The Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg

23 May

The History of the Mariinsky Theatre

Located in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Mariinsky Theatre is world renowned for the variety of great artists it has provided to the world for centuries. The Mariinsky Theatre is a historic theatre of ballet and opera. It holds the title of the first musical theatre in Russia and continues to develop the great traditions of Russian music.

This articulate structure is built to enhance and maximize the beauty of the artists who perform here. A few artists who have taken the stage include: Fyodor Chaliapin and Anna Pavlova. The Mariinsky Theatre has also witnessed several talents develop in creative theatre directors, such as Alexander Golovin.

After a fire destroyed the Circus Theatre in 1859, which originally stood on the same ground, the construction of the Mariinsky Theatre began. The project was overseen by Alberto Cavos, who originally built the Circus Theatre as well. Cavos named the new theatre in honor of the wife of Alexander II, Empress Maria Alexandrovna.

The production A Life for the Tsar performed as the opening show for the first theatre season, on October 2, 1860. The show was presented under the lead of Konstantin Lyadov, a Russian Opera Company conductor.

Since its original construction, the Mariinsky Theatre has seen several more renovations and name changes. In 1885, the theatre added a wing consisting of three-stories for multipurpose use, such as: rehearsal rooms and an electricity substation. In 1894, concrete and steel replaced the original wooden rafters and they enlarged the audience foyers. After a few name changes, the Mariinsky Theatre was restored back to its name on January 16, 1992.

Music and Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre

In 1783, it a decree established that a theatre committee was “to direct plays and music,” as stated by the decree of Empress Catherine II. Since that time, several astounding singers and ballet dancers have performed on this stage. During its lifetime, the theatre has harbored both renowned artists, as well as emerging artists.


After their performance for many years at the Bolshoi Theatre, ballets transferred to continue performance at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1886. The ballet history at the Mariinsky Theatre remains closely linked with the European choreographic art history.

After a long period of isolation, the Mariinsky Theatre renewed contact with several international choreographers, in the 1970s and 1980s. Since this time, the theatre has continued to collaborate with several leaders in the field of world choreography.


After Konstantin Lyadov, the Principal Conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre led the theatre, Eduard Nápravník arrived in 1863 and took his place. He came to lead a fruitful period in the history of music at the Mariinsky Theatre. The 50 years Nápravník spent at the theatre is known as one of the most influential time periods for the opera in Russian music history.

The Mariinsky Theatre is home to the Mariinksy Orchestra, one of the oldest orchestras in Russia. The Mariinsky Orchestra played a role in the first Russian performances of European ballets and operas, and several roles in countless Russian premieres. The orchestra continues to thrive, named as one of the top twenty orchestras in the world in 2008.

The Mariinsky Chorus is best known for its rich history, including impactful events and its close links with the development of Russian music. Regularly appearing at international festivals and performing in several world premieres, the Mariinsky Chorus possesses a rich and powerful sound. Recently, the Mariinsky Chorus won one of its most prestigious prizes, the ICMA 2011 award “For the Best Work by a Chorus.”

The Theatre’s Role in the Musical World

The Mariinsky Theatre has, and continues to, harbor well-known and emerging artists in a variety of different arts – from ballet, to opera to the Mariinsky Chorus. With its image being upheld both in Russia and around the world, the theatre continues to influence artists globally. Several masters of the arts have received their premieres on this stage.