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Opening of new Mariinsky II Opera House in St. Petersburg

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A release:



Opening Night Gala concert will feature Ildar Abdrazakov, Yuri Bashmet, Olga Borodina, Plácido Domingo,

Ekaterina Gubanova, Leonidas Kavakos, Yekaterina Kondaurova, Ulyana Lopatkina, Alexei Markov, Denis Matsuev, Anna Netrebko, Yevgeny Nikitin, René Pape, Mikhail Petrenko, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Sergei Semishkur, Vladimir Shklyarov, Diana Vishneva, Mariinsky Academy of Young Singers,

Children’s Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, and Vaganova Ballet Academy

Highlights of Opening Events include Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta featuring Anna Netrebko;

Balanchine’s Jewels featuring Ekaterina Kondaurova, Vladimir Shklyarov, Uliana Lopatkina and Danila Korsuntsev;

Verdi’s Nabucco featuring Plácido Domingo and Maria Guleghina;

and a performance honoring Prima Ballerina Diana Vishneva

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA, March 19, 2013 — The Mariinsky Theatre, one of the largest and most acclaimed performing arts institutions in the world, under the leadership of Artistic and General Director Valery Gergiev, today announced that its new state-of-the-art opera house, Mariinsky II, will open to the public with three celebratory days of star-studded musical and dance performances from May 2 through 4, 2013. Further defining the Mariinsky as one of the world’s premier centers for classical music, opera and ballet, the opening of the new hall marks the completion of the Mariinsky Cultural Complex in St. Petersburg’s historic Theatre Square and provides the legendary Russian organization with even greater artistic possibilities.

To inaugurate Mariinsky II, and to celebrate the Cultural Complex, a three-day, three-venue celebration will showcase the dynamic range of all of the Mariinsky Theatre’s prestigious companies: Mariinsky Opera, Ballet, Orchestra, Chorus, and Youth Ensembles. Celebrations will begin on May 2 with a black-tie Opening Night Gala concert conducted by Valery Gergiev and featuring renowned vocalists and instrumentalists, including Ildar Abdrazakov, Yuri Bashmet, Olga Borodina, Plácido Domingo, Ekaterina Gubanova, Leonidas Kavakos, Alexei Markov, Denis Matsuev, Anna Netrebko, Yevgeny Nikitin, René Pape, Mikhail Petrenko, Sergei Semishkur, as well as the Mariinsky’s acclaimed ballet dancers Yekaterina Kondaurova, Ulyana Lopatkina, Vladimir Shklyarov and Diana Vishneva. The stage production directed by Vasily Barkhatov, with production design by Zinovy Margolin, and lighting design by Damir Ismagilov, will feature imagery that connects the Mariinsky’s legendary 200-year history with its contemporary leading role in the performing arts. Students from the Vaganova Ballet Academy, Mariinsky Academy of Young Singers, and the Children’s Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre will also perform. This evening of multi-generational performances will pay homage to the grand tradition of the Theatre and will celebrate the beginning of a new era.

“The opening of Mariinsky II is the moment to reaffirm the long and great heritage of this institution while celebrating a future in which we are able to create new works and innovative productions as never before,” stated Valery Gergiev, who is currently marking his 25th anniversary with the institution. “The programs for our inaugural festival are chosen to demonstrate the extraordinary range of our companies and our expanded Center, while reflecting both the history of the Mariinsky and the Theatre’s engagement with today’s audiences and with all phases of contemporary opera, ballet and orchestral music.”

On May 3 at Mariinsky II, Mariinsky Opera and Ballet will present Mariusz Trelinski’s production of Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta featuring Anna Netrebko and Sergei Semsishkur, Alexei Markov, Sergei Alexashkin, conducted by Valery Gergiev. That evening at Mariinsky II, Mariinsky Ballet will perform Balanchine’s ballet Jewels showcasing Ekaterina Kondaurova, Vladimir Shklyarov, Uliana Lopatkina and Danila Korsuntsev. The day will come to a close with a late night concert at the Mariinsky Concert Hall two blocks away featuring Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Maestro Gergiev with soloists including Yuri Bashmet, Leonidas Kavakos, Denis Matsuev, and Vadim Repin.

On May 4, the opening festivities will conclude with a performance honoring prima ballerina Diana Vishneva including Balanchine’s Symphony in C and Vishneva performing in Paul Lightfoot’s Subject to Change. An evening presentation by Mariinsky Opera of Verdi’s Nabucco will follow, featuring Plácido Domingo and Maria Guleghina, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Sergei Skorokhodov, and Mikhail Kit, conducted by Valery Gergiev.

