The Mariinsky Theatre
The world famous building of the Mariinsky Theatre: it's splendid azure, crystal and gilt auditorium, it's subtle yet majestic facade, comfortable boxes and famous curtain are all the work of A.Golovin. The theatre, named "Mariinsky" after the Empress Maria Alexandrovna - wife of Alexander II - opened triumphantly on the 2nd of October 1860 with a performance of Glinka's opera "A Life for the Tsar".
However, the opera and ballet companies of St. Petersburg were established much earlier. Their history goes back as far as 1742 when the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna issued an "imperial order" to found a Russian opera and ballet company in St. Petersburg. The first performance was presented in 1783 - the Giovanni Paisiello's opera "Il mondo della luna". Nearly 100 years passed between the creation of the company and the building of the actual theatre. Initially performances were staged at the Bolshoi Theatre, which towered over Carrousel Square, as theatre square was called in those days. Opera and ballet performances alternated with theatrical ones, and sometimes the opera singers would even play dramatic roles.
It was this theatre that A.Pushkin described the names of A.Istomina, C.Didlot, and the famous contemporary actress E.Semenova. In the 1840's an interest in circus performances arose in St. Petersburg , and on Carrousel Square, right opposite the Bolshoi Theatre was built a Parisian style theatre-circus, complete with stage and circus ring. The author of this original architectural idea was A. Kavos, one of the leading Russian architects of the time, and son of the head conductor of the St. Petersburg Bolshoi Theatre, composer and pedagogue K.Kavos.
The theatre had impressively grand decoration, unusual spatial form and was the first theatre in Russia to have gas light. Exactly 10 years after its opening it was destroyed by fire, and only the stone walls were left standing. Alexander II ordered the reconstruction of the building and chose A.Kavos to work on the project. This time the theatre was to be constructed as a musical-drama theatre. By the 13th of May 1859 the aims of the project included the increasing of the width of the stage (so that would be the same as that of the Bolshoi Theatre , Moscow), and the width of the proscenium arch, which was to be made even wider than that of La Scala, Milan, the lengthening of the auditorium, the construction of another circle, the building of parallel building above the former stables, and the construction of a separate staircase and foyer for the Tsar's box. The auditorium of the Mariinsky is wonderfully impressive: the refined aristocratic range of colours composed of gilt molded decorations, white sculptures and blue velvet chairs, and the splendid thee-tiered chandelier, created by E.Frachioli according to the design of professor C.Duzi. This hall has witnessed the triumphs of many generations of Mariinsky stars. To this day, like a magnet it attracts all ballet and opera lovers - a place of perfection, skill and inspiration.
See also: The Mariinsky Theatre
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