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Where was the Tsar's box?

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In Solomon Volkov's books he quotes Balanchine as saying the Tsar's box is not the huge box at the center back, but a box on the right, much as in Copenhagen's Royal Theater. People I have talked to here say it is in fact the box at the center back.

Does anyone know which is correct?

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I think that most of the European opera houses maintained the great center box as the State box, which would be used by the head of state and visiting dignitaries when the performance was a state occasion, i.e. a command performance or just showing off for the out-of-towners. The house manager and the theater directorate had control of who sat in that box. The Royal box was/is always controlled by the sovereign and is frequently peopled by those who have received tickets as a Royal Gift. (Much nicer than some kings, like one King of Spain, who used to give his favorites mules) For reasons I know not, they are usually over on the theater right. It's one of the reasons that the audience could see George II standing up, craning his head out into the auditorium to catch more of the sound at the London debut of Handel's Messiah.

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i have the same sense things that mel explains.

the elaborate, central, first tier loge (dominating the maryinsky's bel etage ring) is the state box often used by the tsar for special occasions when he and his family and his state guests could attend special performances at the theater.

however, the 'usual' royal box is less elaborate, closer to the stage (theater right) just over the orchestra pit.

the recent SACRED STAGE dvd about the maryinsky shows the long, isolated, private corridor leading directly to this box w/o any need for passing through the auditorium.

european and russian readers can obviously say more.

(in the case of the paris opera, especially the rue pelletier(sp?) house that preceeded the garnier, the so-called 'infernal loge' was similarly placed to the russian tsar's loge but lower down and almost on the stage, and was occupied by the opera's most wealthy and well-connected and raucous subscribers - the jockey club. the catalogue for the recent 'degas and the dance' has some information about this french phenomenon.)

attached is a recent st. petersburg postcard showing the central, bel etage box and confusingly identified as the 'tsar's box.'

[during the soviet era the loge's imperial crown was removed and the central crest, now a monogram indicating MT for maryinsky theatre but probably one showing the romanov double-headed eagle crest, held the hammer&sickle.]


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This carries no weight whatsoever, but ... in one of the Blackadder episodes (series III), Hugh Laurie's Prince of Wales (future George IV), accompanied by his valet Rowan Atkinson sits in a box that is located theater right, directly adjacent to the stage. (I tend to assume that high-level British comedy, however, absurdist, is actually well-researched).

This was also the location of President Lincoln's box at Ford's Theater, which made it possible for Booth to jump from box to stage after the shooting, thus breaking his leg.

I remember a documentary about Nikita Khruschchev in which he, his roly-poly wife, and a number of Party dignitaries occupied the big center box. Don't know if it was the Kirov or the Bolshoi. The group was definitely not amused by whatever it was that they were attending. At one point they all applauded in grim unison.

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Helene - I have bad news for you :)

The theater itself is beautiful like confectionery (and overdone like it, too) but between the tourists (and Russians) with flashbulbs going off all the time, and the crazy game of musical chairs played when seating - it seems some people just sit in any likely seat and move to another one when the actual occupant arrives. I'm kind of in culture shock. Also sadly, it did seem that most tourists to the Mariinsky don't have a clue what they're looking at.

But then again, the walk back to the hotel (I have a room overlooking St. Isaac's!) on the Moika Embankment in pale yellow light and soft rain at 10:15 pm is one of the prettiest things I've seen in a while. The city is frustrating and magical - I suggest we do a group tour to alleviate the frustration!

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Leigh, That is the problem going in the tourist season, people going to the theater just to be able to say they have been there. When I was there, some years ago now, it was late November, thankfully not a tourist in sight and I thought people behaved beautifully.

I believe that large center box was just for so called "official performances". I have heard of Grand Dukes who sneaked out of their boxes and sat in the first row in order to be close to their favourites. Maybe that is what people are doing these days.

But I do think it is a wonderful place - I am born and brought up with those kind of old plushy theaters and I just love them :)

Please let us know all of what you have seen! Have you seen any school performance? I did, it was most interesting.

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Leigh, sign me up. Even tho I'll be in Moscow and St. Petersburg in Sept. I'll miss all the ballet. For years I've dreamed of a European Ballet Tour: a group tour that coincides with as many major ballet performances as possible. Of course it will start in New York!


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