Prior to the public opening, past and current Mariinsky artists, along with family and community members, will be invited to Mariinsky II for a special celebratory preview performance.

The Mariinsky Cultural Complex

The new centerpiece of the Mariinsky Cultural Complex, Mariinsky II is designed to complement St. Petersburg’s beloved 19th-century architecture and is situated on Dekabristov Street on the legendary Theatre Square. Mariinsky II is connected to the historic stage of the Mariinsky Theatre, which opened in 1860, by a pedestrian bridge over the Kryukov Canal. It also joins the Concert Hall, inaugurated in 2006, and the Artistic Production Complex of the State Academic Mariinsky Theatre, established in 1874. This expanded Mariinsky Cultural Complex will serve all of the Mariinsky companies, Mariinsky Opera, Ballet, Orchestra, Chorus, and Youth Ensembles, and will enable each of them to offer the public a greatly increased schedule of presentations.

Mariinsky II Architects and Design

Mariinsky II, one of the largest lyric arts facilities in the world and funded by the Russian Government, is designed by the Toronto-based firm of Diamond Schmitt Architects in conjunction with the Russian firm KB ViPS. Mariinsky II’s state-of-the-art facilities will enable the Mariinsky to present the most ambitious, technically demanding productions, beyond what is currently possible on the historic stage.

“Mariinsky II has been designed with the strength, confidence and functional clarity that a building requires if it is to become a lasting part of the life of its city,” Valery Gergiev stated. “I feel certain that 25 years from now, Mariinsky II will be seen as a St. Petersburg landmark in its own right, recognized for its superb acoustics, dazzling production facilities and unsurpassed level of audience comfort. Above all, it will be beloved as one of the city’s great homes for education, where every schoolchild and university student in St. Petersburg has engaged with opera, orchestral music and ballet.”

“Mariinsky II is a structure of authentic contemporary architecture, one respectful of its historic context, based upon the successful configuration of past houses, but of twenty-first century sensibility and one in which the social aspects of attending opera or ballet performances have been enhanced for every member of the audience,” said architect Jack Diamond, Principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects.

The 851,580-square-foot Mariinsky II stands 7 stories tall with 3 underground levels. Mariinsky II features a main auditorium; a 200-seat rooftop amphitheatre; a third-floor lobby amphitheatre; multiple rehearsal rooms for Mariinsky Opera, Ballet, Orchestra and Chorus; dining and production facilities for 2,500 staff; and approximately 567,700 square feet of backstage space. Technical highlights include a stage wagon system and over-stage and under-stage machinery that will allow multiple productions to be performed in repertoire.

The main auditorium, designed in the tradition of 18th and 19th century opera houses, features a horseshoe configuration with three balconies, offering superb sightlines for an audience of approximately 2,000 people. The acoustic design by Müller-BBM has created optimum conditions for voice and the accompanying orchestras for opera and ballet. At about 18,000 cubic meters (635,400 cubic feet), the hall has an ideal volume comparable to the world’s most renowned opera houses.

The exterior of the building features dramatic large glass facades and bay windows set in the outer masonry which provide panoramic views of the city and the adjacent historic Mariinsky Theatre, while fulfilling the traditional role of colonnaded porticos. A gently curved metal roof is enlivened by a glass canopy, giving the building a contemporary identity that is nevertheless rooted in St. Petersburg’s architectural heritage.

Final Phase of Construction

Mariinsky II is nearing completion, with the exterior cupola and canopy receiving a protective glazing. Final finishing details are being added to the windows and construction of the roof parapets is in its concluding stage. On the interior, the spacious back of house will be fully operational shortly, while the auditorium is undergoing the delicate installation of the Swarovski accent light fixtures in the balcony fronts and the Swarovski chandelier in the VIP box. In the lobby, final work includes assembly of the striking 33-meter architectural glass staircase, which is set to begin while the installation of the onyx stone walls is nearly complete. Various acoustic tests have already begun in the auditorium, with the most recent including a symphonic test.


About the Mariinsky Orchestra


The Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre enjoys a long and distinguished history as one of the oldest musical institutions in Russia. Founded in the 18th century and housed in St. Petersburg’s famed Mariinsky Theatre since 1860, the Orchestra entered its “golden age” in the second half of the 19th century under the musical direction of Eduard Napravnik, whose leadership for more than a half century (1863-1916) secured its reputation as one of the finest in Europe. Legendary artists who conducted the Mariinsky Orchestra and praised its outstanding musicianship included Berlioz, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Nikisch and Rachmaninoff.

