Alize Hart

03/12/2013 11:52

We had tickets to see a ballet and it was wonderful. The Russians are true greats at this art form.

James Novik

02/12/2013 16:59

We enjoyed the ballet production of Anna Karenina while we were in town. We got tickets over the internet prior to our arrival in SPb and had no issues picking up our tickets from will call. The lobby area is small but we easily found our seats once we worked our way through the crowd. There are several coat checks and we had one very conveniently located near our box. We were seated on the first level, box 15, seats 9 and 11. We found these to be good seats and were able to see most of the production. The hall was pretty and cozy, an amazing atmosphere.

There did not seem to be much of a dress code at the theater. We saw a few people in jeans, no black ties and everything in between. Only a few of the men had ties.

Marion K.

12/07/2012 12:02

Even though my friend and I did a last minute purchase, we are really happy with what we get. The beautiful theatre was very impressive. The ballet that we chosen wasnt the world reknown pieces like Swan Lake, Giselle. one but it was still equally IMPRESSIVE!!

Matt P.

06/13/2012 11:41

We had tickets to a Russian opera, Eugene Onegin. It was very easy to get tickets online, and they were reasonably priced. Since the opera was in Russian, the sub-titles were in English - hurray! If it is a non-Russian opera, the sub-titles will be in Russian.

Alan P.

06/12/2012 10:57

I am not a ballet buff, but must admit that the Swanlake was just a beautiful combination of elegance, art and fantastic music in a very nice opera house.

Sharon W.

06/11/2012 17:35

Nut Cracker was great! Don't miss a show if you there! The music the atmosphere everything was great, make reservation in advance.

Donna N.

06/02/2012 12:25

As a ballet dancer who had danced Swan Lake many times, seeing it performed by the St Petersburg Ballet Co. in this lovely venue was beyond description. From the sets to the dancing, it was no less than outstanding!

Amy W.

05/21/2012 09:06

My whole trip was on the purpose to see the theater itself, as I have been following the Mariinsky ballet on tours in the USA. I was lucky that they had a great selection of ballets the week(s) i visited. I loved the theater!


03/15/2012 12:04

Mariinsky Theatre was everything I hoped for. Old world loveliness, stunning, talented and well-trained dancers took my breath away. Book your ticket in time, the performance I attended was sold out long before the actual evening.


03/09/2012 13:09

We saw The Nutcracker and the performance and the theatre were fantastic, literally.

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