Mariinsky Opens New Annex

Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre opened a new ballet and opera house with a gala ceremony for 2,000 guests May 2.

The new building, next to the 19th-century original, is reckoned to have cost around $700 million. The project was started in 2003 but technical difficulties related to the sub-soil slowed progress. The developers claimed the new building would be “St. Petersburg’s equivalent of New York’s Lincoln Center.”

The building’s design has caused controversy, with some leading Russian cultural figures such as Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky and filmmaker Alexander Sokurov saying “Mariinsky Mall” isn’t in keeping among the other 19th-century buildings in this part of the city.

The building’s admirers clearly include Russian President Vladimir Putin, who told the opening gala guests the building has “everything you need for a theatre.”

The May 2 bash, which included performances of music by Bach and Tchaikovsky and an appearance by Placido Domingo, was the beginning of a week of classical events that will be staged across the original Mariinsky, the new building and the nearby 1,100-capacity Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall.