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Opening of new Mariinsky II Opera House in St. PetersburgMay 2-4, 2013


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#121 Birdsall

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 03:38 PM

There have been instances also (in contrast to that Red Shoes scene) in real life where a soprano goes along smiling during rehearsals when the conductor refuses to change his tempo and the soprano goes along with it up until Opening NIght and during performance she puts on the brakes and literally forces him to follow her tempo or ruin the show. This, of course, is very risky and can potentially cause a train wreck with the orchestra, so it is not very professional and not conducive to a great night in the theatre, but it happens. It could backfire on her and ruin her performance or it could make the conductor look bad or make both look bad.

All kinds of things happen. There have been famous singers who failed to fully learn the words and score and have words written on table cloths of the set to get through the performance. You would be very surprised what goes on! LOL

#122 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 11 May 2013 - 08:02 PM

Alonso said that Balanchine purposely speeded up the tempo in the T&V premiere-(which was, for what I've read, his debut as a conductor). She said they were dancing madly fast and ended up breathless, but the outcome was an exciting, wonderful performance. It takes a great conductor and great performers to challenge each others in order to deliver a good product.

#123 Drew

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 05:27 AM

I attended two performances at the New Mariinsky last week: a mixed opera and ballet gala and a performance of Ratmansky's Cinderella.

I was quite prepared to like the New Mariinsky and indeed when I first saw it from a block or two away thought its bland modern exterior might even be a rather tactful answer to the seemingly impossible question of what to put next to the old theater that would not in some fashion clash with it or even take away from it. Also, I quite like modern amenities: sufficient bathrooms, proper air conditioning and air circulation, comfortable seats etc. I am also not opposed to modern theater styling and I very much like the State Theater. ("Mr. Drew" nearly died of heat exhaustion in one of the crowded, overheated boxes of the 'old' Mariinsky so he was more than prepared to like the new one too.)

Well, we both ended up having a rather negative reaction. Of course I am writing only as an audience member: I assume that the backstage does indeed have technological wonders not available at the old theater and conveniences for the artists as well. So I'm going to talk about some things people may find trivial but to me were surprisingly unattended to by a 21st-century architect (like no. of bathroom stalls).

The positives: Certainly the seats throughout seem to be well banked--much more so than in the old Mariinsky. We sat in the parterre ("Benois") front row and one balcony up ("Belle Etage") but the rows behind us in those balconies were elevated by steps so people behind us should have had no trouble at all seeing. Certainly not the case in key parts of the old theater. There is also more spaciousness all around that added to comfort, in some cases multiple routes in and out of seats. I checked out the orchestra which is also much better banked than the old Mariinsky (with steps between rows) though someone short may always have problems. The seats are also comfortable, considerably more so than the old Mariinsky. I'm not a great judge of acoustics, but they seem to be as good as reported. Air conditioning more than adequate on lower level and adequate as we got higher on the Belle Etage...I'm a little suspicious it may be less adequate way upstairs but did not check. I assume air conditioning is not typically a big issue in St. Petersburg, but the week we were there it was genuinely hot.

The negatives (and some neutrals): I was not looking for 'old fashioned' atmosphere but the theater seems designed to be positively anti-atmosphere. On the mostly bland and monolithic (but not unpleasant) exterior, the entry is marked solely by a rather small sized glass and steel awning that is actually easy to miss. There is no entry foyer to speak of before you give your tickets which seems to me both inconvenient and strangely unwelcoming; the ticket office has another entry but is also rather small.

The large and visually airy foyer that you enter after you give your tickets is, in the heat of June, surprisingly stuffy and was even hot the evening we were there. Presumably not a problem most of the year. The gold toned stone of the walls and the crystal lights, which gleam white, seem rather harsh in tonality and the stair rails to get to the balconies are bare and unadorned (I assume made of steel but don't know). There appear to be bathrooms at different levels unlike the old theater, but only four stalls in ladies room on the Benois level (which was also the level for entry to Orchestra) and on Belle Etage. The bathrooms were also somewhat narrow which, given the long lines, made negotiating them uncomfortable and air circulation was barely adequate (less than adequate on a lower level bathroom I went to before performance). For such a large theater I thought four stalls on two key levels was a poor choice. I did not try to get something to eat or drink.

The interior of the theater itself: In photos I thought the wood looked honey toned and its contrast with lighter blue seats seemed a nice contemporary riff on the old Mariinsky gold and blue and even had the right touch of warmth. In reality I found the color tones much paler and cooler than they had appeared to me in photos and entirely drained of any warmth by the white lighting. (Ironically, in photos I thought the old Mariinsky looked dowdy--something I did not plan to admit on the internet--whereas in reality, I found it to be like the interior of an enchanted jewelry box, possibly the most magical place I have ever been.)

