New East Digital Archive

New Mariinsky Theatre divides St Petersburg residents

New Mariinsky Theatre divides St Petersburg residents

19 February 2013

The first unveiling of St Petersburg’s yet-to-be-completed Mariinsky Theatre has left residents up in arms, with hundreds rallying for the building to be demolished. Scaffolding for the theatre came down three weeks ago revealing a glass facade that stands in contrast to the original Mariinsky Theatre, which is just a short walk away.

Critics have said the building looks more like a shopping centre than a prestigious theatre. “What we have is an impersonal building that does not blend in with its surroundings and that is not interesting in itself,” said Yulia Minutina from the preservationist organisation Living City in an interview with Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.

Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the State Hermitage Museum, weighed in earlier this month, calling the new theatre “an architectural mistake”. However, Valery Gergiev, director of the Mariinsky Theatre, has defended the building. Speaking at a press conference, he said: “My first impressions are very good … We can’t make any conclusions yet - the building has to be seen as a whole, and this is not yet possible. The glass stairs have not been installed; and there are no space-transforming lights yet that will make the theatre glow in the dark and illuminate the city centre.”

The building was designed by Canadian architecture firm Diamond and Schmitt and is estimated to cost $629m - up from the allocated $100m. Architect Jack Diamond has been unperturbed by the criticism. “I had exactly the same reaction when we did the opera house in Toronto,” he said. “People wanted red velvet and gild, they railed against the modernity. Once it opened, of course, opinions changes.”

The new Mariinsky Theatre is scheduled to open on 1 May.

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