News / Arts & Entertainment

Russia's New Mariinsky Theater Woos Doubters

Guests take their seats for a "pre-premiere" performance, put on for veterans, senior employees of the theater and other special guests, in the new Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, May 1, 2013.
Guests take their seats for a "pre-premiere" performance, put on for veterans, senior employees of the theater and other special guests, in the new Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, May 1, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Enlisting the drama of Prokofiev and the elegance of Tchaikovsky, St. Petersburg's new Mariinsky theater staged a gala opening on Thursday designed to silence critics of the starkly modernist building erected in the heart of Russia's imperial capital.

The $700-million glass and limestone building, which critics have dubbed the "Mariinsky mall," glowed in the night sky, its glass and metal walkways humming with excited voices as the select crowd of 2,000 found their seats.

Just opposite, across a canal, the 19th century original opera house, one of the great showcases of Russian culture which became home to the Kirov opera and ballet companies in Soviet times, stood silent for the evening.

"We need breath life into the theater. We want it to live, so that people are attracted and can feel the charm of modern technology. Then it will shine in all its glory," President Vladimir Putin told the guests, who included leading Russian businessmen.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (front R) and Mariinsky Theater's artistic director Valery Gergiev (front L) visit the new stage of the theater before the Grand gala concert in St. Petersburg, May 2, 2013.Russian President Vladimir Putin (front R) and Mariinsky Theater's artistic director Valery Gergiev (front L) visit the new stage of the theater before the Grand gala concert in St. Petersburg, May 2, 2013.
x
Russian President Vladimir Putin (front R) and Mariinsky Theater's artistic director Valery Gergiev (front L) visit the new stage of the theater before the Grand gala concert in St. Petersburg, May 2, 2013.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (front R) and Mariinsky Theater's artistic director Valery Gergiev (front L) visit the new stage of the theater before the Grand gala concert in St. Petersburg, May 2, 2013.
Calling the Mariinsky by its affectionate short name Mariinka, Putin said the theater had always preserved the best traditions of the Russian arts, never losing "its shine."

"760 performances a year! And each one is world class. No artistic team in the world does that." Putin praised Valery Gergiev, director of the Mariinsky and regarded by many as the greatest living orchestral conductor, for pursuing a project that had been conceived just before Russia's financial crash of 1998.

"In 2003, Gergiev raised the issue again and a new project arose," Putin said, referring to a decision made after he became president in 2000.

The Mariinsky II is one of several grand projects sponsored by Putin intended to show what Russia can achieve, most notably the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

See Inside

Gergiev, whose 60th birthday coincided with the gala, had been criticized for commissioning a sleek, modern building which some say sits awkwardly among its pastel-colored 19th-century neighbors.

A view of the new Mariinsky Theatre (R) facing the original theater across a canal in St. Petersburg, April 30, 2013.A view of the new Mariinsky Theatre (R) facing the original theater across a canal in St. Petersburg, April 30, 2013.
x
A view of the new Mariinsky Theatre (R) facing the original theater across a canal in St. Petersburg, April 30, 2013.
A view of the new Mariinsky Theatre (R) facing the original theater across a canal in St. Petersburg, April 30, 2013.
But in the end only two people protested outside. One of them, a woman, held a banner mocking Gergiev's recent "Hero of Labor" award received from Putin on Wednesday, suggesting the conductor should either pull down the building or hand back the medal.

The conductor, a loyal ally of Putin, had shrugged off the criticism, saying the Mariinsky needed a new stage and state-of-the-art technology to produce the kind of theater people expected to see today.

"People asked why do we need new architecture? Why does St. Petersburg need a new opera house? I think the best way to answer those questions is simply to let people come in,'' he told a news conference.

Many guests were impressed. Light bounced off wall panels made of Italian onyx that stretch several stories high and the sound was excellent.

"I like the theater and I liked the concert. It's a contemporary theater with great potential," said former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. "I love theaters and have been in many great theaters in different corners of the world. I think it is worthy of becoming one of them."

The simple light wood of the balconies and aisles was a world away from the original Mariinsky Theater, which was sumptuously decorated in gold and red. Only the VIP box in the Mariinsky II has a slight nod to extravagance - a modern chandelier to make prominent guests feel at home.

The gala opened with a dramatic excerpt from Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" ballet and included the coronation scene from Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov, when the vast stage swarmed with peasants.

Ulyana Lopatkina and Viktor Baranov danced "Pavlova and Cecchetti" to Tchaikovsky and Placido Domingo sang a Wagner aria in front of an audience including Putin allies Alisher Usmanov, Russia's richest man, and railways chief Vladimir Yakunin.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

With over five million records sold worldwide, singer-songwriter MIKA is best known for his hit single “Grace Kelly.” MIKA joins "Border Crossings" to perform live and to talk with host Larry London about his latest CD “The Origin Of Love.”