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City news, 12.05.2006 14:00

Mariinsky To Close Next Year

mariinsky_theatre Galina Stolyarova

Staff Writer

The famous sea-green building which has been home to the Mariinsky Theater since 1860 is closing for a major renovation in Jan. 2007 and will reopen in May 2008, said the company’s artistic director Valery Gergiev at a news conference before the official opening of this year’s “The Stars of the White Nights” festival on Wednesday.

“In 2008, our summer festival will be back within these walls,” Gergiev said.

To prevent the world-renowned opera and ballet company from becoming homeless, the maestro, whose artistic talent and charisma are the heart of the theater’s fundraising campaigns, has attracted $20 million of sponsorship money to build a new concert hall on Ulitsa Pisareva, a short walk from the Mariinsky’s current home.

The concert hall, built from scratch at the site of the theater’s former warehouse which was damaged by fire in 2003, is scheduled to be opened this summer.

The pace of the construction matches Gergiev’s hectic working schedule — a morning rehearsal in Britain, an afternoon rehearsal in Germany and a performance in St. Petersburg, as the joke has it.

“After just eleven months, the venue is practically finished,” the maestro said. “During the reconstruction, the troupe will perform there as well as move some shows to the Lensoviet Palace of Culture and the Musical Comedy Theater.”

The new spacious venue on Ulitsa Pisareva, which seats up to 1,100 people, will accommodate nearly all of the Mariinsky’s shows, with several exceptions, including Andrei Konchalovsky’s opulent rendition of Sergei Prokofiev’s opera “War and Peace” and a reconstruction of the original version of Marius Petipa’s “The Sleeping Beauty.”

Mariinsky II, a new theater to be built behind the 1840 original to comprise a modern cultural quarter and designed by French architect Dominique Perrault, will be complete by 2009. The costs of the construction have been reduced, as was the building’s size, Gergiev said.

“Last time I looked at the suggested costs, I was bewildered,” he said. “No theater, no matter how successful it is, can cost 1 billion euros. I am determined to keep the costs within 200,000 euros. The building will be on a smaller, more chamber scale. It would be wrong to allow the new construction to outshadow the entire neighborhood, including the historical venue.”

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(c) 2000