Since 1860 the Mariinsky Theater has served as St. Petersburg's premiere entertainment venue. It is home to a variety of world-renowned organizations and was the birthplace of some of Russia's best composers and performers. Seeing a performance in this theater today is to bask in the symphony of wonder that is and was the Imperial Mariinsky.
The Imperial Opera and Ballet was established in 1783 by Catherine the Great. This organization of Russia's best musicians and dancers first entertained the elite in a wooden theater, far less refined than what the plays and ballets deserved.
The first replacement building was the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theater, but in 1860 a theater of engineering marvel opened on Theater Square. This theater contained the largest performance stage in the world with a U-shaped audience chamber that could hold 1,625 guests. It was dubbed the Imperial Mariinsky Theater after Empress Maria Alexandrovna.
The Mariinsky Theater has staged some of the world's best performances. It has seen operas by such talents as Mikhail Glinka and Tchaikovsky. It has witnessed the rebirth of Swan Lake by world-famous choreographer Marius Petipa, as well as many other unspeakably beautiful ballets. The Mariinsky has seen the premiere of countless fantastic operas and ballets from Boris Godunov to the ballets Spartacus and Cinderella. It is also home to the Russian Ballet and has spurred more careers than any other St. Petersburg ballet school.
Today the Mariinsky lives up to its lofty history. The sea foam green building seems less extravagant than most of St. Petersburg's structures, but inside is contained a world of sensory marvels. The main auditorium immerses guests in a wave of gold, the five-tiered balconies stretching up to the ceiling and cocooning around audiences like a warm sunset. These are but settings for the true wonder, the performances themselves - each ballet and opera is a flurry of stunning backdrops, flowing costumes, and dedicated performers that tie every show into a flawless package.
The Mariinsky Theater is a delight for the eyes as well as the ears. No other performance on earth can compare to witnessing a production in these hallowed halls, and as one of St. Petersburg's most prominent sites, it is almost required of every visitor. You will arrive a tourist but leave a cultured member of Russia's elite musical community.