229 TO be there for the Opening Night of a great ballet performance is always spe- cial—but when it is in St Petersburg, Rus- sia, for the Mariinsky Ballet dancing the magical classical Russian ballet ‘Swan Lake’, the occasion is spectacular. We shall fly from Heathrow with British Airways, and stay three nights in St Peters- burg’s finest hotel, the five-star Belmond Grand Hotel Europe. We shall dine in the city’s best restaurant, the grand, highly regarded L’Eu- rope, and be whisked to the original 19th century Mariinsky Theatre. Here we shall see this thrilling, beautiful performance from the best seats in the house, in the very front row of the Dress Circle, a few seats from the famous Tsar’s Box, to make sure we can revel in the full vista of this gilded five- storey theatre, as well as having the finest elevated views of the famous ballet dancers of the Kirov. The whole event is ex- clusive to CountryClubuk. It runs over four days. We shall arrive in St Peters- burg in early afternoon of the first day, and be whisked to the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe for three luxurious nights, including a gourmet six-course dinner on the first night, a Champagne dinner followed by your taxi to the ballet on the second night, with breakfast each day, together with oth- er treats and indulgences, and plenty of time to explore this historic city for yourself. Your seats are in the front of the Dress Circle for the performance by the Mariin- sky, starring their supreme dancers. This will be an exciting event—the full spectacle of the 220-strong Mariinsky Ballet Compa- ny performing one of the most cherished and admired ballets, ‘Swan Lake’, danced to the music of Tchaikovsky, first per- formed at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1895. This is a ‘Swan Lake’ which allows the lyric sweep of Tchaikovsky’s music and the poetic nuances of the Petipa-Ivanov chore- ography to take centre stage. It promises to be a scintillating and unforgettable evening, as part of a blissful four-day stay in historic St Petersburg, and we are thrilled to secure the best seats in the house for such a wonderful performance. The Mariinsky Theatre is not only a the- atre—it is a temple to the arts, and to be within its golden glory and to witness such a beautiful Russian ballet is pure joy. The intricacy and drama of the Mariinsky Ballet production and Tchaikovsky’s music, danced by perhaps the greatest ballerinas of our age with one of the world’s finest ballet companies and played by the full Mariinsky Opera House Orchestra within the richly gilded auditorium, adds up to a theatrical experience to treasure. The Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet is not just a company. It’s a saga about a dynasty whose bloodline is that of ballet itself. Think of it as a sweeping Russian epic following the fortunes of an artis- tic, aristocratic fami- ly that is always aware of its breeding. Almost every ballet dancer famous enough to become a household name has come from the Mariinsky: Pavlova, Nijinsky, Nureyev, Makarova, Barysh- nikov. The Mariin- sky have that supreme ability to nurture the brightest stars and to hold their audience in thrall. Founded in the 18th cen- tury, known as the Imperial Russian Ballet, and later by its Soviet name the Kirov, the Mariinsky is one of the world’s leading ballet companies. Attending a perfor- mance here in St Petersburg is a top priori- ty in ballet. Dress to the nines, drink a toast in Champagne, and relive a bygone era! We shall open our historical itinerary by staying in the very heart of all this culture, Left: Mariinsky Ballet’s glorious production of ‘Swan Lake’: we shall be there for the thrilling Opening Night. Inset: The historic, gilded Mariinsky Theatre where we shall have best front row Dress Circle seats near the famous Tsar’s Box.