Mariinsky Theater Set to Open Doors to New Stage in May 2013

Mariinsky Theater Set to Open Doors to New Stage in May 2013

Published: August 15, 2012 (Issue # 1722)

Mariinsky II, the second stage of the world-famous Mariinsky Theater, will receive its first spectators in May 2013, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky promised this week after a meeting with the company’s artistic director, Valery Gergiev.

“Russia will be getting the best theater building in the world,” Medinsky declared.

Earlier this year, the official made some sobering statements about the project, revealing Medinsky’s disappointment in the slow pace of the construction. Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2012, the minister said that the construction had slowed down and had de facto been taking place only over the three previous months.

Responsible for the design of the new opera house is Canadian architectural firm Diamond and Schmitt Architects, which in 2009 won the international competition to design Mariinsky II. The project, which is estimated to have a total cost of 19.1 billion rubles ($161.7 million), is being financed by the Russian government.

“The troupe needs the new stage like every living creature needs oxygen,” Gergiev said. “It is shameful that in the 21st century, the Mariinsky Theater has to close for at least five days to mount the sets for Andrei Konchalovsky’s staging of Prokofiev’s ‘War and Peace.’”

By his own admission, Diamond is not an architect that “hits you in the eye” or goes for extravagant solutions. Nor does he tend to replicate the past. “If back in the 18th century St. Petersburg had been replicating the past, you would have had a different city,” the architect told The St. Petersburg Times.

The local architectural community criticized Diamond’s design for what the critics described as a devastating lack of personality.

“An average architecture student would have done a better job,” said architect Mikhail Sarri, of St. Petersburg’s town planning council. His fellow council member Nikita Yavein went further. 

“If any members of our council had the temerity to present our city with something as useless as this, they would have been kicked all the way back to their studios,” Yavein said.

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