Complementing St. Petersburg’s 19th century architecture while adding a distinctive new element to it, the 79,114 square meter (851,576-square-foot) building is one of the largest opera production and presentation facilities in the world. The opera house seats 1,850 people at full capacity and has seven stories plus three underground levels. Facilities include a main stage and five other stages along with support areas; rehearsal rooms for chorus, ballet and orchestra; dining and production facilities for 2,500 staff; and a rooftop amphitheatre that will become a unique feature of the Stars of the White Nights Festival when the sun barely sets on St. Petersburg. Mariinsky II joins the historic stage of the Mariinsky Theatre (Mariinsky I), as the centerpiece of the Mariinsky performing arts precinct, which also includes the Concert Hall (Mariinsky III), inaugurated in 2006. The complex reaffirms the Mariinsky’s status as one of the world’s most important cultural organizations.
The building’s exterior is consistent with the elements and scale of St. Petersburg’s historic architecture, but with a contemporary expression. A masonry base of Jura beige limestone is interspersed with syncopated floor-to-ceiling windows of various sizes. Whereas the historic architecture of St. Petersburg uses classical columned porticos to identify entrances and relieve the continuous streetscape of uniformly proportioned buildings, Mariinsky II uses glass bays for the same purpose. In this way, the design creates views into the Mariinsky II’s main lobby and out to the Kryukov canal. A trapezoid glass-and-steel canopy extends over the main entrance. In summer a rooftop terrace and amphitheatre will host smaller-scale performances and offer breathtaking vistas of the entire city.
The main lobby, with its two main levels, features illuminated onyx walls that surround the freestanding auditorium. Jura beige limestone and Venetian plaster walls frame the various windows that look onto Dekabristov Street and the Kryukov canal. The generously proportioned glass façade permits an abundance of natural light to enter the main lobby levels by day and permits clear views after dark of the dramatic backlit onyx walls and custom-designed chandeliers. The main lobby provides unique views of Mariinsky I across the canal.
Public areas have been designed as an integral and complementary component of the building to create a sense of occasion and to provide fluid patron movement. A variety of staircases thread through the lobby, including a dramatic 33-meter (108-foot) glass staircase, which traverses the north side of the room and connects the main lobby levels. Gathering places, both large and small, are located throughout the public areas.
The lobby amphitheatre, located on the 3rd floor and overlooking the canal and Mariinsky I, serves as an additional and more intimate area for performances, chamber music, exhibitions and lounge space.
While the auditorium is a contemporary hall, its principles are those of successful 18th and 19th century opera houses, with a horseshoe shape and three balcony levels. This configuration has proved to be ideal for intimacy, acoustics, sightlines, audience comfort and overall cohesion of the room.
The sculptured beech balcony fronts are shaped by acoustical demands. The use of three balconies instead of four allows for more height between levels and creates better sound dispersion, especially for the rows located farther back.
The hall has a calming colour palette of variously hued beech wood and pale blue seating. The rear wall is a darker tone that serves to enhance a sense of intimacy as it gives prominence to the lighter colour balcony fronts.
The production lighting meets the latest demands of artistic productions while custom-designed lights are studded in the balcony fronts that give sparkle to the hall, as small candelabras once did.
Carefully selected with acoustic considerations in mind, the floors of the performance hall are oak parquet on a wood substructure with thick gypsum perimeter walls and ceilings.
The VIP box contains beech wood balcony fronts, leather walls and a purpose-built chandelier.
The new hall consists of a main stage and a rehearsal stage and three additional stages with ample supporting areas, which are acoustically divisible
Auditorium seats were custom fabricated in Italy. The fabric was manufactured in Denmark.
The orchestra pit is equipped with a moveable acoustic wall to allow for varying orchestral and acoustic needs. At full capacity, the pit is 170 square meters (1,830 square feet) and will be able to hold approximately 120 musicians depending on instrumentation.
The pit is equipped with three platforms: a smaller one in the rear and two larger ones in the front. These can be raised or lowered to different levels depending on the instrumentation and desired sound.
Mariinsky II has been designed to create ideal acoustic conditions for opera. At about 18,000 cubic meters (635,400 cubic feet), the hall has an ideal volume and is comparable to the world’s most renowned opera houses.
The auditorium incorporates a wooden floor construction that has its wooden support structure elevated 1 to 3 meters (3.3 to 9.8 feet) over a concrete base and 0.5 to 2 meters (1.6 to 6.6 feet) in the balconies. This distinctive design allows the wooden structure to reverberate and emit very subtle vibrations that the audience will be able to perceive through their feet when the orchestra plays at full volume.
Solid wood balustrades arranged in an overlapping sequence with embedded light fixtures are located throughout the auditorium to aid sound diffusion.
Uniquely designed 2- to 3-meter (6.6 to 9.8 feet) pieces of convex plaster are installed throughout the auditorium to better disperse sound. The modulated surfaces of these inclined wall claddings are a modern-day version of the decorative elements found in historic opera houses that were the traditional means of refracting sound.
Mariinsky II incorporates a number of spacious rehearsal areas, including two chorus rehearsal rooms, a ballet rehearsal room, an orchestral rehearsal room, large multifunctional rehearsal rooms and additional individual rehearsal rooms distributed at various levels from the basement to level 7. Rehearsal walls and ceilings are clad in veneered and sound-absorbing panels to replicate the acoustics of the main hall.
The rooftop amphitheatre provides panoramic views of St. Petersburg and can accommodate up to 200 people. The amphitheatre will play an important role in the Stars of the White Nights Festival during the summer season of the late night sun.
Backstage and Production
The backstage and production facilities occupy two-thirds of the total area of the building and include state-of-the art stage technology and automated storage facilities. Highlights include a stage wagon system with 16 wagons that can be moved to most backstage areas; over-stage machinery that provides 150 drive units and under-stage machinery consisting of 4 double-story elevating platforms that can each move up to 30 tons of scenery. These features allow multiple productions to be performed in repertoire. Back-of-house facilities also include ample dressing rooms and workshop areas.
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