About the Mariinsky Ballet


Founded in the 18th century, the Mariinsky Ballet is recognized as one of the world’s leading companies. Most commonly known as the Kirov Ballet (its former Soviet name), the company has been home to many of the world’s most notable dancers, including Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. The Mariinsky Ballet performs worldwide under Maestro Gergiev’s direction at cultural institutions such as Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the United States, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, the Baltic Festival in Stockholm and the Salzburg Festival in Austria.

About the Mariinsky Opera


With a history dating back to 1783, the Mariinsky Opera has performed in the world’s most celebrated opera houses and has produced some of opera’s most important artists, including Fyodor Chaliapin, Sophia Preobrazhenskaya, Boris Shtokolov and Anna Netrebko. Since its inception, the Mariinsky Opera, formerly known as the Kirov Opera, has placed an emphasis on Russian culture by showcasing works from great Russian composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich and Prokofiev. Today, the Opera blends the Russian canon with European and Romantic classics and works from vital contemporary composers.

About the Mariinsky Label


The Mariinsky Label, launched in May 2009, draws on the Mariinsky's rich legacy and historic ties to the great Russian composers. It showcases the extraordinary talent within the Theatre and Orchestra, presenting new recordings of both celebrated works and those that deserve wider recognition. Each performance is recorded with high-definition technology in the new Mariinsky Concert Hall, which has been widely acclaimed for its exceptional acoustics. Recordings began in July 2008 during the annual White Nights Festival and are available on SACD from the Mariinsky Label website and better retailers. Notable releases on the Label include performances of Shostakovich’s early opera The Nose (which was nominated for two Grammy Awards) and Wagner’s Parsifal, named as one of the “CDs of the Year” by the New York Times.

About Mariinsky Foundation of America


The Mariinsky Foundation of America (formerly known as White Nights Foundation of America) was formed in 1999 to support the activities of the Mariinsky Theatre’s constituent institutions: the Mariinsky Opera, Ballet, Orchestra and the Academy for Young Singers and the Young Musicians’ Orchestra. The Mariinsky Foundation of America’s mission includes a commitment to strengthening and expanding the cultural, educational and business relationships between Russia and the United States, and to be a positive, apolitical force for peace.

About Diamond Schmitt Architects


Based in Toronto with a practice that is worldwide, Diamond Schmitt is among the top 100 architecture firms in the world based on size and is ranked in the top 10 for cultural facilities by the UK-based publication Building Design. Other performing arts projects include Maison Symphonique de Montreal (2011), Sidney Harman Hall (2008) in Washington, D.C., and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (2006) in Toronto. Diamond Schmitt’s portfolio comprises academic buildings, libraries, sports facilities, residential and commercial buildings as well as extensive work in healthcare, including life science facilities, research laboratories and hospitals.

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The latest (May) issue of Opera News has two articles on the Mariinsky II. One is mainly the facts behind the building of it and reasons for building it, and quotes by Gergiev. Gergiev claims it will bring $144 million a year in ticket sales and that the Mariinsky will be able to do more programming for children. It also says it will enable the company to offer more ballet and opera sharing both stages 50/50 (alternating nights, I assume).

The second article "Risk and Return" by Philip Kennicott goes into the controversy (the cost, the historical buildings destroyed to make room for it, and the look of it that many St. Peterburg citizens hate) surrounding the new theatre. It discusses how St. Petersburg's cultural scene is interconnected with power (political power) just as in imperial times.

The final paragraph is quite interesting. Kennicott surmises that Gergiev (a product of the Soviet Union) frowns upon the pop culture of the West (he doesn't like things like Pussy Riot) and views him and the other power players involved in Russian classical music very much different from "the more egalitarian-minded, studiously (and sometimes fatuously) anti-snobs of the Western opera world." The Mariinsky II is "a monument to the close alliance of cultural and political power that was frayed and severed in liberal democracies after World War II."


By the way, does anyone know which historical buildings were demolished to make room for Mariinsky II? Were they "sights" or were they just simply historic buildings with no sightseeing appeal?

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Having done a moderate amount of exploring in St Petersburg, I do not recall any "sights" adjacent to the old Mariinsky. But the whole area is "historic", and the destroyed buildings might have played one or another historic role.

I agree that I'd hope that any "renovation" of the old Mariinsky Theater remains faithful to the original elegant and charming design.

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This apparently was the building that the new Mariinsky II theatre replaced.

The Culture Palace of the First Five Year Plan -- a Soviet creation from 1930.

You can see a picture of it here with a brief history.


There is also a two story facade from an old, more classic building attached to the canal front of the new theatre. I'll try to track that down and add it to this post as a footnote.

