The State Academic Mariinsky Theatre

The Mariinsky Theatre is one of the main symbols of St. Petersburg and of Russian culture in general. For more than two centuries, this oldest musical theatre in Russia has maintained the continuity of the nation’s

The Mariinsky Theatre is one of the main symbols of St. Petersburg and of Russian culture in general. For more than two centuries, this oldest musical theatre in Russia has maintained the continuity of the nation’s performing culture, exercising a decisive influence on the development of the Russian opera and ballet traditions.

The Mariinsky gave the world many great artists: for one, the outstanding bass singer and founder of the Russian lyrical opera school Osip Petrov. Here, some of the greatest singers of the 20th century honed their skills and reached the heights of fame: Feodor Chaliapin, Ivan Yershov, Medea and Nikolai Figner, Sophia Preobrazhenskaya. Its stage knew the shine of some of the brightest ballet stars: Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Galina Ulanova, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Here, the great George Balanchine began his artistic journey. The Theatre has witnessed the heyday of some of the most talented stage decorators, such as Konstantin Korovin, Alexander Golovin, Alexander Benois, Simon Virsaladze, Fedor Fedorov and others.

The history of the Mariinsky Theatre is linked with the creation of many masterpieces of Russian 19th-20th century opera and ballet. Among those, the historic premieres of Glinka’s Life for the Tsar and Ruslan and Ludmila, Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, Rimsky-Korsakov’s creations The Maid of Pskov, The Snow Maiden, and The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh..., and of course, the world-famous legacy of Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Queen of Spades, Iolanta, Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty.

At different times, the Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra was led and conducted by Anton Rubinstein, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Gustav Mahler, Arthur Nikisch and Sergei Rachmaninoff. During the Soviet era, the Orchestra knew the hand of such eminent conductors as Vladimir Dranishnikov and Arius Pazovsky. Here, began the musical career of Yevgeny Mravinsky. In the second half of the 20th century, the Orchestra continued the great tradition of the St. Petersburg — Leningrad school of the art of conducting, manifesting its achievements in the artistic leadership of Eduard Grikurov, Konstantin Simeonov and Yuri Temirkanov. Since 1988, the post of Chief Conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre has been occupied by Valery Gergiev.

The arrival of Valery Gergiev marked a new era in the history of the Theatre — the era of intense creativity and new artistic possibilities. There is a direct link between the global recognition of the Mariinsky Theatre and its star cast, which is capable of rendering any performance — classic or modern — a great artistic achievement. From year to year, the Theatre releases more and more premieres, rapidly expanding its repertoire to complement the classical masterpieces with the lesser-known works of the Russian and European composers of the 20th century.

The Mariinsky Theatre was the first in Russia to work with leading opera companies around the world, including Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Bastille, La Scala, La Fenice and the San Francisco Opera.

For its ballet repertoire, the Theatre is rightly called the House of Petipa. However, today it also reflects the wide range of current trends in choreography, from George Balanchine’s neo-classics to the avant-garde works of William Forsythe.

In 2008, an opinion poll among the leading music critics of the major publications in America, Asia and Europe named the Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra among the 20 best orchestras in the world.

Today, the Mariinsky Theatre is one of the largest and most dynamic theatre companies in the world. With the opening of its dedicated Concert Hall in 2006, and the Mariinsky-2 stage in May 2013, the Mariinsky Theatre has expanded its creative and educational opportunities to become a unique, creative concert venue, reasserting its rightful place among the largest and most significant cultural institutions in the world.

The Art, Science and Sport Charity Foundation supports the Mariinsky Theatre as well as the festivals, special concerts and other events the theatre organises.

Photographs courtesy of Valentin Baranovsky, Natalia Razina, Sergei Tyagin.