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The Mikhaylovsky Theatre (Russian: Миха́йловский теа́тр) is one of Russia's oldest opera and ballet houses. It was founded in 1833 and is situated in a historical building on the Arts Square in St. Petersburg. It is named after Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia.
The theatre was established in 1833 by decree of Tsar Nicholas I.
Before the 1917 Revolution, the Mikhailovsky did not have its own resident company. Performances were given either by a French company, hired by the Russian Imperial Theatres or at the end of the century by the Mariinsky Theatre and Alexandrinsky Theatre companies. Most of the great French actors of the period performed at the theatre: Those appearing included Jeanne Sylvanie Arnould-Plessy, Rachel Félix, Lucien Guitry and Sarah Bernhardt, as well as singers such as Hortense Schneider. Both classical and contemporary authors and composers had their works produced to great acclaim in French. Plays by Molière, Victor Hugo, Victorien Sardou, and Alexandre Dumas, fils and operettas by Jacques Offenbach were praised by the intelligentsia and the Russian aristocracy, such as Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky.
When the Bolsheviks took power, the French company was forced to leave Russia. In 1917 the Mikhailovsky Theatre was closed. On March 6, 1918 the theatre was reopened as an opera theatre. Shortly afterwards the Mikhailovsky started changing its names. In 1918-1920, it was called the Ex-Mikhailovsky Theatre. In 1920 it was renamed to the State Academic Comic Opera Theatre, in 1921 the theatre changed its name to the Maly Operny (Maly Opera Theatre). In 1926 it got the name of the Leningrad State Academic Maly Opera Theatre, MALEGOT for short. New management and artists followed. In 1920-1930 the Maly Operny established itself as one of the leading experimental stages in Russian new musical theatre. Shostakovich made his debut at the Maly Operny: Samuil Samosud conducted world premiere performances of his The Nose and Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, the famous Vsevolod Meyerhold production of The Queen of Spades was staged there, and the world premiere of Prokofiev's epic opera War and Peace took place on the theatre's stage on June 12, 1946. In 1930s Russian choreographer Fyodor Lopukhov founded the ballet company of the theatre. The first ballet premiere, Harlequinade, choreographed by Lopukhov, took place on June 6, 1933.
In what was seen as a sensational move, in 2007 the Russian businessman Vladimir Kekhman was appointed as General Director of the Theatre. Russian theatre does not make a clear distinction between artistic and administrative management: Thus Kekhman’s efforts to build business-based organizational structures at the Mikhailovsky received critical reviews. However, when Mr. Kekhman donated 1 billion roubles ($40m US) for renovation of the building and invited Elena Obraztsova and Farouk Ruzimatov to coordinate the artistic revival of the Mikhailovsky, (he) “succeeded in making the ballet world sit up and take notice”.
In 2007, Obraztsova was appointed artistic director of the Mikhailovsky Opera and Ruzimatov became artistic director of the Mikhailovsky Ballet. However Obraztsova resigned in 2008, and Ruzimatov - in 2009. From 2009 both Obraztsova and Ruzimatov held a seat on the Artistic Committee of the theatre, while Peter Feranec was the theatre's music director in 2009 - 2011.
Mikhail Messerer is currently (October 2015) ballet master in chief of the Mikhailovsky Theatre, having been appointed to this position in March 2009. From 2012 till present time (October 2015) Mikhail Tatarnikov is the theatre’s music director. In 2011 - 2013 Nacho Duato held the position of the Mikhailovsky Ballet's artistic director. Several of Duato ballets received their world premieres at the theatre, including Nunc Dimittis, Prelude, The Sleeping Beauty, Invisible.
In 2009 - 2015, Mikhail Messerer staged for the Mikhailovsky numerous ballets, including Swan Lake, Don Quixote, The Flames of Paris, Laurencia, Le Corsaire, Class Concert.
The Mikhailovsky Ballet made its London debut in July 2008 on the London Coliseum stage arranged by the British ex-dancer Gavin Roebuck. This season helped bring the company international recognition and led to a nomination for the Best Foreign Dance Company Award at the National Dance Awards in 2008, though the Company lost out to the New York City Ballet. The Mikhailovsky Ballet returned to London in 2010 and again in 2013, when it won the Best Ballet Company award at the National Dance Awards.
In October 2012 Vladimir Kekhman was declared bankrupt in London.
In 2013 the Mikhailovsky Opera made its debut at the Savonlinna Opera Festival.
In November, 2014 the Mikhailovsky Ballet made its critically acclaimed USA debut at New York's Lincoln Center (The Flames of Paris, Don Quixote, Giselle, Triple Bill) and in Costa Mesa, California (The Flames of Paris).
- History of the Mikhaylovsky Theatre, official site. Retrieved 10 August 2008. (Russian)
- Who’s pulling the strings in Russia’s Ballet Revolution? The Observer 01.01.12
- Official website
- Luke Jennings (1 January 2012). "Who's pulling the strings in Russia's ballet revolution? | Stage | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-11-17.