From these first two pictures you might guess that my Night at the Opera had nothing to do with the Queen’s album 🙂 That was a real night at the St Petersburg Opera (which is called exactly so), challenging myself with a). opera, b). opera in German, c). people performing opera right in front of me – we were in the first row of a very intimate chamber music theatre hall! And gosh was it all gold & white, all reliefs, all cupids, all baroque!
The day (light) was waining as we walked by St Isaac’s Cathedral from the metro. This marble giant is one of the most photographed sights of St Petersburg, however, it’s also one of those objects just like Tour Eiffel or Strasbourg Cathedral, which you can never really fit into one shot 🙂
Before entering the theatre we ventured on a long walk all through the long-long Galernaya Street, not surprisingly one of the oldest in St Petersburg as it was leading to the Admiralty, a strategic point in Peter the Great’s huge plans. And no surprise either that it has so many historic buildings on both sides. It runs parallel to the Neva river something like this:
The two-story mansion on the right belongs to my alma mater St Petersburg State University, the Faculty of Arts. It was evening already, but I think that this very deserted and super-straight street has to be FILMED on a hot summer afternoon, with nobody in sight but a newspaper driven along the street by the gushes of wind. Wooooho. One of the most interesting buildings on Galernaya Street is just side by side with the ugliest, the typical thing in life : )
We’ve actually noticed this beautiful house and an intriguing court just opposite it last summer when we visited a museum in the same street. There was a film studio van right next to the entrance to the court and we thought it was filming in the nearby classy hotel (housed in the building where Alexander Pushkin used to live for some time). Turns out they might have been filming the court and the building inside, actually.
This time we did enter this court and then even the second, inner court, though first of all we were a tad surprised to see this apparently re-designed early 18th century facade and the arch with light reflecting tiles…
We walked in and then quite amazed found ourselves contemplating rather Sherlock Holmes-like premises (the dusk and the overall colors helped construct the picture). I mean, Sherlock Holmes as he was portrayed by Lenfilm, our St Petersburg film studio. One of my favourite actors impersonates Sherlock – and boy doesn’t he look like the perfect Sherlock?! He even received MBE from the Queen for being the perfect and only Sherlock.
By the way there’s an entire website dedicated to all the locations shot in that 1970-1980s Soviet version of Sherlock Holmes, with a map of all the spots. Funny enough, but also quite logical, only 2% of the scenes were shot in the foggy London 🙂 But no, this was not the location for the English streets. However, there’s this certain feeling… Enhanced with a tree growing in a weird fashion, also supported by some metal ‘branch’:
Right next to it was this time-bent handle, oh how many hands did touch it, squeeze it and pulled it – and how many more will! The door was left open so we just could not overcome our curiosity and entered inside…
To see what we found inside, you can look here. After we climbed up the modernist stairs, we got suddenly invited inside the top floor’s rooms. They are now occupied by two brothers’ design & architectural studio. I wish offices were like this – with the large windows looking out on Neva (the facade on Angliyskaya Naberezhnaya, the English Embankment, is even more impressive!) and this feeling of being at someone’s (nice) home rather than at work. They’ve turned the rooms first belonging to Nikolas II’s brother and then owned by the Russian Federation of the Deaf since the 1920s into something else! If you ever get rich and buy a house in St Petersburg, make sure these guys take care of all the design work 🙂 Meanwhile we continued our walk and here’s another shot of the same archway, quite a sinister one too:
Another inner court alongside the same long-long street, a squarish one this time:
Walking in through the arch a rather weird ‘hang-out’ place/ playground was revealed. To complete this picture there was also a cat (walked past us too fast):
And then there was this complete kit for don’t ask me what:
By the time we reached the very end of Galernaya Street, it was high time we returned back to its beginning where the opera house is. St Petersburg Opera theatre is my contemporary although the building is much older, of course.
The mansion used to belong to Baron S. P. von Derviz (its last owner) and already in the 19th century was it a rather music&theatre-dedicated place. The opera house website claims Vsevolod Meierhold was staging his performances there when it was a ‘bohemian theatre-restaurant’. In the early 20th century it was already a famed theatre with such acts as concerts of Feodor Chaliapin and Isadora Duncan’s dancing!
This is the White Hall which survived the Soviet era intact (the website lists the following consecutive owners: Russian Communist Bolshevik Party HQ, Metal-Workers’ Union, the Estonian House of Education (?!), detoxification center and Mayak cultural center). You can browse more exterior and interior photos here. Because there IS a lot to see. There’s this weird grotto which I didn’t like actually, but the rest is very bright and lavishly decorated. And we didn’t see all the rooms, as it turned out after visiting the website. The main marvel is this exotic Moorish Drawing Room which is hidden from the touch / grab:) with a glass wall.
So it appears the two buildings that we visited were both built back in the baroque 18th century, owned by various noblemen, re-designed and rebuilt, handed over to some Soviet organizations and now experiencing a sort of revival. Both are worth seeing, although at the opera house you’re also enjoying the music (which was surprisingly beautiful even to my operaphobic ears). And oh those chandeliers!
Just found out there was a mystical movie shot in 1988 in both buildings too (already on my to-view list)! Well, St Pete is just a perfect location for foggy and mysterious movies… and also it is such an architectural treasure that if I were an architect, I would have already gone mad just walking along the single Galernaya Street!