Spotlight on St. Petersburg Theaters: Mariinsky II Theater

Spotlight on St. Petersburg Theaters: Mariinsky II Theater

Katya Boyarskaya is a long-time MIR tour manager, guide, and now director of MIR’s affiliate St. Petersburg, Russia office. She was born in St. Petersburg into a theatrical family, graduating as a drama theater critic and historian from the College of Theatrical Arts.  In this series on St. Petersburg’s theaters, Katya shares insider tips on one of her city’s famous theaters.

Two Are Better Than OneIt’s just a walk across a canal bridge from the Mariinsky Theater to St. Petersburg’s newest and most expensive theater, the Mariinsky II. Open since 2013 and costing $700 million, this 2,000-seat Russian opera house is built to impress – especially with its acoustics.

I recently visited the Mariinsky II Theater for the first time. It’s huge! Shaped like a horseshoe, this theater’s auditorium is among the largest in the world. Acoustics are awesome – considered among the world’s finest for a theater. But the lighting is a bit strange: To me they look like those rows of lights inside an airplane, so passengers can find their way in the aisle.

The ultra modern Mariinsky II<br>Photo: Katya Boyarskaya

The ultra modern Mariinsky II
Photo: Katya Boyarskaya

A Seat With a ViewInterior colors are soft, and views from almost all the seats are good. Except for the first five or six rows, every row is bit higher than the previous one, so you shouldn’t have to move your head around because of blocked views. Best of all, I like the glass walls which allow you to see St. Petersburg by night from a high vantage point. During intermissions you can enjoy views of the canal, people walking about, and cars passing by.

Room to MingleBefore a show and during intermission, it’s easy to mingle and move around the Mariinsky II. You can grab a bite to eat in the theater’s large cafés, and there is plenty of bathroom space (so important during intermissions, with such typically long lines). There’s even an added touch as the orchestra plays light background music during the intermissions.

Backstage and behind the scenes, there’s room to spread out. The Mariinksy II has space for 1,000 staffers, and enough room to rehearse on five productions at once. Have you ever seen those cramped orchestra pits? The Mariinsky II’s can hold up to 120 musicians. There’s also high-tech state-of-the art equipment that can handle the most complex stagings and sets.

Modern Meets Classic: Clash!Compared to other buildings in St. Petersburg, the Mariinsky II looks so cold! (But maybe, like the Eiffel Tower, we’ll get used to it.) Seriously, from the outside it looks like a big supermarket, it’s so modern-looking. Yet inside, sitting in my seat listening to such fantastic music, I simply thought, “Let it be.”

Cascading crystals add an even more dramatic touch to the new theater<br>Photo: Katya Boyarskaya

Cascading crystals add an even more dramatic touch to the new theater
Photo: Katya Boyarskaya

I recently saw a new, contemporary production of the Rimsky-Korsakov opera, Snow Maiden, conducted by Valery Gergiev. It was absolutely fantastic! Four hours flew by like four minutes. Recent productions and concerts have included Anna Karenina, Il Trovatore, Rachmaninoff, and of course Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

I do think that newer versions and more modern interpretations of opera and ballet are best suited to the Mariinsky II stage and venue. And maybe that’s the division: leave classic art to the classic theaters, and modern productions of classical operas and ballets to the modern ones, like Mariinsky II.

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Top Photo: A packed house at the new Mariinsky II Photo Credit: Katya Boyarskaya

PUBLISHED: April 25, 2016

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