Maslenitsa at the Mariinsky is a festival staged every year at the famous Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. Today, the musical festival opens on 23 February for the fifth time. The buffet of the theatre offers blini (buckwheat pancakes), whilst a fairy tale about the daughter of Moroz (Frost) and Vesna (Spring), the opera Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is presented on the stage. This is a tradition of at the Mariinsky Theatre at the start of Maslenitsa, or Pancake Week. It reflects the ancient sense of a feast of a send-off to winter and a welcome to spring through the offering pancakes. Indeed, the round pancakes symbolise the sun.
Russian Maslenitsa has always been marked in different ways. It is a mixture of various folkloric and religious traditions. In fact, it is the last week before the rigorous and great Easter Lent, which is observed by many Christians. Concerning the peculiarities of the feast, Valery Gergiev, the head of the Mariinsky Theatre, noted, “We wish to revive and affirm the secular traditions of this holiday, Maslenitsa, with balls, dramas, and moderately-priced concerts”. Maestro Gergiev went on to say, “It seems to me that the Maslenitsa holiday is quite promising and it should be appropriately linked with the musical and theatre panorama of St Petersburg. We plan to celebrate the festival with gusto”.
This tradition, which is being revived by the Mariinsky Theatre, was marked in a grand manner for centuries, especially when St Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire. Some of the secular aspects of Maslenitsa were masked balls at the palaces of the city and the most renowned actors appeared on the stages of all the theatres. At present, the Mariinsky Theatre is capable of satisfying the highest demands for the feast. Amongst these is presenting as many performances as possible during the one week of Maslenitsa! Among the exclusive offerings by Valery Gergiev and his ensemble are 14 presentations and concerts on the stage. One of them is one of the best productions of the theatre, the opera The Magic Flute by Mozart, during which audience sits on the stage and the actors walk in the hall. Another item in the programme is a performance by the world famous violinist Maksim Vengerov and the famous group Virtuosi Moskvy. The festival also includes the revival of the age-old Russian tradition of student balls. The Mariinsky Theatre is staging a ball at St Petersburg University. Its programme includes not only music and dances, but, also food and fireworks at night!
23 February 2009
Voice of Russia World Service