The expanses of wood in the new theater, to cite Mr. Drew, rather recall the wood paneling of a giant high school gym. Do I exaggerate? We saw exposed screws on the balustrades (that is, on the panels of wood enclosing the balconies) on the Belle Etage -- I mean exposed screws in the manner of an Ikea shelf. An intentional modernist touch? A nod to the working man? I don't know. More bare, unadorned metal bars above the balustrades.

At the Cinderella performance we even saw scuff marks already marking up the wood in front of us on the balustrade of the Belle Etage which seems to indicate that nothing has been done to protect the wood from the inevitable scrape of shoes by people in the first row. (I suppose if the old Mariinsky were better lit we might have seen worn out velvet, peeling paint etc....but it has, after all, been open for more than a month.) The very pale blue of the seats adds to the cold professionalism of the atmosphere but what really undoes any kind of atmosphere is the harsh white light throughout the very large space. I do acknowledge that the large size of the theater may be a plus from other points of view--bigger audiences, more revenue etc. The curving back walls were a dark brown--I don't know the materials, but I did not think anything looked particularly compelling. The color and texture seems pretty much like international hotel neutral.

Altogether, at first view, the architecture did not work for me as a modern vision of elegant, spacious geometries, which could certainly have a place in the very geometrically compelling St. Petersburg.

Sight-lines? Well, it's bigger and thus less intimate than the old theater. Sitting in the back of the orchestra in the horse shoe ring of Benois boxes in the Ur-Mariinsky, we felt closer to the stage than, at the gala, sitting halfway down the side at the same level in the new Mariinsky. I think the size may work better for grand opera than ballet or indeed earlier or more intimate operas. It was difficult to judge the "side" sight-lines since for the opera part of the gala all the singers stood in the center of the stage. The second half of the program was the ballet Carmen which has a semi-circle set enclosing the dancers, and we could see only about 75-80% of the semi-circle but all of the main dancers within it. (The ballet does have dancers lining the set so to speak and we could not see all of them.) We were towards the center for Cinderella up in the Belle Etage and could see everything fine--but were definitely further away than in the equivalent seats in the old theater. I certainly am not criticizing Mariinsky II for being bigger and less intimate, but it's yet another plus for ballet going at Mariinsky I.

I assume the goal was a kind of cool modern austerity with grand opera size and I understand the architect is an experienced theater designer. I don't doubt he had problems to solve I can't begin to imagine. But the result, to me, at least on first viewing, is cold and a bit lifeless. More convention/conference center than opera/ballet theater. These are harsh criticisms so I should add some caveats. I am no architecture critic and I believe that sometimes the 'new' is hard to take in--the old Mariinsky was also new to me personally, but of course it's a type of theater I have attended and that makes a more obviously seductive appeal to the eye and to the imagination. (At least if one likes 19th-century theaters--and I do). It also comes with profound, ready-made associations for any ballet fan. As people attend the new theater it will accrue its own loved history and associations. (For me, it's already associated with Lopatkina and Pavlenko as well as Ratmansky.) And good air-conditioning and comfortable seats are by no means to be sneered at. My BACK probably preferred the new theater to the old even if the rest of me did not. The acoustics and backstage improvements must be even more important considerations.

At both performances I attended people were very interested in the theater, looking around sometimes avidly, taking photos etc. I don't think this was just the same "tourist" interest people certainly were taking at the old theater as well. I think many people, including the Russian audience members, were curious about Mariinsky II and excited to be there.

#124 Birdsall

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 07:59 AM

Thanks for the review of Mariinsky II.....very fascinating to read your comments! These are bits of info we would never read in an article about the new theatre, so it really helps that you took the time.

Also, I loved your description of the historic theatre as an enchanted jewelry box. I think you are absolutely correct about that. It is gorgeous! I actually thought there were little signs here and there of the age of the historic theatre, but overall I was enchanted. Just sitting in that theatre is thrilling.

So I will be interested to see if I feel the same way about Mariinsky II when I finally see it, which might be sooner than I expected, because I got a job after 3 years of being out of work!!!! Hip hip hooray!!! I believe I do not start until August. If I am correct, I might hurry up and bathe myself in enchantment again before I face the challenging work ahead of me!!! It all depends on my start date, but I suspect my start date is when the school year here begins.

#125 volcanohunter

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:15 AM

At the Cinderella performance we even saw scuff marks already marking up the wood in front of us on the balustrade of the Belle Etage which seems to indicate that nothing has been done to protect the wood from the inevitable scrape of shoes by people in the first row.


A Russian photo-blogger has documented what he sees as examples of shoddy workmanship on the theater's facade. Some of it looks prematurely damaged, too.
http://www.echo.msk....b/1090034-echo/

#126 Helene

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:49 AM

That's quite a punch list.

Drew, thank you so much for your descriptions of the new theater: I feel like I had a personal tour of the Mariinsky II :flowers:

#127 Drew

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 09:16 AM

Thanks for the review of Mariinsky II.....very fascinating to read your comments! These are bits of info we would never read in an article about the new theatre, so it really helps that you took the time.