In regard to restoring the old theatre, I believe that a partial restoration was done awhile ago. The new restoration may be a good idea for safety and practical reasons, but this is only a guess. In my years of attending the Festival I've never seen any indications of structural problems, but I've never been in the apparently massive part of the building behind the stage. I would also certainly hope that nothing is changed in the basic nature and appearance of the building and probably won't be. Of the restored historic buildings that I've seen in and around St. Petersburg, the artistic quality and authentic appearance of the restorations have been of the highest order.


The old building front attached to the canal front of the new theatre is apparently a fragment from the Litovsky Market.


"The Palace of Culture named for the First Five Year Plan, a decent piece of constructivist architecture subsequently remodeled in the Stalin classical style, was demolished along with the last surviving remnants of Giacomo Quarenghi's [famous classical St. Petersburg architect] Litovsky Market from the 1780s, to make way for the still-unbuilt second stage of the Mariinsky Theater."


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Buddy, thanks for the info on the historical building. I do always find it a shame to demolish old buildings.

My main worry is that the new theatre was really built so that Gergiev can stage elaborate productions of operas and so few ballets will play there and the ballet company will still have to alternate in the old house with opera and only get some nights in the new house. I hope I am wrong. Hypothetically, this will be a chance for ballet every night (one house or the other) and opera every night (alternating houses). That would be great for tourists who might be there for only a few nights and want to catch as many ballets as possible.

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Buddy, thanks for the info on the historical building. I do always find it a shame to demolish old buildings.

Hypothetically, this will be a chance for ballet every night (one house or the other) and opera every night (alternating houses). That would be great for tourists who might be there for only a few nights and want to catch as many ballets as possible.

Great for residents too, Birdsall. I might yet have to move to St. Petersburg because of this possibility.

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The other theaters with two diverse facilities seem to program based on the appropriateness of the work to place, including technical demands, size of the work, and audience demand. The Bastille is very different than Palais Garnais, and the new Opera House in Copenhagen is very different from te Royal Theater. The Bolshoi tends to have one opera and one ballet playing in the two stages.

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MacLean's magazine has done a feature on Mariinsky II from the architect's perspective.


The official verdict is, "What's done cannot be undone," or rather, " 'I love it; so deal with it.' " That's Maestro Gergiev's sentiments too. Gergiev has even gone so far as to state on the evening news back in February that

"Fools will probably stay away." Since the reveal and that remark, Gergiev's fellow Petersburgers have responded with righteous indignation, to put it mildly.


I think that the auditorium far excels the exterior facades, given that it was (obviously) built with the Opera in mind. For all the billions spent, both institutions should have been serviced equally. However, the considerations were one sided. There is only one (1) large studio for the Ballet with a glass ceiling, and other rehearsal rooms with low ceilings. So, pdd/lifting rehearsals will be difficult if not impossible. Therefore, the old theatre's studios will have to be used. The historic Theatre is scheduled to close for renovation in 2016. So, can someone please tell me

where the dancers will rehearse? The Vaganova Academy can (and has been) utilized for this purpose before, specifically during the Soviet's last upgrade in 1977. But it's anyone's guess where the Ballet will rehearse three years from now.

Also, a number of new dancers have been hired for the new theatre, (approx. 60), so the space issues of the old Theatre are only exacerbated with the new Theatre. The decision to hire new dancers is recent (and) after the

fact. There's no extra room: The designs were executed based on the Ballet's personnel number when they started and the estimated number of personnel when they finished. What's particularly disturbing is the suggestion that the open air roof might be used as a White Nights "wedding chapel" for citizens, as well as tourists. If that happens, (I doubt it), but if it does, that will out "commercialize" Vladimir Kehkman's giant advertisements in the Mikhailovsky's foyer.

There are also concerns regarding the functionality of the new house for the *opera*. For example, Gergiev

and the architects have repeatedly waxed ecstatic over the "speed" by which the scenery can be changed during intermissions, which are now approx. 45 mins to 15 mins - or less. Safety is a major concern because scenery has to be assembled and dismantled with great care. At least 20 - 25 mins are essential for an approx. 2000 capacity audience and performers to *recuperate during intermissions. *(I'm trying to be tactful here).

The new stage is unraked. Singers want a level stage. The dancers were trained and train with raked floors and are used to a raked stage. The interior is very similar to the ideas for the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Toronto Four Seasons Center. Since these were offered as other samples of Mr. Diamond's work, IMO he seems to be a one note pro. I hope I didn't "miss-speak," but that's what I think.

