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The Hermitage Theatres, Page 2
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At the beginning of the 20th century, a time of decay began. With the October revolution and the Civil War, society had little time for the theatre. The Hermitage Theatre was closed down, the transformers and sets, including those made by Gonzaga, were distributed amongst the houses of culture of trade unions, the hall itself was used as a site for meetings, and later it accommodated the scientific research lecture hall of the Hermitage.

In the 1980s, a general plan for the reconstruction of the State Hermitage was elaborated, and the implementation of that plan began with work on the theatre. Due to the repairs, which lasted from 1985 until 1991, the exteriors and interiors acquired their original palatial and magnificent appearance.

The comprehensive reconstruction brought the theatre back to life for the third time. The new stage equipment inspires the envy of the most advanced theatres, compris-ing powerful lighting, film projec-tors, five booths for simultaneous translation, high tech facilities and recording equipment.

There are about 200 concert programmes, including premieres and the theatre's repertoire, every year which always become an important event in the cultural life of St. Petersburg. Many outstanding modern musicians perform on the stage of the Hermitage Theatre. Richter gave concerts herein 1991 and 1993, Rostropovich played the Symphony of Peace with young musicians and Gorchakova and Obraztsova sang on this stage. The only time that the violin that once belonged to the great Nicolo Paganini came to Russia, it happened to be in the hands of Stadler at a concert in the Hermitage Theatre. Temirkanov's and Gergiev's symphonic orchestras have repeatedly appeared on the theatre's stage. In 1996, Chernushenko and the Capella artistic group showed two acts of the revived opera, The Beginning of Oleg's Rule. The St. Petersburg Camerata Orchestra (with its artistic director Sondetskis) that was recently awarded the honourable title of the Orchestra of the State Hermitage, began its creative life here and is now a regular attraction at the theatre. The famous international festival of chamber music, The Palaces of St. Petersburg, was born at the Hermitage Theatre, traditionally hosting its opening and closing ceremony on its stage. It is also the location for the concerts of the Musical Olympus festival of young laureates of international musical competitions.

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Since 1997 , the State Philharmonia has been organising special seasonal concerts of chamber music in the Hermitage Theatre. Visits to the «palace» theatre have been included into prestigious cultural programmes developed by the largest hotels and travel agencies. The ballet troupe of the Mariinsky Theatre performs here in the summer, during the White Nights period, showing Giselle, Swan Lake and Chopiniana. I. Liepa and M. Liepa have both demonstrated their astonishing talents on this stage.

For several years a refined audience has been gathering here for classical concerts from the Debuts and Premieres in the Hermitage Theatre cycle. They are organised in collaboration with the Consulates General of Finland, France, Canada and Germany Visitors are introduced to the performance techniques of both the traditional and contemporary music of these countries. Such famed stars as the singer Katya Richarelli, the saxophonist Mandelchi, the Grifon chamber trio and many others have performed here during their tours.

Apart from musical festivals, the theatre hosts official meetings of the Hermitage employees, charitable New Year celebrations for children, scientific readings, press conferences, and ceremonial assemblies of the World Club of Petersburgers, the president of which is the director of the Hermitage, Mikhail Piotrovsky.

In the autumn of 2000, the unique Hermitage Theatre, the oldest remaining in the city celebrates its 215th anniversary It has seen it all: outstanding musicians, royal audiences, notable premieres, years of neglect and creative rebirth. In its third incarnation, the life of the Hermitage Theatre is a successful synthesis of celebrations and business activities. The constant daily work of the «court» theatre, alternates with glittering social occasions in the evenings. And whatever events may be hosted here, the organisers try to maintain the court traditions of the days of old: guests should feel comfortable and at home, though they must observe the golden rule of Catherine the Great, which states that «To leave all titles at the door, as well as hats and, most importantly swords. Seniority and haughtiness should also be left at the door». These are genuine words of wisdom for those who come to work, socialise and rest at the Hermitage Theatre.

The author would like to express his gratitude to the director of the Hermitage Theatre, Dmitri Vary gin, for his help in preparing this material.

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