Russian President Vladimir Putin led a select crowd of guests at the first performance at the controversial new Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg on Thursday.
The 2,000 seat Mariinsky II – which sits next to the original built in 1860 – has proved divisive with some dismissing the modern building as an eyesore among the 19th century edifices that surround it.
Some have cruelly said it looks like a “shopping mall” and Alexei Kovalev, a deputy director in St Petersburg’s legislative assembly went a step further saying it is “disgusting” and “should be torn down.”
At around 540 million euros this is one of the most expensive cultural projects ever built.
The building has also been problematic; one design was cancelled after building had already begun, and at least three firms have been involved with its construction.
Speaking to his guests the Russian President was thrilled with the result however:
“This is a great day in the cultural life of our country,” Putin said. “We open the second stage of this famous theatre which is beloved by millions of our citizens, the Mariinsky theatre, I congratulate you.”
Ballerina Viktoria Krasnokutskaya echoed the views of many of the performers who said the technical equipment at the new Mariinsky will make a huge difference, allowing scenes to be changed quickly and easily.
Euronews correspondent Luca Vitali was at the opening. He said: “With this piece of contemporary architecture, Valery Gergiev, conductor, artistic director and superintendent of the Mariinsky, has realised the dream of creating a centre of culture and music which is one of the most vibrant and dynamic in the world.”