The best and the most famous theatres of St. Petersburg

The list of St. Petersburg theatres worth visiting is quite long, at the top are: Mariinsky and Alexandrinsky theatres, Mikhailovsky theatre, Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre, Hermitage theatre, Komissarzhevskaya Academic Drama, Variety theatre named after Arkady Raikin and Andrey Mironov Theatre “Russian Enterprise”. 

Where to go in St. Petersburg to enjoy the dramatic art, opera or ballet?

Mariinsky theatre is the greatest opera and ballet house of Russia, widely-known across the world. This place is number one, at the very top of the list for any real theatre-lover. Every day here – best classic music concerts, modern and classical opera and ballet. Mariinsky theatre opened its doors on the 2nd of October 1860, and was named in honour of Maria Alexandrovna, the spouse of the tsar Alexander II. The audience hall is designed for more than 1600 spectators. This stage witnessed a lot of first-nights: «Ruslan and Lyudmila», «Christmas Eve», «The Queen of Spades», «Blacksmith Vakula», «The Demon», «Boris Godunov» and many others. The first foreign operas in Russia appeared also on this stage: «Tristan and Isolde», «Aida», «Othello», «Romeo and Juliet», «Carmen». Life and work of famous singers, actors, ballet-dancers, composers were very closely connected with Mariinsky theatre: Feodor Shalyapin, Feodor Stravinsky, Galina Ulanova, Anna Pavlova, Rudolf Nureev, Mikhail Baryshnikov… Since 1988 and up to now the art director of Mariinsky theatre is a talented conductor Valery Gergiev. Modern Mariinsky theatre has 3 audience halls: besides the first (old) building in Teatralnaya square (Theatre square), there is a new one in Dekabristov street (Mariinsky-II) and a Concert Hall. 

Alexandrinsky theatre (in Ostrovsky square) is known among theatre-goers as one of the best theatres, it is also one of the oldest drama theatres in Russia that still opens its doors to the audience. The birthday of the theatre is supposed to be on the 30th of August 1756, when Elizabeth, Empress of Russia, signed the order of Russian professional theatre. And it was named State Drama House then. During 18–20th centuries this drama house was the main royal theatre. And in 1832 it moved into the building in the centre of Nevsky prospect, designed by the famous architect K. Rossi. This hall was named Alexandrinsky, in honour of Alexandra Feodorovna, the spouse of Nicholas I, since then the theatre bears the name Alexandrinsky. The audience hall is designed for about 1500 spectators. Numerous Russian plays have been performed on this stage for the first time: including «Woe from Wit» by Alexander Griboedov, «The Auditor» by Nickolay Gogol (1836), plays by Nickolay Ostrovsky (since 1853), by Ivan Turgenev, Alexander Sukhovo-Kobylin. In honour of 100th anniversary of Alexander Pushkin death, in 1937, Alexandrinsky theatre got another name, and for some years it was called Russian State Academic St. Petersburg drama theatre named after A.S. Pushkin. 

Komissarzhevskaya Academic Drama Theatre was opened on the 18th of October 1942, during the siege of Leningrad. Then it was named City theatre, later – Leningrad Drama Theatre, and in 1959 the theatre got the name of famous Russian actress Vera Komissarzhevskaya. The first play given on this stage was «Russian people» by Konstantin Simonov. During those hard times of the siege the theatre helped people to survive and resist. Nowadays the repertoire is regularly changing: comedies, dramas and tragicomedies – stage directors of different generations work here in various genres. And the theatre always enjoys popularity.

Mikhailovsky theatre is one of the oldest opera and ballet houses in Russia. It was opened in St. Petersburg in 1833, by Royal decree (of tsar Nicholas I), and named in honour of the grand duke Mikhail, the tsar’s brother. The building was constructed by A. Brullov, partly according to K. Rossi design, who was trying to make the Arts Square look a harmonious architectural ensemble. Originally Mikhailovsky theatre was the place for royal family and the court. At first there was no own company at the theatre, performances were given by French of German troupes, and some eminent guest actors. Here, with operetta "The Gipsy Baron" Iohann Strauss finished his 30 years of St. Petersburg seasons. And the great Russian singer Feodor Shalyapin acted and staged performances here. During its long history the theatre was renamed several times: Maly Opera and Ballet Theatre — of Leningrad, and then – of St. Petersburg; since 1989 the theatre was named after M.P. Musorgsky, and in 2001 it’s got the original name — Mikhailovsky theatre.

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