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.
Read my Sad Stories
Sad Stories: The Tsar’s Box #2.
Onegin is one of the operas that will always sell out with no exception. One time, at the Old Mariinsky, I had no choice but buying a leftover ticket for the Tsar’s Box. As I said in a previous post, these tickets usually only go on sale a few days before the performance, meaning that many tourists who didn’t buy their tickets on time will buy them. I was sitting where the Empresses of Russia once sat; on my left there was a couple of very conspicuous young men—the kind that insists on being conspicuous, if you know the kind—who misbehaved in all possible ways, from constantly laughing in serious moments to playing with noisy necklaces; from stretching to taking their sneakers off and… laying their feet on the fingerboard. I mean the one where the most important personalities in Russia once used to lean over. I obviously asked them to behave and put their shoes back on and they did. The conclusion is, in the Tsar’s Box, you will expect occasional misbehavior from people who are not used to going to the opera. This is one of the reasons why I wouldn’t sit in the Tsar’s Box if I were you.