Monday, August 06, 2007

St. Petersburg

It's about 2:30pm in St. Petersburg, on a sunny, hot Monday. We are exhausted!

Yesterday, Rose, Yan, and I headed out on the town. We took the metro to the monastery southeast of town, and went into one of it's three cemetery's to do some major tourist gawking. There we found the grave of Dostoevsky, which sent Rose into spasms of delight. We also hunted out Tchaikovsky's tomb and I found M. Petipa's grave as well. It actually was quite lovely, as graveyards go - lots of intricately carved monuments to the dead.

We tried to metro back towards the city, but had the delightful experience of sitting on the train as an unintelligible announcement is made in Russian, then watching every single person on board the train get off, leaving you there alone. Huh. Using my deductive powers, I figured that the next station (the one we were trying to get to) was closed, so we hoofed it along something-that-starts-with-a-Z Prospect to the Dostoevsky House-Museum. Again, much delight for Rose. We toured his flat, looking at his hat, his office, his clock, etc. This was his last apartment - the one where he wrote "The Brothers Karamazov". Literary coolness.

We were starving by that time, so we made our way back towards Nevsky Prospect, stopping for lunch at a pizza place on the way. Our main culinary goal in St. P. was to avoid Russian food, since we get plenty of it during the week. Hence some delightful meals of the Greek, Italian, and Sandwich variety. Excellent.

Next was the Hermitage. I've got to say, it's one of the few museums where the actual structure rivals the art inside. I enjoyed it as much as possible, but it was absolutely packed, particularly with tour groups, which I began to despise as I had to wait again and again to enter a room while masses of people wearing pink stickers followed ladies with paddles that say "Baltic Tour #9" and such poured through the small doorways. Still, I had art satisfaction.

After dinner at Subway's (on Nevsky!), we walked to the Church on Spilled Blood and went souvenier shopping. Many, many roubles later, Rose and Yan were kind enough to escort me to the Hermitage Theater. They went on a boat tour, and I saw Swan Lake in Catherine's theater - a tiny, lavishly decorated place. It was filled at about 200 people, all seated in a semi-circled series of benches. I got there about 30 minutes early, and sat in a decent seat to the left of center in the back row of benches (it was open seating).

There was a live symphony, the conductor was this charming old guy in a white bowtie, and when the curtain went up and the dancers came out onto the beautiful set with splendid costumes, it was so pretty I teared up a little. Then the tourists started.

Here's the thing. I understand that you may want to capture the moment of a play. Sure, there've been several productions that I've wished I could take pictures at. But I learned at this production exactly why pictures should stay verboten. Not only did the touristy-tourists (I am not one of these, I decided, since I was there as a theater connoisseur) start taking pictures, adding little digital "pings" to Tchaichovsky's score, but they did it with flash! And they wouldn't turn off the eye, so there would be a little flash to pull you away, then a larger flash right afterwards. I got angrier and angrier as again and again my focus was put on the audience and their damned cameras instead of the dancers I had paid to see. I started translating "No photography during the show" in Russian in my head, so strong was my desire to stand up at the intermission and shout out the ban to the audience, but then I realized that there probably wasn't a native Russian speaker in the house. I hit the boiling point when one Japanese couple started creeping into the aisle in front of the stage to get a better shot. So mad was I!

Ranting aside, I really did love the show. The principles were great, the chorus was a little sloppy at times, Odette had no respect of the sight line upstage left. Still, I am happy to say that I saw this ballet in St. Petersburg's oldest theater.

Rose and Yan met me after the show, and we walked back to the hostel, enjoying the night's coolness.

Today, we slept in a bit, did a tad more shopping, then hit the Russian Museum, which I really liked. There's some great pieces in there, especially in the more modern sections. We ate dessert at the Literary Cafe, and are now killing time back at the hostel until our train in about an hour. We could do more, I guess, but we're all pretty tired and feel satiated artistically and culturally. At least I do.

Last heinous train ride of the summer. Whoo!

1 comment:

  1. I am SOOO jealous that you got to see Swan Lake in Russia! It's a dream of mine! I'm glad you are having such a fabulous time.