Moscow & St. Petersburg: If You Like Imperial Balls and Palaces


Imperial Balls and Palaces

Sumptuous Imperial balls, which flourished in prerevolutionary Russia, are enjoying an impressive renaissance, returning to the country’s famous royal palaces. The management at the palaces, which house some of Russia’s finest museums, at first had their doubts. Given the poverty and shortages endured by many, critics branded such extravagance as “a feast during the plague.” But financial benefits and imperial nostalgia, and the desire to make use of such grand locations, won out.

Most contemporary St. Petersburg balls are organized by musicians and revive Russia’s musical, cultural, and historical traditions. These date back to the reign of Peter the Great, when aristocrats put on carnivals, masquerades, and musical performances in their family palaces. Russian ministers and wealthy businesspeople also rent palaces for weddings and Western millionaires present their daughters with birthday balls. The less well-heeled get their palatial experience in the form of classical chamber concerts, gourmet dinners, and fashion shows.

New Year’s Eve Balls. Renowned Russian conductor Yury Temirkanov hosts the Temirkanov Ball held in the mysterious Yusupov Palace. The luxurious Tsar’s Ball takes place in Tsarkoye Selo.

Tsar’s Ball. Also on New Year’s Eve, this luxurious ball is in Tsarskoye Selo.

White Nights Ball. The Mariinsky Theater runs its own annual ball during its summer festival “Stars of the White Nights,” in one of the suburban royal residences surrounding St. Petersburg. (photo, top)

Strauss Ball. This annual event is held in early June in one of St. Petersburg’s suburban palaces, as part of the classical music festival “Musical Olympus.”