Stars of the White Nights Festival
This international ballet and opera festival has been held at St Petersburg's famous Mariinsky Theatre since 1993. The first White Nights festival was launched by the indefatigable artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev, who said that he envisages the festival as a 'musical gift' to the city from the theatre. In recent years the Festival playbill has included featured works by supreme classical composers - Beethoven, Mozart, Prokofiev, Mahler, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. One major event in recent years was the staging of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.
The theatre's current building on Theatre Square was opened, with much fanfare, in 1860. With its opulent interior - gilt chandeliers, white sculptures, and light blue upholstery - it was the perfect venue for a golden era in Russian opera. Many of Russia's finest late 19th-century operas were premiered there - Boris Godunov (1874), Prince Igor (1890) and The Queen of Spades (1890).
The theatre's ballet company soon became world-famous, premiering Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty there. Under Soviet rule the theatre became known as the Kirov, but reverted to its pre-Soviet name following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The festival takes its name from the 'White Nights', the magical few weeks in early summer when the sun never sets, and the whole of this northern city is bathed in permanent light. Operagoers walk out from the theatre into the midnight sun as the city stays awake.