Monday, March 10, 2014

Russia Day 21: St Petersburg. Ballet and Circus

OK, we're at Sunday March 9th, and by the time I got up had breakfast and showered, it was pretty much time to head back to the Mariinsky Theatre for another early show: the Carmen Suite one act ballet. This one was at the new theatre, the Mariinsky 2. The original Mariinsky Theatre (known from 1935 to 1990 as the Kirov, a name probably still more familiar to us) dates from 1860. It's currently celebrating its 231st season of performances (no, I can't make that math work out either...). The new theatre is right next door, just across a canal from the old one. I had wanted to see both theatres, so I booked a performance at each.

Today's performance, starting at 11:30am, was the Carmen Suite ballet. When I got my programme I found out that there was a second piece as well after the short one-act Carmen Suite, which I had not noticed when I booked my ticket. My programme was confused about what the second piece would be; on the title page it called it Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, a ballet in two scenes, while inside it described Le Carnaval, a pantomime ballet in one act. I compared programmes with the man next to me, who had the Russian version, and it named Le Carnaval (Лэ Карнабал), so mine was a misprint.

This time I arrived at the theatre in plenty of time, found the cloakroom and my seat. It's a beautuful theatre, with 6 tiers of seating, some with a column of single seats lining the balcony overlooking the floor.

The Carmen Suite was outstanding: great music, great dancing, and overall excellent presentation. I recognized a few of the tunes; remember, everything I know about opera and ballet, I learned from either Bugs Bunny cartoons or Jeopardy! It was distracting though to see some of the performers moving about backstage. The set was a semi-circular wall (half of a bullring, for some scenes), and from my seat I could see backstage movement behind the wall. And there were spectators two levels higher than I, so the performers and stage manager should have been more careful about where they went.

After the interval was Le Carnaval, which was kind of fun, but not quite as excellent as the first piece. I retrieved my coat and backpack after a long wait in a mostly organized huge mob of people (crowd management really isn't a fine art here), and headed out. I found a Georgian restaurant on my way back to the metro station, and stopped for a late lunch. I headed on towards my next show: the circus. On my way there was supposed to be a neat shop called Retro, where I expected to find some interesting Soviet-era items to browse, but I was unable to find the shop at the address listed in my book. I'm not sure if it's closed, or if it was hidden somewhere in a back lane way, as places often are here.

As a result, I arrived at the circus pretty early, about an hour before the show. I wandered the neighbourhood a bit, enjoying the views from the adjacent canal. It was warmer today, and all the ice in the canals has melted!

Entered the circus and checked my coat. The crowd was mostly parents with young kids, though there were some child-free adults as well (I wasn't the only one!). They were selling all manner of sweets for the kids, including candy floss, and the place had a slight smell of animals. I knew there were tigers involved in the show, but wasn't sure what other animals I might see.

The curtain to the seating area opened up a half hour before the start of the show, and I found my way to my hard wooden seat. I was in the 7th row, with a great view of the ring.

The show was a mix of acrobatics, juggling, clown acts and animal acts. There were 5 large white dogs that jumped and rolled and stood on their hind legs, and a few bears that did somersaults and rode/drive scooters, bicycles, motorcycles and trucks (I figured most of these were remote-controlled while the bear just stood in place). The highlight of the show was the tiger show in the second act. There were 8 gorgeous tigers, and they stood on their hind legs, rolled, jumped through flaming hoops, and roared on command. It was quite impressive, though I kept wondering if the animals are treated well (probably not).

(Still having trouble getting photos from my iPhone into the blog, though the process was working well a few days ago; will come back and insert some photos when I can.)

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