The world famous building of the Mariinsky Theatre: it's splendid azure, crystal and gilt auditorium, it's subtle yet majestic facade, comfortable boxes and famous curtain are all the work of A.Golovin. The theatre, named "Mariinsky" after the Empress Maria Alexandrovna - wife of Alexander II - opened triumphantly on the 2nd of October 1860 with a performance of Glinka's opera "A Life for the Tsar".
However, the opera and ballet companies of St. Petersburg were established much earlier. Their history goes back as far as 1783 when the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna issued an "imperial order" to found a Russian opera and ballet company in St. Petersburg. This year saw the first theatrical season of the Mariinsky, although nearly 100 years passed between the creation of the company and the building of the actual theatre. Initially performances were staged at the Bolshoi Theatre, which towered over Carrousel Square, as theatre square was called in those days. Opera and ballet performances alternated with theatrical ones, and sometimes the opera singers would even play dramatic roles. It was this theatre that A.Pushkin described the names of
A.Istomina, C.Didlot, and the famous contemporary actress E.Semenova.
In the 1840's an interest in circus performances arose in St. Petersburg , and on Carrousel Square, right opposite the Bolshoi Theatre was built a Parisian style theatre- circus, complete with stage and circus ring. The author of this original architectural idea was A. Kavos, one of the leading Russian architects of the time, and son of the head conductor of the St. Petersburg Bolshoi Theatre , composer and pedagogue K.Kavos.
The theatre had impressively grand decoration, unusual spatial form and was the first theatre in Russia to have gas light. Exactly 10 years after its opening it was destroyed by fire, and only the stone walls were left standing. Alexander II ordered the reconstruction of the building and chose A.Kavos to work on the project. This time the theatre was to be constructed as a musical-drama theatre. By the 13th of May 1859 the aims of the project included the increasing of the width of the stage (so that would be the same as that of the Bolshoi Theatre , Moscow), and the width of the proscenium arch, which was to be made even wider than that of La Scala, Milan, the lengthening of the auditorium, the construction of another circle, the building of parallel building above the former stables, and the construction of a separate staircase and foyer for the Tsar's box.
The auditorium of the Mariinsky is wonderfully impressive: the refined aristocratic range of colours composed of gilt molded decorations, white sculptures and blue velvet chairs, and the splendid thee-tiered chandelier, created by E.Frachioli according to the design of professor C.Duzi. This hall has witnessed the triumphs of many generations of Mariinsky stars. To this day, like a magnet it attracts all ballet and opera lovers - a place of perfection, skill and inspiration.
1742 Empress Elithabeth Petrovna issues a decree establishing the first Russian ballet company.
1756 Empress Elithabeth founds an open Russian Theatre, which is commanded to stage plays and operas.
1766 Creation of the Imperial Theatres company.
1783 The Bolshoi (Stone) theatre, designed by the Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi, opens with a performance of Giovanni Paisiello's opera Il monde della
1802 The Bolshoi Theatre is rebuilt by the architect Jean-Francois Thomas de Thomon.
1811-1818 Reconstruction of the Bolshoi Theatre following a fire.
27 November 1836 Reopening of the Bolshoi Theatre after its reconstruction by Alberto Cavos with a performance of Mikhail Glinka's opera A life for the
1847-1849 Construction of a nearby Circus Theatre by Alberto
1855 Opera performances at the Bolshoi Theatre are transferred to the Circus Theatre (ballet performances continue to be given at the Bolshoi Theatre until
1859 The Circus Theatre catches fire and burns down.
20 October 1860 Opening of a new theatre on the site of the old Circus Theatre. The new theatre is named the Mariinsky, after the Empress Marie, wife of Alexander
1883-1886 Victor Schroeter, head architect of the Imperial Theatres, redesigns the Mariinsky Theatre.
1920 The Mariinsky Theatre is renamed the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet.
1935 The theatre is renamed the Kirov Theatre of Opera and
1968-1970 Reconstruction work carried out on the building by Sergei Gel'fer.
1992 The original name of Mariinsky is restored to the theatre.