Circus shows enjoyed success among the Saint Petersburg inhabitants as early as in the 18th century. They were organised in squares during festivities and in riding halls at riding schools. The 19th century saw the construction of the first specialised circus buildings that were wooden and not particularly comfortable.
In 1827, the first permanent circus known as the Tournier's Circus was constructed approximately at the same location where the Bolshoi Saint Petersburg State Circus (the Circus, for short) stands now. Over 120 years ago, on 26th December 1877, the opening of the Circus (also known as the Fontanka Circus) took place; it was housed by the first Russia's specialised circus building (constructed by the architect Vasily Kenel). That day is considered to be the birthday of the Circus.
The idea of a circus building was conceived and promoted by the Italian performer, rider and animal trainer Gaetano Ciniselli who was the head of a large circus family, who for the first time arrived to Saint Petersburg on tour in 1847.
The building of the new circus was considered to be one of Europe's most beautiful circus buildings.
It amazed contemporaries with its perfect architectural proportions and fine decorations: statues of muses in arched window openings, an allegorical sculptural group in the centre of a cornice featuring theatre masks, pediments featuring high relieves of horse heads. The Circus was as smart inside: the auditorium was lavishly gilded and decorated with raspberry velvet, mirrors, crystal chandeliers; the plafond featured a painting containing various typical scenes of equestrian vaulting.
The Ciniselli's Circus (as the Circus was known before the 1917 Russian Revolution) played a notable part in the development of Russian circus art. The Circus employed the best world's performers: the famous clowns Billy Hayden and Giacomino, the grotesque rider Mademoiselle Adele and the trapeze artist Miss Zinobia, the rider James Fillis who was an idol for the high society, the Russian clowns and animal trainers the Durov brothers (Anatoly and Dmitry).
The Circus presented opulently decorated pantomime and water extravaganza shows such as Cinderella, Robert and Bertram, Fiammette the Queen of Robbers, The Nibelungs, and others. It also organised competitions of then popular Greco-Roman wrestling. Among the aristocracy, it was considered as fashionable to visit the Ciniselli's Circus as to go to the Mikhailovsky Theatre. As Count Aleksey Ignatyev remembered in his memoirs "Fifty Years of Military Service": "In accordance with the order consecrated by tradition, on Saturdays most of the officers went to the Ciniselli's Circus as did the entire merry-making Petersburg." The writers Aleksandr Kuprin and Dmitry Grigorovich, the poet Aleksandr Blok and the singer Fyodor Chaliapin were fond of the Circus.
In 1919, the Ciniselli's Circus was nationalised, and in 1924 Williams Truzzi, a talented director and organiser as well as a wonderful actor and horse trainer, was appointed the first head manager of the Circus (then officially known as the Leningrad Circus).
The 1920s and the 1930s were the formative period for Soviet circus. Despite the fact that foreign names could still be encountered on posters, Soviet performers had decisively won leading positions on the circus arena. During those times, the arena of the Circus saw performances by the popular satirical clown Vitaly Lazarenko, the musical clowns the Tanti brothers, the carpet clowns Franz and Fritz, the gymnasts Aleksandr and Mariya Shiray, the tightrope walkers the Svirins, the animal trainer Aleksandr Aleksandrov-Fedotov and others. It is on the arena of the Circus that for the first time in history a carpet clown, Pavel Alekseyevich (Alekseyev), replaced the traditional mask of the Auguste clown with an everyday-life comic character, and the clown Mikhail Rumyantsev became the famous Karandash.
During this time, the Circus created such large-scale pantomime performances as Makhnovshchina (1930) and The Black Pirate (1934) featuring equestrian scenes, a fire, a waterfall, an apotheosis, fountains and fireworks; The People of the Sea Bottom, which was a water show that demonstrated technical equipment capabilities of the divers from the Special-Purpose Underwater Rescue Party (1935); Taiga On Fire (1938), which was a circus play about Russia's Far East during 1918–1923 Russian Civil War, and others.
The 1930s was the time of prolific work by such directors and other employees of the Circus as Yevgeny Kuznetsov, Yevgeny Gershuni, Yury Yursky, and Boris Shakhet.
In 1939, the Circus was awarded with the Order of the Red Banner of Labour for its grand achievements in art.
The Second World War and the 1941–1944 Leningrad Blockade interrupted the work of the Circus. On 28th November 1944, it was re-opened.
The post-war period in the creative life of the Circus was intimately connected with Georgy Venetsianov who served as the head art manager of the Circus in 1946–1965; he held the title of the Meritorious Worker of Arts of Russia (then part of the USSR). During those years, the Circus presented the pantomime show Festivities on Water (1952), the colourful performance A Carnival on Ice featuring the first attempt ever to create "an ice arena" (1952), the plot-driven water pantomime show A Shot in a Cave (1955) as well as the thematic performances The Female Masters of Circus Art (1951), The Golden Autumn (1953), An Animal Circus (1954), etc. The same period saw the creation of the studios for musical clown art and equestrian acrobatics.
