Russia's Mariinsky unveils new stage
Russia's famous Mariinsky theatre in Saint Petersburg on Thursday was to inaugurate a new ballet and opera house in an event falling on the 60th birthday of its director Valery Gergiev.
The new "Mariinsky-2" theatre will open with a gala on Thursday night conducted by Gergiev with star performers from across the world, and with Russian President Vladimir Putin expected in the audience.
Putin, who the day before gave Gergiev one of five prestigious Hero of Labour medals, on Thursday lavished the conductor with praise congratulating him on his anniversary.
"A man endowed with truly unending creative energy, brilliant, inimitable Maestro," Putin said in a birthday telegramme, calling Gergiev "one of the outstanding musicians of our time."
The new theatre lies just behind the historic Mariinsky Theatre, which was founded in the 18th century and was the birthplace of the great Tchaikovsky ballets like "Sleeping Beauty" and "Swan Lake".
The theatre is the centrepiece of Gergiev's vision of making Saint Petersburg an international capital for music, which has already seen the creation of a brand new Mariinsky concert hall nearby.
Gergiev, currently also chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, openly acknowledges that none of the plans would have been possible without the support of strongman Putin, whom he has publicly praised for restoring stability in Russia.
"Performances and concerts... allow people to feel what joy it is to live on this earth, what joy to live in Russia, to live today in a stable country, a country that is wealthy, first and foremost with human talent," Gergiev said Wednesday at his medal reception thanking Putin for his support.
Performers at the Thursday gala will include the great Spanish tenor Placido Domingo and the Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, whose early career at the Mariinsky catapulted her to international stardom.
Among the ballet dancers performing will be the supreme Russian ballerina of modern times, Ulyana Lopatkina, and the much-admired Diana Vishneva, in a gala that the theatre clearly hopes will outdo the reopening of Moscow's Bolshoi in October 2011 after a major refit.
The event, which is being broadcast live on Russian state television, will begin at 1600 GMT and kick off a glittering array of events later in the week.
© 2013 AFP