When you think of theater in Russia, most likely the Russian Ballet performing Swan Lake comes into your mind. With images of the elaborate beauty of the classic Mariinsky Theatre, you can be transported back into a time of unparalleled elegance. As the cultural capital of Russia, Saint Petersburg is home to both classical and modern theatre companies known and respected throughout Russia and the world. Music theatres, ballet and opera theatres, puppet theatres and drama theatres all have something unique to offer.
Mariinsky Theater is arguably the most well known and lavish of Saint Petersburg theaters and both the new and old stage are awe inspiring along with the productions they present. Any night of the week you can be sure to find operas, ballets or concerts being performed throughout the three main buildings that make up the theatre: The classical Mariinsky Theatre, New Mariinsky II stage, or the Concert Hall.
Similarly, Mikhailovsky Theatre, a bit smaller than the Mariinsky but increasing in popularity and prestige under a new directorship, also boasts spectacular ballets, operas and musical performances in a more intimate setting. Finally, the Hermitage Theater, the previous theatre of the imperial family, has the advantage of being a part of the Winter Place, a charm that adds to the experience of the production. The far more intimate setting of the smallest of the three has preserved the heritage of the Russian Ballet for centuries.
If language barrier is a great concern while visiting the city, an opera or ballet will allow you the full experience of the show without worrying about translation. With some of the most prestigious ballets in the world, don’t miss your chance to see one.
Bolshoi Theatre Kukol: If you arrive in Russia and are invited to puppet theatre, you may have in your mind the box puppet theatres of your childhood. However, in Russia, puppet theatre is a lively, engaging and spectacular form of theatre for children and adults alike. The Bolshoi Theatre Kukol the oldest and most well known of the puppet theaters in Russia. With often elaborate and impressive stage scenes, costumes, and puppets, producers envision both modern and traditional shows through a unique artistic medium.
When first arriving in Russia, children’s puppet theatre was a personal favorite form of theatre. With simple lexica and wonderful stage scenes, I was able to enjoy the shows and improve my limited Russian language.
Bolshoi Drama Theatre (BDT): This theatre has become one of the most important drama theaters in the city and hosts classical plays and works of Russian literature by modern directors. Known throughout Russia and internationally, actors of the Bolshoi Drama Theatre are some of the most talented drama actors in all of Russia. With both classical and modern inspired productions, you can be sure to find something of interest at the Bolshoi Drama Theater while at the same time improve your Russian language!
As a country with a proud artistic theatre heritage, any trip to Russia, and any trip to Saint Petersburg, would not be complete without the Russian theatre. For students of Russian language, theatre will not only give you a glimpse into a long history of culture and art, but can also act as an enjoyable way to put your language learning to the test!
Let’s learn some Russian!
Большое Драматический Театр: Bolshoi Drama Theater
Большое Театр Кукол: Bolshoi Theatre of Dolls (puppets)
Мариинский Театр: Mariinsky Theatre
Михайловский театр: Mikhailovsky Theatre
Эрмитажный Театр: Hermitage Theatre
Русский балет: Russian ballet
Спектакль: Show (production)
- Russians often view going to the theatre as a special event where one can dress up and enjoy a night on the town. Especially when visiting the Mariinsky, Mikhailovsky or Hermitage theatres, it is common to see both women and men in dressy-casual to elegant dress.
- Be sure to purchase your ticket ahead of time. Depending on the venue and the type of show, tickets can be purchased far in advance to ensure good seating. For high-demand shows, tickets and prime seating can sell out quickly.
- Playbills, show times and ticket purchases can all be done through individual theatre’s websites as listed above.