Mariinsky Experience: Why Opera Should be on Everyone’s Bucket List

Mariinsky Experience: Why Opera Should be on Everyone’s Bucket List
22 May 2017

Mariinsky Experience: Why Opera Should be on Everyone’s Bucket List

Allow me to start this blog post off with a disclaimer: I decided to join my friends to an opera for the sole purpose of scratching off a point from my bucket list. Though I am an avid an of the performing arts and enjoy visiting theatre performances and ballets, I went into this experience quite haphazardly, and, to be quite frank, because the tickets were ridiculously cheap (that is, for Swiss standards).

Mariinsky Auditorium

Boy, was I in for a revelation.

The Saturday started off relatively early: I was told to dress up, which seemed a bit odd to me. I can understand being fancy schmancy for an evening show, but we had gotten tickets for Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” at noon (which meant I was bound to spend my entire day in heels *sigh*). I met up with three of my Liden & Denz classmates for a quick brunch before the show, after which we swiftly, but oh so elegantly, made our way to the Mariinsky Theatre (мариинский театр).

The neoclassical architecture and the wonderfully pompous, golden decoration of the auditorium were already worth spending a day on the theatre. While admiring the interior design, I noticed quite the diversity within the theatregoers: Though many tourists entered Mariinsky in very casual attire, the Russian frequenter’s dress-up (students’ and the elderly’s alike) ranged from elegant to downright glamorous.

By the time we found our balcony (special thanks to the ticketing ladies, who were kind enough to help us find our way), an old bell rang to let the visitors know that the show was soon to start. Low and behold, I had a blast. In the dimly lit auditorium, the orchestra began playing the captivating opening score. Next, the massive curtains were raised and exposed the first beautiful stage design. Though the Libretto was in Italian, the theatre provided Russian subtitles (there are also many shows with English subtitles, so be sure to check for the language while buying tickets).  Of course, having read the synopsis of whichever opera you choose to watch in a foreign language before the show is an enormous advantage. I did so on the bus ride to the Mariinsky and had no problem with following along the plot of the performance.

While knowing the storyline of the play you are about to watch is crucial, here are a few more tips for your first-time visit to the opera:

  • Don’t be fooled by the special price for Russian’s only. The “standard price” tends to be quite a bit more than the special price for the locals, but no one double checks your identification just for the purpose of ripping you off. In the worst case, whack out your broken Russian and let them know your Russian tyotja (тётя) got the tickets for you.


  • Start off easy: I can’t recommend the classic comedy “Le nozze di Figaro” enough to first-time operagoers. It engages the spectator with multiple distinct plot points and destroys the stereotypical idea of an opera having to be tragic (and tragically boring).


  • Go to the theatre with an open mind: Opera might not be your cup of tea, but that is no excuse to nag about your upcoming visit for days on end. You might be surprised by how much you’ll enjoy it.


The costumes, the wonderful musical score, the wit of the stories, and the feeling of being part of something truly timeless all contribute to the beauty of the opera. So, dear critics: Give it a try. If not for the performance, then for the one of a kind Mariinsky experience.


Cynthia, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg

Posted by Cynthia Hunn

Hi! My name is Cynthia, and I am an intern and Russian language student at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg. I'm on the quest to find the best blini in town, so follow me along as I rediscover my childhood home country through a (slightly) more sophisticated perspective.

One response to “Mariinsky Experience: Why Opera Should be on Everyone’s Bucket List”

  1. Bob says:

    How does going to the Opera widen you spiritual and mentaly as a Person?

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