ST. PETERSBURG, May 2 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin toured on Thursday a new stage of the Mariinsky Theater and gave an opening speech at the official ceremony marked with a gala concert.
The much-debated Mariinsky II, which cost $700 million, was formally opened Thursday in Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg, known as the country’s center of culture and the president’s native city.
“Today we are opening the second stage, but in fact it is a new theater,” Putin said in his opening remarks. “Mariinka has not lost its gloss over the years, but has reached a new level,” he added.
The star-studded gala opening was conducted Valery Gergiev, the worldwide renowned artistic director of the theater, and was attended by a select number of guests.
The final opening followed almost eight years of construction works accompanied by heated debates over the whole ambitious project.
The new 2,000-seat theater, reportedly the most expensive cultural construction in modern Russia, was designed by Toronto-based architect Jack Diamond. The new building stands close to the 19th century Mariinsky Theatre, one of the most famous Russian stages, which is suffering from the age effects and set to be closed for a renovation.