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Rich cultural heritage: best Russian Theatres

Mariinsky Theater – “Swan Lake” ballet

Welcome to this week’s edition of Matryoshka’s Diary. Traveling to Russia this winter and not sure what to do in cold weather? We have you covered! Our author Elena put together a list of best theatres located across Russia so you will not get bored this winter. Get your best outfits ready as we are about to take you on a cultural tour around the country.

It is no secret that Russia is rich in cultural heritage. Only in St. Petersburg alone there are over 185 theatres and the country is home to numerous first class venues (it is no surprise that St. Petersburg is called a cultural capital of Russia)! Opera and ballet enthusiasts should definitely treat themselves to an unforgettable experience of attending a performance and seeing at least one masterpiece of Russian classical opera and ballet.

Here are some of the best opera and ballet theatres to make your trip to Russia even more special.

Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg

Opened in 1783 at the order of Catherine the Great, the Mariinsky Theatre is a symbol of Russian culture. Originally created as an imperial theatre, it performed solely for the royalty. The Mariinsky ballet troupe is recognized as the best opera and ballet theatre in Russia. Of all outstanding operas and ballet performances, the most notable one is “Swan Lake”, that has been staged for over 120 years.

The Bolshoi Theater in Moscow

The hallmark theater of Russia, Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, opened in 1778 and started out as a private theatre. The Bolshoi has recently undergone a large-scale reconstruction. It is a highly popular venue that has delighted the audience for 242 seasons on both the Historic and New Stages. Among the plethora of iconic productions is the “Boris Godunov”, the opera in four acts based on Alexander Pushkin’s play of the same title.

Mikhailovsky Opera and Ballet Theatre

Established in 1833, the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg is one of Russia’s oldest venues which was used as the tsar’s chamber theatre for a long period of time. The recommended productions in the Mikhailovsky are “Eugene Onegin”, a performance that goes on for 3 hours 45 minutes, and “The Nutcracker”, a ballet in two acts with music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

Would like to experience something different? Here are some of the best theatres located in central and regional Russia

Volkov Academic Drama Theatre in Yaroslavl

The theatre, created in the 19th century, is one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks. It is named after Fyodor Volkov, who is believed to have been the first Russian actor summoned to St. Petersburg by Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. However the theatre is of interest not just for its rich history. Yevgeny Marchelli, one Russia’s most renowned directors, has been its artistic director since 2011. The theatre frequently stages classical plays in bold and even radical new interpretations, and its tours to Moscow have been extremely successful.

The Chamber Theater in Voronezh

Many years ago, Mikhail Bychkov, the director of the Voronezh Theater for Children and Young People, founded his own private Chamber Theatre in the small auditorium of the local House of Culture. It has since become one of the most famous theatres in Russia and has taken part in numerous festivals abroad. Since 2011, the theatre has hosted the International Platonov Festival, at which a number of prominent theatre companies and outstanding musicians have performed. The new loft building, created by architects from Moscow, is open to spectators from midday. It has a library, a cafe and an exhibition hall. Its repertoire includes works by Pushkin, Ostrovsky, Gogol, Chekhov, along with modern European dramas, and, of course, Andrei Platonov, whose name is associated with both the city and the festival.

Kolyada Theatre in Yekaterinburg

The director of the theatre left the local drama theatre to pursue a crazy idea of founding a private theatre. He even named it after himself. But for decades now, the outstanding Russian playwright Nikolai Kolyada has proved that a private theatre in Russia can be more than just an artist’s wild fantasy. The theatre stages Kolyada’s own plays—melodramas that provide actors with an opportunity to display the full scope of their talent—as well as classics and plays written by Kolyada’s numerous students.

Engagement Youth Theater in Tyumen

This small theatre got lucky with its artistic director: Leonid Okunyov is a rare actor who, despite appearing in TV series and films, has not abandoned his native city and its theatre. Instead, he boldly entices young directors from Moscow. As such, the theatre’s repertoire here is rather colorful, ranging from trendy verbatim theatre to plays by the above-mentioned Nikolai Kolyada. There is also an extensive repertoire for children.

Theater of Olonkho in Yakutsk

In 2005, UNESCO declared Yakutia’s national heroic epic, called Olonkho, a masterpiece of human heritage. And ten years ago this theatre, named after the epic, opened in Yakutsk. Its repertoire includes plays largely based on the Yakut national epic tradition (a combination of speech and song). However, this doesn’t prevent them from being understood and appreciated elsewhere, and the theatre has successfully performed internationally – in Spain and Belgium.

Tatar State Drama Theater in Almetyevsk

Almetyevsk is a city with a population of 150,000 that is located 250 km from Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan. The theatre is one of the city’s main attractions. Recently, it has become well known throughout Russia thanks to its cooperation with the ambitious young director Iskander Sakayev. The fact that its performances are in the Tatar language has not stopped them from receiving recognition at various festivals, thus demonstrating not just the diversity, but also the unity of theatrical traditions. Its repertoire includes plays based on Lermontov, Shakespeare, and Brecht.

Drama Theatre in Minusinsk

The theatre has risen in prominence over recent years thanks to its artistic director, Alexei Pesegov. The theatre comes to Moscow almost every year after having been selected by experts at a theatre festival. Its repertoire includes works by Ray Cooney, a popular playwright with Russian directors, as well as classics, such as Nikolai Leskov, Mikhail Bulgakov, and others.

Viktor Panov

The Youth Theatre in Arkhangelsk 

Arkhangelsk is famous as the birthplace of the great scientist and poet Mikhail Lomonosov, and the Youth Theatre has mounted a whole series of historical plays, one of them is dedicated to him. Interestingly, the theatre commissions prominent Russian playwrights to write plays. Like many others, the Youth Theatre exists thanks largely to the efforts of its director, Viktor Panov, who also founded Russia’s first International Street Theatre Festival 30 years ago.

The Gran Theater in Novokuybyshevsk

Denis Bokuradze, a very well-known young director, currently works at this studio theatre. Bokuradze boldly experiments with its repertoire, putting on premieres as wide-ranging as works by Jean-Paul Sartre, medieval French farces or Tania-Tania by the contemporary Russian playwright Olia Mukhina.

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