chapter  4
25 Pages

AN UNEASY ALLIANCE: Glikeriia Fedotova and Mariia Ermolova at the Malyi Theatre

Each capital city had its own Imperial dramatic theatre: St. Petersburg supported the Aleksandrinskii and Moscow, the Malyi. Both were state subsidized and enjoyed Imperial patronage; both were also subject to rigid censorship and suffered from bureaucratic mismanagement. Between 1870 and 1917, however, the two theatres had little in common besides the mixed blessing of being subject to the Imperial bureaucracy. Differences between the Aleksandrinskii and the Malyi theatres reflect differences between the cities that harbored them. Geographical location accounts for at least some of the cultural discontinuity between Peter the Great's "window on the West" and Russia's historic capital. The presence of the tsar and his court in St. Petersburg influenced the tastes, expectations, and mores of fashionable society, a segment of the population that included the Aleksandrinskii's regular audience. St. Petersburg was a decidedly Westernized city. For that reason, its residents' aesthetic preferences were clearly distinguished from those of the more traditionally Russian Muscovites. Not surprisingly, their tastes in actresses were equally dissimilar.