The carriers of many famous performers are connected with the Circus. Together with Venetsianov who was a brilliant expert on the equestrian genre, the wonderful animal trainer Boris Mangelli created his acts. At the Circus, the magician Emil Kio worked on upgrading his show. It is there that the Bear Circus of Valentin Filatov started its creative life. Venetsianov also paid much attention to the clown genre. For 11 seasons in a row, the wonderful carpet clown Boris Vyatkin worked at the Circus. At the same time, the slapstick clowning genre was employed by the performers Giuseppe Demash and Grigory Mosel, and the talent of the original carpet clown Konstantin Musin was drawn out.
Even during the recent decades, the best artistic traditions have been alive at the Circus.
Many times the arena of the Circus was "decorated" by famous dynasties of performers: the Durovs, the Filatovs, the Zapashnys, the Olkhovikovs, the Volzhanskys, the Kios, the Aleksandrov-Serges, the Kochs, and the Kantemirovs.
The Circus employed many wonderful clowns such as Yury Nikulin, Mikhail Shuydin, Oleg Popov, Leonid Yengibarov, Evgeny Maykhrovsky, Gennady Makovsky, Heinrich Rotman, Anatoly Marchevsky and Yury Kuklachyov; famous animal trainers such as Irina Bugrimova, Margarita Nazarova, Lyudmila and Vladimir Shevchenko, Boris Biryukov, Nikolay Pavlenko, Irina and Ivan Yarovoy, Lyudmila and Vladimir Deryabkin; the team of horsemen led by Tamerlan Nugzarov, the juggler Sergey Ignatov, the magicians Lyubov and Anatoly Sudarchikov, the team of trapeze artists led by Vladimir Garamov; and many other masters of the circus arena.
Many people collaborated and collaborate with the Circus; among them are the composers Vasily Solovyov-Sedoy, Oleg Khromushkin, Anatoly Kalvarsky, Georgy Firtich and Yakov Dubravin; the poets Sergey Orlov, Vladimir Toropygin, Mikhail Dudin, Vladimir Suslov and Oleg Chuprov; the scriptwriters Arkady Minchkovsky, Aleksandr Barten, Ilya Turichin, K. Ryzhov, M. Fradkin, Yury Pogorelsky, I. Vinogradsky; the artists Vadim Ryndin, Tatyana Bruni, Semyon Mandel, Vladimir Galba, Oleg Orevin and others.
In August of 1928, the Museum of the Circus and Popular Music (later renamed the Museum of Circus Art) was opened inside the building of the Circus at the initiative of Vasily Andreyev, a teacher at the School of Theatre. This museum was the world's first and unique institution of its kind. And even now the museum remains a keeper of a unique collection that concentrates materials and documents reflecting not only the history of Russian circus, but also that of the world circus.
The holdings of the museum attract attention of cinema directors, television directors, artists, writers, performers, art experts, students and simple circus lovers. The museum hosts guided tours for children and adults alike. The museum maintains international correspondence and exchanges materials with people of circus and collectors from various countries.
In 1994, the Circus and the Theatre Arts Academy jointly organised an enrolment of students to the Circus and Popular Music Performer and Director study programme (the program responsible: Reader A. Sonin).
The Circus is one of Russia's leading producing circuses. It creates pantomime shows, thematic performances and theatrical performances for children. Among the most significant productions are a 3-act revue performance, Parade Alle (1977), produced to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Circus (in relation to this anniversary, the Circus was awarded with the Order of Friendship of Peoples); the extravaganza pantomime show Ruslan and Lyudmila (1979, based on Pushkin's poem of the same name); and the performance The Most Happy Day (1985, based on Chekhov's short story Kashtanka). Among the most recent works, there are thematic performances such as Masters 13 (1993), A Guarantee of Success (1994), A Circus Jockey and the Queen of the Arena (1995) and Today Here, Tomorrow There (1997); performances for children such as Do Not Touch Le Monti (1994), We Do Know These Tales (1996), Take the Bull by the Horns (1997), and A House Without Corners (1997).
On 17th March 1999, the Circus opened its official Internet site.
On 14th October 2002, because of a change in its status, the Circus received its current official name, the Bolshoi Saint Petersburg State Circus.
Everybody interested may see materials on the history of the Circus in its museum.
The Pushkin Russian State Academic Drama Theatre (the Theatre, for short), better known as the legendary Alexandrinsky Theatre, is one of the Russia's oldest national theatres. It was established by a decree of the Senate signed by Empress Elisabeth, a daughter of Peter the Great, on 30 August 1756, which was the Day of St. Alexander Nevsky.
The Neo Cinema is the first cinema of the Kronverk Cinema Network.
Two auditoriums. A wide range of genres. On Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays: night shows. Premiere screening of all the most interesting films of the world cinema. Every Wednesday at 12:10am: pre-premiere screenings.
A comfortable atmosphere. Comfortable chairs. A...