Who Goes to The Mariinsky?
The old Mariinsky is one of the main touristic attractions of St Petersburg. I would wildly guess that around 10% of the audience at the old stage is composed of tourists. The majority of the tourists who go to the Mariinsky go there accidentally rather than because of the opera or the ballet. However, I did get to meet a few tourists who were in St Petersburg specifically because of the opera.
Nevertheless, the audience at the Mariinsky is predominantly composed of Russians. These people are from all ages and there is a very generous proportion of young people—even relatively to New York’s Met. The reason for this is because some universities offer good seats at very low rates for their students. Ironically, a friend of mine told me he was paying 1,000 rubles for a stellar-cast Tosca whereas the people who were sitting by his side were paying five times more. But the main reason why young people go the Mariinsky is because it is considered to be very fashionable. There are very few people at the Mariinsky who actually care for art and that clearly shows up in the audience’s behavior.
The Kind of Behavior You Will Find.
Most of the people well until their 40s will take a picture outside of the theater; then they take more pictures after going to the cloakroom; then they take pictures and make short videos during the performance so that they can prove that they were sitting in those seats by posting the videos and the pictures on social networks. The general attitude towards art is very saddening. Remember one of my Sad Stories: The Tsar’s Box #1? Actually I complained to the theater’s administration about people taking pictures. Believe it or not, a few days later, the message “Sound and picture recording is strictly forbidden” was changed to a more substantive message at the old Mariinsky. The Mariinsky-2, whose beautiful golden wall is a landmark for social network profile pictures, took no action. Unfortunately, after the announcement was changed at the old Mariinsky, the audience’s behavior became no better during my remaining months in Russia. In Russian works, I find that it is also very common to talk during the preludes and entr’actes. Curiously enough, there isn’t a lot of coughing around. But here is the general picture: little respect for the arts and a lot of showing-off. Which makes no sense after all because there is little dressing up habit and tickets are not very expensive. Some things you just don’t understand!
You will also find poor behavior from tourists such as the one from Sad Stories: The Tsar’s Box #2 below.
Applause at The Mariinsky.
There is always a “cheerleading team” from the conservatoire but apart from that, there is little enthusiasm during applause. This “cheerleading team” is often found at the Mariinsky-2 and is usually very inconvenient, playfully clapping after the music starts. Also, consistently with the lack of passion for the art that I had previously pointed out, the largest ovation usually goes to the leading singers—and not the best ones. It is rather awkward sometimes because the casting is often poor; you will often see comprimario singers singing better than the protagonists.
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The Rule of No Rule at All.
That is basically it; no dress code. You will see everything at the Mariinsky—from jeans and sneakers to business casual. Suits and night gowns will be there as well. Women are dressier than men and finding young ladies in full gowns with companions wearing jeans and sneakers is very usual.
The Tourist Look.
There is no such thing as tourist look at the Mariinsky. Some tourists wear jeans and travel shoes and others are more thoughtful than that. Nothing will feel really uncomfortable at the Mariinsky, even though I am told that you won’t see male gala attire even in gala performances. This discussion could be entailed to that of The Audience at The Mariinsky, which is presented in a separate blog post.
I’m rather conservative in matters of dressing for the opera. As the artistic director of the Royal Opera House once put it, you can wear jeans—but you will be missing out on the celebration effect of a beautiful tradition.
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