Author Topic: Theaters in Imperial Palaces, incl. Peterhof  (Read 4498 times)

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Offline Kchessinskaya

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Theaters in Imperial Palaces, incl. Peterhof
« on: February 26, 2009, 04:34:58 PM »
Greetings. I have just discovered and joined this wonderful forum! My special area of interest is Imperial Russian Ballet. I have traveled to St. Petersburg several times since 1994 to attend special performances and festivals at the Mariinsky and other city venues (Maly-Mikhailovsky, Alexandrinsky, Hermitage theaters, for ex.). When not at the theater in the evenings, I revisit my favorite suburban palaces, in search of the special 'palace theaters' connected to each. This includes not just the 'Big Five,' but also Ropcha and even the 'summer encampment' area of Krasnoe Selo, where many a young dancer was tested in solos every August, prior to the start of the regular theatrical season in September.

This forum's members are so knowledgeable of the pavilions and other buildings associated with the palaces, that I want to pose a question that has really miffed me during my searches:

Where exactly was the main indoor theater of the Peterhof Palace? I have photos of its facade and interior taken ca 1904, for the wedding of Grand Duchess Xenia (source: Imperial Theater Annual). Whenever I am at Peterhof, I cannot find a soul who has any knowledge of that theater. It was a rather substantial building. From the photos, I gather that it was one of the "out buildings" close to the main palace...perhaps the area close to the present Benois Gallery or a little further east, near the stables?

I have found and visited the "Olga Island" and "Ozerki-Pink Pavilion" areas south of the main Peterhof palace, in which famous outdoor ballet premieres took place in the mid-1800s; however, I cannot for the life of me find the main indoor theater.

I'm off to the 9th Mariinsky Festival in a few days. I am going to try once again to dig-up more information on the main Peterhof theater. Whatever 'clues' any of you may be able to impart will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, in advance!

Natalia (a.k.a. "Kchessinskaya")
Washington, DC

p.s. I have found and read the wonderful thread about the Chinese Theater near the Alexander Palace, which ruins I have visited and photographed several times. The 'reconstruction' model by one of your readers is fascinating.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2009, 04:42:54 PM by Kchessinskaya »

Offline Kchessinskaya

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Re: Theaters in Imperial Palaces, incl. Peterhof
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2009, 06:23:55 PM »
I wrote the above note from outside my home, without my materials at hand. I am now home and wish to correct an error but could not find the 'edit' button when working from my home computer. (!)

The photos of the 'main' palace theater at Peterhof came not from the wedding of G-D Xenia (which was 1894 and was feted with an outdoor ballet at Olga Island) but from the August 19, 1902, performance in honor of the wedding of G-D Yelena Vladimirovna to Nicholas of Greece. The ballets presented were (1) Swan Lake sc. 2 (the famous initial "lakeside" scene) starring Lubov Rosslavleva of Moscow's Bolshoi Theater and (2) Don Quixote ActI starring the Mariinsky's prima ballerina assoluta Mathilde Kchessinskaya as Kitri, with newcomer Anna Pavlova as one of her two friends. This imperial gala marked Kchessinskaya's return to dancing after the birth of her son to G-D Sergei one month earlier...an amazing physical feat! It is interesting to note that the Tsarina Alexandra was unable to attend the performance due to ill health, according to a letter from G-D Xenia.

As for this Mystery Theater near the Main palace of Peterhof, I can describe its interior audience-sitting area as very, very similar ot the semi-circular "classical amphitheater" design of Quarenghi's Hermitage Theater but also with three wide tiers of boxes, including a very wide Tsar's Box in the center of the lowest benoir-level tier. It's almost a hybrid of the classical Hermitage and more standard Italian-style opera houses. It had a sky-blue painted ceiling with 'dancing cherubs' and a gorgeous crystal chandelier in the middle. The exterior facade appears to be white with a criss-cross trellis-like details. As I wrote earlier, this was no tiny theater and it's amazing to me that no historian has written about it. I've only located it in the Imperial Theater Annuals for seasons in which there happened to be a gala at that theater.

If I had a scanner I would post them here. Maybe I'll figure out a way to get it up onto this site. I may have to e-mail a scan of the book's page to a webmaster.

I thought that this would be of interest to all of you. :)
« Last Edit: February 26, 2009, 06:35:02 PM by Kchessinskaya »

Offline Cathy

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Re: Theaters in Imperial Palaces, incl. Peterhof
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2009, 10:14:22 AM »
On the north side of St. Petersburg Prospekt, odd #s, east of #25 (approx. 1 block east of St. Peter and Paul Cathedral) is the monument to the victims of the revolution. This area was previously known as the theatrical area because the emperor's theatre building was located on it. The construction of the building relates to the time of Nicholas I when the regimental menage located in the area was altered into the theatre. In Alexander III time the theatre was extended for the ceremonial plays during the wedding of Xenia. The theatre was attached to the lateral galleries whose external walls represented open trellises. The trellis were later taken away to leave open spaces between the columns of the facade. The rich internal decorations allowed for 600 seats. Plays were only performed in the summer. In 1910 it burned down and allowed to become smouldering ruins for a year. It was then leveled and replaced by 2 small fountains enclosed by an iron latice fence. On the 10th anniversary of the revolution a monument was erected to honour A. Shavarts and N. Arkhipov. 

Offline Kchessinskaya

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Re: Theaters in Imperial Palaces, incl. Peterhof
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2009, 10:35:57 AM »
Many, many thanks for this, Cathy. Mystery solved! Now I know where to look and take a 'memorial photo' of the site.

If anybody has any other interesting information concerning the various indoor & outdoor theaters in the suburban palaces of St. Petersburg, then we could keep this thread alive. I hope to post pics of various Imperial Palace Theaters after my trip.