The St Petersburg Ballet

By Dave • February 9th, 2008

A quick warning - I don’t think there’s any such thing as “The St Petersburg Ballet”, as in “The Moscow State Circus”. But we were in St Petersburg, and it was the ballet. What do you want from me?

BravoVisiting Russia without dropping in on the ballet, I’ve decided, would be similar to visiting your Granny and not having tea and biscuits. Or like going to London and not trying a pint of Fullers. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not – when you’re at something’s spiritual home, it’s bad manners not to bother.

That’s enough torturing of analogies. The ballet is one of the most expensive things to do in Russia. 3,000 rubles each is nigh on £60, so it was with some worry that we made our way to the Marinnskiy theatre. £120 is a lot of money, after all. What if it was dull? Boring? Slow? Endless?

All of these were possibilities.

Here’s something to think about. A few months ago we went to see Les Miserables in London. It cost us £40 each, and we were high up enough that we were occasionally troubled by passing passenger jets. The actors were tiny dots, and the dialogue was delivered to us by a series of loudspeakers that must have relied on hundreds of miles of cable.

In return for our 3,000 rubles, we sat three rows from the orchestra pit at the Marinnskie. The only way we could have been closer would have been if we played an instrument.

The ballet was spectacular. Nothing sounds much more off-putting than spending three hours in the dark watching men in tights leap around a stage, but the reality was shockingly good. Swan Lake is the obvious place to start for ballet idiots like me and I loved every second. Things were improved immeasurably by the vocal Russians who cheered “bravo” at the end of every piece. The performance itself was like watching a particularly captivating fireworks show. As I say, I loved every second. Enough so, in fact, that I can only offer these after-the-fact photos.

Dave wrote this on the overnight train between St Petersburg and Moscow. A word of warning – don’t cross between cars in your socks. It’s wet out there.

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