A Night at the Opera

Published: July 31, 2013

Mariinsky Theater/Мариинский театр
Театральная площадь, д. 1
Metro Садовая
www.mariinsky.ru

The Mariinsky Theater has gotten a lot of press lately with the controversial opening of the new Mariinsky stage. Many residents of St. Petersburg have complained that the new Mariinsky stage is hideous and does not fit with the style of the city. Some have suggested that a new façade be added to the new building. Regardless of the controversy, a night at either Mariinsky is a night to remember.

The famous Mariinsky curtain
The famous Mariinsky curtain

Although it is my dream to see Eugene Onegin / Евгений Онегин performed in Russia, the production had closed for the summer, so I went to see my second favorite opera, Don Giovanni/ Дон Жуан. Don Giovanni, composed in 1787 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, follows the story of Don Giovanni, an infamous womanizer. In the beginning, we see that he has taken advantage of a young woman. This woman’s father chases Don Giovanni out of the house and Don Giovanni kills him. The woman’s fiancé then pledges to kill the criminal, although it is still unknown that it is Don Giovanni. Through a series of events, including the attempted seduction of more women, Don Giovanni invites the spirit of the dead father, the “Commendatore,” to dine with him. The next day, the Commendatore arrives at dinner, where Don Giovanni has descended to base debauchery. The Commendatore asks him to repent, and when Don Giovanni refuses, the Commendatore drags him to hell.

Tsar's box in the Mariinsky
Tsar’s box in the Mariinsky

I have seen two other productions of Don Giovanni, one in Pittsburgh and one on film, but of course, the Russian version was unique. For instance, since there are many couples in this opera, there was a lot of intimacy on stage, which looked exactly like the type of public displays of affection notable in Russia, such as on the metro, on the street, in the park, et cetera. For instance, in America, when there was a tender moment, the couple might kiss and exit the stage. In this Russian production, there was a lot more kissing and then, in one instance, the man playfully slapped the bottom of the woman before exiting.

The opera also had subtitles, but they were in Russian. I knew the story beforehand and the premise is not very difficult to figure out, so that was not much of a problem. However, the couple next to me was from Spain and only spoke Spanish and English, and did not appreciate the Russian-only subtitles. In comparison to the other productions I’ve seen, the conducting and talent of the singers was impressive and incredibly well done. The set was “modern” with a large cutout of a naked woman, which the Russians to other side of me complained about being in “bad taste” and did not understand why the set was not more traditional. Although sitting on the side of the theater made it sometimes difficult to see, I thought the set was interesting, and of course, the Mariinsky itself was beautiful to observe.

Despite the different opinions, the Mariinsky production of Don Giovanni was well worth the 800r ticket and 30r program. I also saw Anna Karenina / Анна Каренина two years ago, which also took a more modern approach, and was also still an excellent production. Although sometimes productions may be more modern and experimental, the Mariinsky really can boast being one of the best theaters for ballets, operas, and other musical productions.

About the Contributor:
Jackie Dufalla is currently a student at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in Slavic Studies and Politics and Philosophy. She will be participating in SRAS’s Internships: NGO and Cultural program in St. Petersburg over the summer of 2013. She hopes to combine her interests by going to graduate school for political science, focusing on Eastern Europe and Russia.