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The Mariinsky is one of the world's most famous theatres for opera and ballet, now expanded to include a second stage and concert hall. Discover its extraordinary history through this gallery of stunning images.
With a seating capacity of 1,625, the Mariinsky opened on 2 October 1860 with a performance of Glinka's 'A Life for the Tsar'. Picture: Getty
The Mariinsky is named after Empress Maria Alexandrovna, wife of Tsar Alexander II. But its name has changed throughout history, reflecting the political climate of various times. Through most of the Soviet era, it was known as the Kirov. This is the design for the Imperial-era curtain used prior to 1914.
The first original ballet to be produced at the Mariinsky was Minkus's 'Les Pilules magiques'. Pictured is a more recent production of 'Swan Lake'. Photo: PA/Jon Crwys-Williams/EMPICS Entertainment
The Mariinsky has hosted the premieres of many of the greatest Russian operas. Pictured is its production of Rimsky-Korsakov's 'The Tale of Tsar Sultan'. Photo: PA/Jon Crwys-Williams/EMPICS Entertainment
Among the world premieres given at the Mariinsky was Mussorgsky's 'Boris Godunov' in 1874. The premiere established traditions that have influenced subsequent productions including historically accurate sets and costumes, and histrionic singing by Boris, which often degenerates into shouting.
The Company currently lists 22 sopranos on its roster, of which Anna Netrebko is the most famous. She is pictured here singing Donizetti's 'Lucia di Lammermoor' in January 2009. Photo: AP/Valentin Baranovsky
Prokofiev began his opera in 1940 but World War II halted its production. The first performance did not occur until 3 November 1946 (pictured). Commentators have noted the opera's lack of political or social comment, except perhaps for a scene involving drunken monks.
A Soviet government decree of 9 November 1917 made the Mariinsky Theatre the property of the State and it was transferred to the People’s Enlightenment Commissariat. In 1920 it was renamed the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, and in 1935 it was named after Sergei Mironovich Kirov.
A contemporary work from the Mariinsky Ballet, 'Steptext' combines the company's centuries-old classical refinement with a more modern, abrasive edge. Photo: PA/Jon Crwys-Williams/EMPICS Entertainment
The ballet school of the Mariinsky has spawned the careers of such greats as Pavlova, Nijinsky, Balanchine, Nureyev and Baryshnikov. Here Mariinsky ballet dancers reflect in a giant mirror during a performance on 1 May 2013. Photo: AP/Dmitry Lovetsky
The Mariinsky has been the home of many great impresarios, conductors and musicians. Its current Artistic Director is Valery Gergiev. Photo: V. Baranovksy
Since 1993, Gergiev’s impact on the Mariinsky has been enormous. He established links with many of the world's great theatres and launched the opera and ballet companies on international tours. Here they perform 'Steptext' at London's Sadlers Wells theatre in 2008. Photo: PA/Jon Crwys-Williams/EMPICS Entertainment
Gergiev has been innovative in his choice and presentation of operas. Operas by non-Russian composers began to be performed in their original languages. This is a recent spectacular production of Wagner’s The Valkyrie. Photo: N. Razina.
On 2 May 2013, the new Mariinsky Theatre - adjoining the historical building - opened in St. Petersburg. Photo: AP/Dmitry Lovetsky
The Mariinsky Ballet Company is closely linked with the entire history of the development of Russian choreographic art which began more than two and half centuries ago. Here the Mariinsky dancers perform in Taipei, Taiwan, in 2006. Photo: AP/Chiang Ying-ying.
Construction of the Mariinsky’s second stage, seating 2,000 in the audience, cost a total of 500 million euros. Photo: Dmitry Lovetsky/AP/Press Association Images.
The nearby Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, designed by French architect Xavier Fabre, opened in the spring of 2007. It has room for 1,100 patrons. Photo: AP/Dmitry Lovetsky.
Veterans and senior employees of the Mariinsky were treated to a special performance on 1 May 2013, ahead of the opening of the new theatre the following day. Photo: AP/Dmitry Lovetsky
On 1 May 2013, Placido Domingo performed an aria from Wagner's 'The Valkyrie' during the performance for veterans and senior employees of the Mariinsky theatre, ahead of the new theatre's official opening. Photo: AP/Dmitry Lovetsky