The Hermitage Theater was founded in the late XVIII century as a court theater of the Romanov dinasty. This defined small size, form of the hall and capacity of maximum 250 people. The word Hermitage, which means shelter of the solitary, became the name of the whole palace complex. However it is the Hermitage Theater, built on the place of the former Winter Palace, which became the very first building of the Hermitage complex.
The word "Hermitage" is firmly identified with the complex of the world famous Winter Palace in the centre of historic St. Petersburg. The Winter Palace is a masterpiece of architecture and serves as the main ornament of the city on the Neva. It houses a huge museum of worldwide fame. The Hermitage might just be the most famous art museum in the world. It is surely the most beautiful former royal palace of any European state. The Winter Palace is not simply a building containing art; it is an integral part of the state museum. The Hermitage, consists of a total of nine palaces and is a national treasure and the pride of the Russian people. It is also one of the most heavily visited tourist sites in the world. Inarguably it ranks as the Number One tourist site in St.-Petersburg.
Today the State Hermitage complex consists of five majestic buildings created from XVIII-XIX by famous architects and is located in the centre of St. Petersburg.
During its existence many millions of art patrons have visited the Hermitage. Tourists from around the world visiting this, "Venice of the North" aspire to visit this treasury of art and architecture. The art contained therein by all inspire the senses and result in an aura of spiritual perfection. In order to make your trip complete visit Catherine's personal theater and enjoy a ballet performance.
No visit to the Hermitage Art Museum should be considered complete without a visit to the personal theater of Catherine the Great. It has been painstakingly restored to its former grandeur and it is worth a visit to Russia just to see it and attend a performance there. Everyone knows of the theater's existence but only a privileged few have ever seen it. Become one of the few to have enjoyed this special treasure of architecture in the heart of old Imperial St. Petersburg.
The Hermitage Theatre is the oldest building in the complex of the Winter Palace preserved in our time. It was built on the site of the former Winter Palace of Peter I. The construction of the theatre is functionally independent of the main building and is connected to the basic court building by an arch. The arch is built over the channel that connects the Moika River to the river Neva. The arch is called the "Winter flute". The theater building, which sometimes is called as fourth Winter Palace, was constructed between 1711-1723. The theatre was built later in 1783-1785 during the reign of Catherine the Great. The architect was Giacomo Quarenghi, who built around 30 of the most beautiful buildings and structures in the city.
The decoration of the theatre and is unique and represents a classical masterpiece of palace architecture of the XVII century. The small court theatre was built to contain only 250 spectators as it was intended for the imperial family and selected court nobles. It was built to ensure that every seat was the "best in the house." The construction of the hall though small, resulted in the most beautiful venues for any performance. Thea auditorium, is exemplified by grace and the magnificence of the decor and furnishings. A deep amphitheater reminiscent of an antique architectural principle is marked by proportions harmoniously combined with the lines of marble half-columns framing a semicircular hall. A small pit of three rows of seven armchairs for honorary guests is arranged before a stage. Behind a balustrade separating the stage from the auditorium, there are some more lines of seats and two lateral boxes. The walls of the auditorium are trimmed with marble and are decorated with classical sculptures of Apollo and the nine muses. There are bas-reliefs with images of known poets and musicians that further embellish the beauty of the theater.
The seats of the armchairs are upholstered by red velvet and the floors are covered with carpets. Unique lusters softly illuminating the hall from a lowered ceiling add to the ambiance of the surroundings. The architectural theme of the auditorium of the Hermitage embodies the strictest classical forms of the canons of classical architectural construction. Venerable architects of many countries of the world come to study immortal works of the great master Giacomo Quarenghi.
Before the stage an open orchestral pit is separated from the hall by a balustrade. The geometrical parities of the area of the hall and the arrangement of the depth of scenic space have no equal. While not wide the stage is rather deep and it allows for the arrangement of the needed various sets and provides artists sufficient for space for the staging of ballet performances. The auditorium is unique, it is small in volume and is so perfectly located that theatrical field glasses are not required. Everything occurring on the stage is easily seen from any seat. The hall has such natural perfect acoustics, that the sounds of music are precise and clear without distortions.
The Theater was opened on November, 16, 1785 with the premiere of the comic opera by Ablesimov "Miller, Sorcerer, Deceiver and a Matchmaker". The Theater became the favorite place of the nobility - the ballet and opera performances used to be held here as well as imperial balls and masquerades. During the XIX century important premieres of ballet and opera performaces took place on the stage of the Hermitage Theater. After the bolshevik revolution the theater became open to public, as part of the Hermitage museum.
A lot of famous names are concerned with the Theatre: an Italian composer Domenico Chimarosa, the decorator Pietro Gonzaga, a dancer Gertrude Rossi. Then after the revolution Benua, Somov, Golovin, Bakst worked there. The festival “The Paganini’s violin in Hermitage” took place in this Theatre, then another festival “The return of the legend” dedicated to the 100 anniversary of Finnish composer Sibelius. In 1995 Rostropovich played there his famous program “The World Symphony”. A lot of premieres were shown there like “Boris Godunov” by Mussorgsky and “Salomea” by Straus.