Also, I loved your description of the historic theatre as an enchanted jewelry box. I think you are absolutely correct about that. It is gorgeous! I actually thought there were little signs here and there of the age of the historic theatre, but overall I was enchanted. Just sitting in that theatre is thrilling.

So I will be interested to see if I feel the same way about Mariinsky II when I finally see it, which might be sooner than I expected, because I got a job after 3 years of being out of work!!!! Hip hip hooray!!! I believe I do not start until August. If I am correct, I might hurry up and bathe myself in enchantment again before I face the challenging work ahead of me!!! It all depends on my start date, but I suspect my start date is when the school year here begins.


I would be very interested in your reactions. And a huge congratulations on your new job!

#128 Birdsall

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 09:49 AM


Thanks for the review of Mariinsky II.....very fascinating to read your comments! These are bits of info we would never read in an article about the new theatre, so it really helps that you took the time.

Also, I loved your description of the historic theatre as an enchanted jewelry box. I think you are absolutely correct about that. It is gorgeous! I actually thought there were little signs here and there of the age of the historic theatre, but overall I was enchanted. Just sitting in that theatre is thrilling.

So I will be interested to see if I feel the same way about Mariinsky II when I finally see it, which might be sooner than I expected, because I got a job after 3 years of being out of work!!!! Hip hip hooray!!! I believe I do not start until August. If I am correct, I might hurry up and bathe myself in enchantment again before I face the challenging work ahead of me!!! It all depends on my start date, but I suspect my start date is when the school year here begins.


I would be very interested in your reactions. And a huge congratulations on your new job!


Thank you so much! I cried buckets when I got the call this morning.

Anyway, now the attempt to convince my partner to go on a trip to Russia, or I might go alone again.

#129 Helene

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 09:58 AM

I add my congratulations, and I hope you can sweep up your partner and go to Russia!

There are even boats that go from Moscow to St. Petersburg and back :)

#130 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 11:47 AM

I add my congratulations, and I hope you can sweep up your partner and go to Russia!

There are even boats that go from Moscow to St. Petersburg and back Posted Image


Same here, BB. Wonderful news...more money for ballet performances...! Posted Image

#131 mussel

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 12:25 PM

Thanks for the review of Mariinsky II.....very fascinating to read your comments! These are bits of info we would never read in an article about the new theatre, so it really helps that you took the time.

Also, I loved your description of the historic theatre as an enchanted jewelry box. I think you are absolutely correct about that. It is gorgeous! I actually thought there were little signs here and there of the age of the historic theatre, but overall I was enchanted. Just sitting in that theatre is thrilling.

So I will be interested to see if I feel the same way about Mariinsky II when I finally see it, which might be sooner than I expected, because I got a job after 3 years of being out of work!!!! Hip hip hooray!!! I believe I do not start until August. If I am correct, I might hurry up and bathe myself in enchantment again before I face the challenging work ahead of me!!! It all depends on my start date, but I suspect my start date is when the school year here begins.


Congratulation! A celebratory trip to St. Pete must be in order!

#132 Buddy

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 02:18 PM

Thanks, Drew. I haven't been in the new theater yet but I hope to at least have a look next year. For me the old theater actually has a wonderful cosy feeling like a big friendly living room. The chairs, although attached somehow, are almost standard house chairs. After a couple visits and recognizing familiar faces it can really feel like home.


Added comment:

Did you by any chance get to take a look inside the Mikhailovsky Theatre? It's been beautifully renovated.

http://mikhailovsky.ru/en/theatre/

#133 Birdsall

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 05:19 PM


I add my congratulations, and I hope you can sweep up your partner and go to Russia!

There are even boats that go from Moscow to St. Petersburg and back Posted Image


Same here, BB. Wonderful news...more money for ballet performances...! Posted Image


You got it!!!!

#134 Drew

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 06:26 PM

Thanks, Drew. I haven't been in the new theater yet but I hope to at least have a look next year. For me the old theater actually has a wonderful cosy feeling like a big friendly living room. The chairs, although attached somehow, are almost standard house chairs. After a couple visits and recognizing familiar faces it can really feel like home.


Added comment:

Did you by any chance get to take a look inside the Mikhailovsky Theatre? It's been beautifully renovated.

http://mikhailovsky.ru/en/theatre/


Unfortunately I did not get to the Mikhailovsky.

#135 l'oiseaubleu

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 09:01 AM

Hello everyone!

I have been following this forum since a long time but it is the first time I ever post a message. I am writing a dissertation about the opening of the new mariinsky (who fund it, what are the political and economical purpose, how it is related to the cultural diplomacy...) and I find it very hard to get informations other than reviews from newspaper. I was wondering if some of you knows a governmental report or some serious reviews, books or even dissertation about it? It will helps me a lot! And maybe I can post it here when it is over.

 

Thank you very much in advance for your help!




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