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Last Updated: Friday, 5 September, 2003, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Fire destroys Kirov costumes
Warehouse after fire
At least five firefighters were injured in the blaze
A fire destroyed the costumes and sets for the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg on Thursday, including those for the world-famous Kirov Ballet.

The blaze, in one of the theatre's warehouses, destroyed costumes for a forthcoming Kirov tour of Japan.

"Many scenery sets were destroyed, in particular, the set for the opera Evgeny Onegin," said a theatre worker.

Russian television showed footage of the massive fire, which injured at least five firefighters.

"Not all the scenery was destroyed but most of it was," Svetlana Ostanina, deputy art director of the theatre, told the Russian television news programme, Vesti. "It's a real tragedy."

The Mariinsky has become one of the most successful companies to make the transition from the Soviet era to independent Russia.

'Emotions not important'

Under the leadership of its conductor Valery Gergiyev, it has become more successful than its traditional rival, Moscow's Bolshoi.

Kirov Ballet
The Kirov is an icon of the Russian arts world
Mr Gergiyev, who is currently in Rotterdam for a Prokofiev festival, told theatre staff they should concentrate on restoring sets before the new season starts on 10 October.

"Emotions are not the most important thing now. The main thing is to renovate and save the sets. Then come the emotions," said the theatre's publicity manager Igor Kirsanov.

The Mariinsky Theatre, named after Tsar Alexander III's wife Maria Fyodorovna, was renamed the Kirov during Soviet times in honour of a leading Bolshevik assassinated in 1934.

Though the theatre has been renamed, the ballet company have kept its Soviet-era name.

The BBC's Damien Grammaticus
"This was a cruel blow to one of Russia's most important theatres"

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