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Also, a number of new dancers have been hired for the new theatre, (approx. 60), so the space issues of the old Theatre are only exacerbated with the new Theatre. The decision to hire new dancers is recent (and) after the

fact. There's no extra room: The designs were executed based on the Ballet's personnel number when they started and the estimated number of personnel when they finished. What's particularly disturbing is the suggestion that the open air roof might be used as a White Nights "wedding chapel" for citizens, as well as tourists. If that happens, (I doubt it), but if it does, that will out "commercialize" Vladimir Kehkman's giant advertisements in the Mikhailovsky's foyer.

With more dancers hired wouldn't the Mariinsky also need to hire more teachers? Or will they just jam the dancers into one room? You would think more classes, etc. would be needed, but I know nothing about this. I just imagine the teachers having more work load unless more were hired.

So the expense of this new theatre is not over just because it is paid for and finished. More dancers, more teachers, etc. will be more people on the payroll.

Weddings on the roof? Gran Dio!!!! How tacky!!! O mio dolor!!!!

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Thanks for your thoughts, Cygnet and Birdsall. I also have a lot of ongoing interest and emotion attached to this project.

From the photos shown in the Maclean's article, I feel that the interior public spaces are quite beautiful, i.e. the seating-performance area (warm and comfortable) and the stairway-lobby area (exciting). Both are pictured at the bottom of the page.


I still have a great fondness for the Exterior of the Initial Models for the 'space age', golden shell design, a design which apparently was changed considerably along the way. The design was debated for practicality, compatibility, ect. reasons (which I can totally sympathize with) and finally replaced with the selection of the new architects and the now existing building.

(I like the third and fourth pictures down in particular)


Although allocation of the facilities is being debated, by ballet fans in particular, the functioning of the facilities should be excellent.

I would also add that I like the old building very much. I think that it's Beautiful !

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I prefer architect Diamond's design -- what was built -- to the quirky Golden Envelope by the initial designer, Perrault. The new interior looks lovely - similar to recent designs of new opera houses in Toronto (also by Diamond), Newark (NJPAC Prudential Hall) and Copenhagen (opera house opened in '05). It's nice that they've maintained the 'grandness' of an old-fashioned opera house, with even a new Tsar's Box in the center. The Bastille Opera in Paris eschewed the horseshoe-style boxes, which is a shame, IMO.

I'm not sure that glass walls allowing passers-by to see performers in rehearsals or at class is such a great thing, though. Maybe it won't be so bad in reality? (Buddy, I hope that you're not planning on taking a folding chair to the sidewalk, to see your favorites warming up? ha-ha! Hey, even I would line-up to watch, if that were really possible!)

Renting-out the rooftop terrance? Well, at least it's not as tacky as placing new-model BMWs inside a lobby, as Kekhman has done at the Mik.

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Hi, Natalia. I'm not sure that it is possible to see the artists practicing from the outside. The large studio windows seem to be located on the second and third floors. I thought that it might have been a nice idea to be able to view them from the sidewalk, but the design was actually different.

(windows in back, at the left of photo)


Two thoughts come to mind. I had a figure skating teacher from the Ukraine who told me that as a child her grandmother would give her the cholce of visiting the local gardens or watching the ballet dancers practice from the sidewalk. Her choice was always to watch the ballet dancers and she eventually went into figure skating.

The second is that I've read that you can do this at the Miami City Ballet building and it's a very popular pastime.

You're right. I would love doing it.

Added comment:

All the new building is by Diamond Schmitt Architects as far as I know, Natalia, except for the fact that it rests on some of the original design's foundations.

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Another thought, Natalia. It might be possible some day to add an outside walkway balcony to the studio area to make outside viewing of the practices a reality. It shouldn't be that great of an expense compared to what has already been spent. It might even add to the exterior appearance of that part of the building by breaking up some of the massiveness. It could maybe be tied into the suspension bridge passage way for weather protection.

(again referring to window area in back, at the left of photo)



Where should we set up our shingle ? "Natalia and Buddy Architectural Designers"

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..........Where should we set up our shingle ? "Natalia and Buddy Architectural Designers"

Uhhhh...I think that 'B' comes before 'N'! BudNat Enterprises. (wink)

Except for the entrance corner (the glass seen on the right of that photo), this looks like a boxy warehouse. Only the COSTCO sign is missing. The balcony-walkways would be an improvement, although the dancers may go nuts when they see the esteemed balletomanes peering in, camcorders at the ready. I had no idea that Miami City Ballet allows such a thing, i.e., the public can stand outside and watch classes/rehearsals.

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