As an added impetus for you to finally organise that Russian trip, we have just around the corner: the annual spectacle of St. Petersburg’s White Nights Festival. It’s a renowned spectacle with international appeal that celebrates and indulges in many aspects of the performing arts spectrum.
The festival gets its name because of St. Petersburg’s Northerly Russian location that allows it to experience an extended period during late June and early July when the nights never fully darken. An interesting twist on your stay as Maria Lobanova remarks on the Life In Russia blog:
“Shops and restaurants tend to stay open late, so you are always able to keep yourself busy, and you don’t have that blanket of darkness that causes a sense of uneasiness in a foreign city to hold you back”
In spite of the peak June-July crossover period, the festival overflows in both directions with some celebrations starting in late May, and others finishing in the early days of August.
Expect to be absolutely spoilt for choice across a great many different areas of creativity, for both upmarket, ticketed events and free open-air parades and shows. Even if opera and ballet are not your thing, there will always be something happening at street-level – not least the ambience of a city wide-awake for 24 hours a day with its population spilling out onto the streets at all hours.
Rather than have a designated festival ground for events; it’s important to note that the city itself becomes the stage, utilising multiple historic settings and venues as a backdrop to the proceedings. For instance, the Palace Square hosts several carnivals whilst the film based “Festival of Festivals” is spread across a range of city cinemas and features over 100 independent films from international directors. As a “sub” festival alone, it usually attracts an audience the size of a small town for its week-long run.
The Mariinsky Theater is famous for holding it’s own “Stars of White Nights” series of opera, symphony orchestra, theatre and ballet classics. A more mainstream and populist palette is also catered for by way of big-name rock concerts that have previously featured the likes of The Rolling Stones, Paul Mccartney and Jethro Tull. Jazz concerts are held at the appropriately titled “Jazz Philharmonic Hall,” but if that’s all still too conventional – well, even the dance crowd get a look-in with organised raves held across the city.
Russia is justly proud of its literary tradition and heritage, so expect (quieter) events celebrating the written word. White Nights 2015 included a mini Dostoevsky festival for instance. Also, it is not unknown for actors dressed in 18th Century attire to give performances based upon historical events from the time of Catherine the Great et al. Imperial Russia in it’s heyday.
For those seeking something a little more active, there is always The White Nights Marathon. Requiring early pre-registration (the event takes place towards the end of June), giving participants the opportunity to chase through St.Petersburg’s theatre-set streets to the admiration of casual onlookers whilst becoming part of the proceedings themselves.
Then there are the fireworks; a crescendo of thousands as both attraction and backdrop to the Scarlet Sails event, the most popular during the festival. Drawn from the imagery of the eponymous children’s book by Alexander Grin, it centres on a sailboat (with sails of a certain colour) cruising along the Neva as a traditional marker to the end of the school year. All accompanied by a phrenetic orchestral score that renders it a true audio-visual feast.
Are you full yet?