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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Saxophonist Craig Handy has an exciting new band called 2nd Line Smith, which combines the organ-jazz repertoire of Jimmy Smith with the “second line” rhythms of New Orleans parade music. Craig Handy joins "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten at Washington’s Bohemian Caverns jazz club to talk about the music and perform with the band.