Hermitage Theatre

The Hermitage Theatre at 32 Palace Embankment was built by Giacomo Quarenghi, who designed the auditorium in the form of an ancient amphitheatre (1783–87). Constructed on the site of Peter the Great’s second Winter Palace, it was joined to the Old Hermitage by an arch spanning the Winter Canal. The first performance at the Hermitage Theatre was held on 16 November 1785. Just over three years later, it hosted the premiere of Vicente Martín y Soler’s comic opera The Unfortunate Hero Kosmetovich with the libretto written in part by Catherine the Great (1789).

Although intended for the exclusive use of the imperial family as a court theatre, it soon began to play an important role in the cultural life of St Petersburg. After reconstruction of the theatre by A. F. Kvasov (1895–97) and the foyer by Léon Benois (1902), the ballets of Mikhail Fokine were performed at the Hermitage Theatre in sets and costumes designed by Léon BakstBakst’s fame as a theatrical designer began following his sets and costumes for Josef Bayer’s ballet Die Puppenfee at the Hermitage Theatre (1903). The Hermitage Theatre was also the scene of the famous imperial ball in seventeenth-century costumes (1903) and the premiere of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich’s play King of the Jews (1914).

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