Russia and the Baltic travel blog

At the Mariinsky Theatre

St Issac's Cathedral


St Petersburg. Part III

May 29

Ruth took it easy this morning after our strenuous day yesterday. Andrew, Grammar and I walked. It was damp and misty all day but we had no major rain.

We wandered around "our" neighbourghood, passing St Nicholas' Church, the Mariiensky Theatre and stopping at the Choral Synagogue. It is a striking, red and white Byzantine-style brick building. It was fascinating inside and had a very good, small gift shop with reasonable prices. Andrew bought a lovely lacquer tray.

From there, we went to the Yusopov Palace. We were drawn into it because this was where Grigori Rasputin was supposed to have been mortally wounded in 1916. From Wikipedia: "Grigori Rasputin, a peasant and self-proclaimed holy man, had gradually won favour with the Tsar's family through his alleged supernatural powers. His control over the decisions of the family and the Russian ruler himself, put him in a potentially manipulative position and posed a very real threat to their power. Consequently, Rasputin was murdered [likely by nobles] at the Yusupov Palace on the night of December 16-17 1916." Unfortunately, we could not go to the likely location of the attack on Rasputin because we were not on an organized tour but the restored interior of the palace was well worth the visit.

On our way, back to the hotel, Andrew, Grammar and I stopped at a terrific coffee shop attached to the Astoria Hotel. We had yummy treats so that we could get enough energy to go home.

We picked up some snackie-type food for supper: bread, salad, cheese, fruit - because we had to be at the ballet by 7 pm.

I think we all agree that the ballet was one of the highlights of the trip. It was the Mariinsky Ballet Company ( formerly known as the Kirov Ballet Company) and they were performing the ballet "Sylvia" in their home theatre. Every single dancer was excellent. The leads were stupendous. Only the lead male was not Russian; he was a tall Korean. There were 40 dancers in the corps du ballet including 16 men. Sets and costumes were great and the music by Léo Delibes, written in 1886, was rich and lovely. The story is essentially:

“Boy loves girl, girl captured by bad man, girl restored to boy by god”.

The ballet did not earn a lot of critical attention in the 20th century until it was choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton in 1952. Margot Fontaine played the part of Sylvia in the opening. The version we saw was largely based on Ashton's choreography! Lucky us.

Our seats were in a box at the same level as the Royal box. They would have been great except the fellow in the front row next to Ruth, and closer to the stage, kept leaning out onto the front edge of his box and blocked Ruth's view. Grammar was in the second row but had good view. Ruth was too nice to say anything; so finally Grammar swooped down on the guy and gestured to him to back up. He must have been surprised but he did sit up pretty straight for the rest of the show.

May 30

Grammar and I tried to go to the railway museum in the morning but it was closed. Instead we wandered around our neighbourhood again and finally found the elusive Lion Bridge. We had looked for it before but the canal and the streets all roam randomly and finding things is hard.

In the afternoon we all took a bus tour but I cannot remember a thing about it!

We had read a lot about the largely vegetarian Idiot restaurant so we went there for dinner. Ruth and Grammar's foods were good; Andrew chose a meat stroganoff option that was mediocre.

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