Apart from the world-famous Mariinsky Theatre, St.Petersburg can boast of another, so called “minor” Opera House – Mikhailovsky Theatre named after the Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich Romanov, a philanthropist and patron of fine arts.
The theatre is part of the big complex in the Arts Square devoted to Russian art and history. It is next to the Mikhailovsky Palace (known more as The State Russian Museum) and was designed in the 19th century by a Russian architect Alexander Briullov, who made sure the exterior of the theatre is in line with the overall style of the square created by the great architect Carlo Rossi.
Quite a stern-looking facade is completely offset by the glamorous interior decoration reconstructed in 2001 as part of an extensive restoration – its crystal chandeliers and impressive stucco decoration, lots of mirrors, velvet and silver take you back to the imperial times and add the luxury of royal palaces to the glamour of Russian ballet.
The first performance took place at the Mikhailovsky Theatre on November 8th, 1833 and was such a success, that by the end of XIX century the entire St. Petersburg gentry including the imperial family were coming there to enjoy the best Russian and European opera singers, ballet dancers and maestros including the famous Johann Strauss conducting.
After the revolution the Mikhailovsky Theatre was the second State Opera House of Petrograd, got renamed several times and became a “laboratory of Soviet opera” in the 30s – introducing Soviet people to operas like “The Nose” and “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” by Dmitry Shostakovich, the innovative “Queen of Spades ” by Vsevolod Meyerhold, “War and Peace” by Sergey Prokofiev.
In 1989 the theater was renamed again, this time after the composer Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky. The repertoire appeared to be predominantly Russian classics: “Boris Godunov” and “Khovanshchina” by Mussorgsky’s, “The Golden Cockerel” and “The Tale of Tsar Saltan” by Rimsky-Korsakov, “Prince Igor” by A. Borodin.
After the major restoration in 2001 the theater got its historical name- Mikhailovsky – back.
Nowadays the Mikhailovsky Theatre stays at the cutting edge of the world modern art, but the most modern experimental settings come alongside with the classic works of XIX-XX centuries.
Its own repertoire includes “Carnival” and “La Traviata” by Verdi, “La Boheme” and “Tosca” by Puccini, “Eugene Onegin” and “The Queen of Spades” by Tchaikovsky.
The Mikhailovsky Theatre also hosted the famous snow show by Slava Polunin. This funny and at the same time slightly sad play fascinates both kids and adults worldwide, as it plunges the audience back into the charming and touchy world of holiday, childhood and dreams.
The theatre is open to modern and innovative forms of art – e.g. its artistic director of ballet, a Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato, presented a new show “Versatility. Forms of Silence and Emptiness” using the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
The Mikhailovsky Theatre attracts not only theatre-goers, but also hosts recitals and the awards ceremonies of the fine arts and culture.
Address: 191186 St. Petersburg, 1 Arts Square
Ticket office: +7 (812) 595-43-05
Translation by Svetlana Serebryakova